Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


W.M. Keck Science Department

Second Department

W.M. Keck Science Department

Reader 1

Sharon Snowiss

Reader 2

Marion Preest


Freediving at its core is holding your breath underwater. But beneath the surface, the body, mind, and spirit undergo a transformation. The mammalian dive response drives the physiological changes that humans undergo while diving to conserve enough oxygen in the body for basic functions to continue to function. The autonomic nervous system synergistically influences the cardiac, pulmonary, and vascular systems and causes apnea, bradycardia, vasoconstriction and splenic emptying to sustain aerobic ATP production in the heart and brain. Additionally, the act of breath holding has many beneficial effects on the mind. Much research has been done on the positive effects of meditation and conscious breath control such as reduction in stress and help with mental health and cognition. Coordination between the breath and body can have positive effects on people’s emotional states and sense of self. Finally, many freedivers have reported having transcendent moments while freediving. Many traditions centered around the breath such as Buddhism, yoga, and Qi Gong also have religious ties. Conscious breathwork can deeply connect the individual simultaneously to the self and something beyond the self, facilitating transcendent experiences. Being immersed in nature is also conducive to experiencing moments of spirituality by connecting to the self and the universe. Freediving activates the mind, body and spirit; a freediver is not simply diving into the depth of the ocean but into themselves too.