I am a nose breather! Help me not be!
September 17, 2008 2:08 PM   Subscribe

How can I breathe from the regulator underwater while taking my mask off!??

I am taking SCUBA lessons... we have had 2 pool sessions and one of the tasks we have to complete is swimming and breathing underwater using only the regulator and removing our masks.

I have been practicing and can go under and, if I am very still, I can keep the water out. I might even get a breath out of the regulator but more than one or two and I am gagging and sputtering.

It is hard enough to do just sitting there but the bubbles I exhale go up my nose and ruin whatever I am doing to keep the water out.

They keep telling me "You are a nose breather, just don't breathe through your nose"... but I am not doing it on purpose! Believe me I don't like how it feels when it goes in there.

I am trying to figure out how to separate my nose from my mouth breathing! Please help!
If you have any tricks of the trade please pass them along.
Did any one have this problem and over come it? How? I want to dive! But gagging on water makes me want to shoot to the surface which is a major no no! I panicked once in the pool and bailed. Next Sunday we are diving in the springs (at Weeki Wachi) and it will be a lot deeper than the swimming pool. Im getting nervous and anxious about it which is a shame because this was such a fun thing to begin with!
posted by fogonlittlecatfeet to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Looks like you need some one-on-one extra tuition with a helpful instructor. Are you comfortable with using a snorkel? You should be fully confident and competent with snorkel use before using a regulator.

Can you sit in the shallow end of the pool without the mask on and just breathe through your snorkel (holding it with one hand)? First with your head above water. When you are breathing using your mouth and snorkel, slowly lower your head until your nose is now under the water. How does this feel? When you are happy with this, then it is time to try to breathe using a regulator.
posted by lungtaworld at 2:24 PM on September 17, 2008

Relax and just keep practicing. Try mouth breathing on dry land. Also, you will get some water in your nose. The trick is to not snort it up into your sinuses. But the water will enter your nose.

Do you swim? Just do some laps and practice. I never had an issue with nose water during taking scuba lessons after a bajillion years of swimming lessons. It's not something that kids ever get taught in swimming class but it's something that they all eventually learn. Like many kids, I got more than my share of pool water up my nose. At some magic point it simply stopped going up there.

Another trick is to try to apply a slight positive pressure out your nose at all times. Again, I can't really tell you how to do it but that's what it seems like I'm doing when underwater. Essentially the reverse of what woodwind players do - breathing out through the nose while breathing in through the mouth.

It sounds like you major issue is one if anxiety in general. The way to overcome this (IMO) is through being mindful of it and more practice. Take your mask to a pool sometime and practice just sitting underwater doing nothing. Practice blowing bubbles underwater. Stick your face into the shower and breathe through your mouth. Just keep practicing in less stressful situations.
posted by GuyZero at 2:31 PM on September 17, 2008

Apart from the obvious things that people are already telling you ['just don't breathe through your nose' sounds simple to most of us, but it seems like you've got something else going on, or are just nervous or whatever. I don't know], try two simple things:
-breathing in through the mouth and out through the nose [to help keep things water-free in your nose, or
-... nose plugs.

There are some pretty sturdy nose plugs in existence [if you can't find them at a dive shop, whitewater kayak-related stores might carry them], and sometimes they even come on a lanyard to avoid losing them in the middle of things.

The thing about nose plugs, of course, is that you *need* to blow through your nose to clear your mask sometimes. I just think noseplugs will help you to get used to things. Hopefully it's just a matter of practise.
[practise in the tub, why not?
posted by Acari at 2:35 PM on September 17, 2008

I had the same problem.

Just tilt your head to the side (even if this means your head is resting on your shoulder) so that the bubbles from your regulator don't run up your nose.
posted by mr_silver at 2:36 PM on September 17, 2008

I had this same problem, but the dive instructor let me get off with pinching my nose. When I needed two hands to put the mask back on I just held my breath. Bad bad bad I know, but I was well-weighted so my bouyancy stayed negative for the short time before I exhaled.
posted by brownpau at 2:55 PM on September 17, 2008

Yeah, that was a tough part of the certification for me, too. I did it by closing my eyes and just focusing on the breathing, and tilting my head just a little bit when I breathed out (like mr_silver suggests). It wasn't easy at all, but I only had to make it through the test and then it was done.

Can you practice in the bathtub with a snorkel?
posted by Forktine at 3:02 PM on September 17, 2008

lungaworld's advice is good. I've been diving seriously for 8 years and I still have to concentrate when flooding/taking off my mask. (though I've never had problems with nose breathing). My brain equates no mask with OMG CAN'T BREATHE!! To overcome this, I kneel on the bottom (if possible), close my eyes, concentrate on breathing steadily, and then take off my mask. I ckeep on concentrating on breathing calmly through the regulator and also exhale lightly through my nose to keep the bubbles from getting in. For me, it's mostly about keeping a calm mental state. Good luck!
posted by ilyanassa at 3:15 PM on September 17, 2008

Just to take a stab at explaining "just don't breathe through your nose," give this a try:

Swallow slowly. Really slowly. Can you feel how your soft palate (the roof of your mouth towards the throat that's squishy) shifts up and back down as your tongue pushes up on it? When I do this slowly, I can't inhale (easily) through my nose at the end of the swallow - right when the food would be pushed down your gullet.

Try to duplicate that feeling when your tongue is arching up in your oral cavity at the tail end of the swallow. I find that it seals off my nasal passages quite nicely and that it keeps the water out. It's gotten to the point where it's automatic for me and doesn't involve my tongue at all.

It's nice to remember to exhale a little to get any water that drifts up in there out before you breathe in through your nose again.
posted by oreonax at 6:15 PM on September 17, 2008

I also had/have the same problem.....oreonax makes good points That could be a valid training method to try. but with some people this is a physical problem......what stopped me was that I knew that if I faked the certification & was borderline then I would not be safe underwater. My dentist (who dives) was going to take a peek with his camera to see if I had sinus damage or disfigurement. We never did get to do that. maybe next cleaning:-$
It is much more common than one might think & may not have anything to do with drug use.
Being able to calmly & quickly "clear your mask" is paramount to safe SCUBA diving.
there are alternatives such as full face masks but i decided to stick with the snorkeling.
posted by patnok at 6:44 PM on September 17, 2008

Several things come to mind:
1. Are you comfortable with having a little water in your nostrils? If not, the sensation of having some water in your nose could set off a reflex and unconscious thought of OMG! Water! Cannot Breath! Quick! Breath in (air?) Oops! without you even knowing it. Think about it and make sure this isn't the case. Practice swimming with just a bit of water in your nose and gain confidence that it’s not the end of the world.
2. Tilting the head back so the exhalation bubbles don't tickle your nose can be an assist.
3. Blowing out through the nose a wee bit is also helpful.
4. Make sure you are comfortable with having your mask off so that’s not a complicating factor.
5. After you get the hang of it, practice swimming with just the regulator – you never know when you may have your mask kicked off and it goes to the deep where it’s irretrievable. It’s good to know that you can swim and still breath without that mask while you make your way safely back to the surface.
6. Love the explanation given by oreonax above about slightly pressurizing your nose to keep water out.
posted by mightshould at 6:33 AM on September 18, 2008

Bear in mind there is a danger with noseplugs. I would advise against it. Any situation that creates a pocket of air (such as the noseplugs and a potentially congested nasal cavity) can prove very dangerous when SCUBA diving. It can also complicate the equalization/clearing process during ascent or descent of your dive.

I would focus instead on practicing the techniques mentioned above. My personal recommendation is to breathe in through the regulator and out through the nose. Even starting off with the snorkel as mentioned is a great place to start. Don't be afraid to ask for a little extra practice time in the shallow end of the pool. And yes, even after you pass your "test", since this situation is clearly a problem for you, continue to practice swimming with your regulator and without your mask. Holding your nose with your free hand should be totally OK. This skill is part of your SCUBA class for a reason, it is important to be able to continue to breathe if your mask is knocked off underwater.
posted by kenbennedy at 7:13 AM on September 18, 2008

Practice practice practice. It won´t be very enjoyable, but do it anyhow, it will get a little better. Use your snorkel in the bathtub at home if you can´t make it to the pool.

the bubbles I exhale go up my nose and ruin whatever I am doing to keep the water out

Try exhaling through your nose instead.

You don´t have to be in water to practice this. Put your fingers lightly over your nostrils so you can notice if you are trying to breathe in through them, breathe in through your mouth, keeping your mouth open breathe out through your nose. Notice how it feels to breathe in through the mouth without the nose being involved. Repeat many, many times.

Your open water dive is very likely to include the same exercise you have been doing in the pool, but without anything to sit on.
posted by yohko at 9:45 AM on September 18, 2008

IANADiver, but perhaps learning how to use a Neti Pot might help? Bit of a random idea maybe, but if you can't close your nose off from your mouth it all drains down your throat. Which appears to be your problem.
You may find this helpful as you can accustom yourself to doing it above water first. Might even be worth trying with a snorkel in your mouth!
posted by 999 at 10:04 AM on September 18, 2008

Response by poster: thank you all for your helpful answers and your support. I am going to practice in the bath tub tonight. I agree that this is a very necessary skill, the class just moves along so quickly. i am just going to ask for some time to practice more I don't care if I am holding everyone up.
and ,yes, this drill will be included in the 2 open water dives we are doing.
the idea of just getting used to water being in there is something that seems so simple yet I didn't think of. Feeling it go in there is when I get the urge to start reacting, so being able to remind myself that it is ok for it to be in there, just don't breathe it, will help immensely I think.

Thanks again!
posted by fogonlittlecatfeet at 2:39 PM on September 18, 2008

Can you close your mouth and puff out your cheeks using lung power without letting any air out of your nose? What about keeping your mouth shut and trying to suck air into your lungs without letting any in?

When I close the back of my throat to my nose, I can neither breath in or out if my mouth is shut, regardless of how much force I exert with my lungs.
posted by tomble at 10:11 PM on September 18, 2008

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