Danish diving instructor in Prague teaches benefits of ‘joyful underwater swimming’

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by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

The Czech Republic boasts a number of flooded quarries, rivers, and caves, which attract divers from all around the world. In fact, the Czech Republic’s Hranice Abyss made headlines several years ago when professional divers determined it to be the deepest freshwater sinkhole in the world.

You don’t have to be a professional diver or aspire to plunge thousands of meters below the surface to experience diving in the Czech lands nor do you need to leave home to learn how rolling in the deep can benefit both your body and mind.

Lars Nielsen is a certified Danish Free Diving Instructor and personal coach based in Prague. He teaches snorkeling, basic freediving, and higher-level freediving, and helps people earn the Scuba Schools International (SSI) digital certificate that is increasingly required at free diving sites and on boat excursions around the world.

Nielsen wants to dispel the myth that diving is for extreme sports enthusiasts. His classes are aimed more at what he calls “joyful underwater horizontal swimming.”

“It’s very satisfying to dive with one breath, to go down but still have light and there are fish and something nice to look at,” he said.

“But even for this, you have to know how your body reacts to changing pressure and learn to do it safely.”

Nielsen typically gives instructions in the deepest pool in the Czech Republic: Aquapalace’s 8-meter diving tunnel. Right now he gives online classes focused on the breathing techniques needed to build upper body strength and lung capacity in advance of a dive.

“Breathing correctly creates a healthier body chemistry,” he said. “Your breathing mechanism is extremely important and you cannot do freediving correctly if you don’t have this under control.”

The father of five firmly believes that learning to breathe can impact other areas of your life as well – he said he lost 35 kilos thanks to the discipline and skills he learned from diving.

“Combining the skills from freediving with my personal life has made me happier with who I am, and I believe it can make others happier also,” he said of his own personal journey.

Nielsen explained how his passion for diving and his way with people would eventually dovetail into his current business activities.

“I came to the Czech Republic from Poland in 1998 where I was working as country manager for a Danish company. I stayed in Prague for two years opening retail shops selling carpets and wooden floors and then I was sent back to Denmark in 2000.”

It was shortly after this time that he volunteered to help people learn to swim in a triathlon club.

“All my life I was interested in diving but was not aware of free diving until in triathlon training when people needed to learn how to swim, not just in a pool but in the ocean with waves and grass and other obstacles. Instead of walking and watching the students swimming, I would be swimming under them upside-down watching their techniques, and through this, I found the way to joyful underwater swimming.”

The experience made him realize how demanding free-diving can be and the focus and concentration it requires. It was during his time in Denmark that he also became a mentor to immigrants teaching them to assimilate into Danish culture with more confidence.

Nielsen returned to the Czech Republic in 2011 where he lived in Lipno nad Vltavou and then, in 2014 relocated to Prague where he worked in management and human resources.

Despite working in the professional world, the one-time gymnastics instructor continued to fill his free time with swimming, diving, and, teaching. In 2020 he completed a 30-meter deep dive in Malta to become certified at instructor level 1, making rescue dives from 20 meters, and mastering static breath-hold for 3:15 minutes.

He now trains people in swimming in pools as well as lakes and rivers. His multi-lingual services (English, German, Danish, and Czech) also cover swimming lessons for children and team building for groups who want to brave the Czech rapids. He can accompany students to the ocean or even Czech quarries several of which have been made into commercial dive sites complete with fish and sunk cars!

But it all starts with breathing which Nielsen said can take you to whole new depths both literally and figuratively.

“The concentration skills you need for a dive can be applied to your private and professional life. You use the same mindset for diving when you are facing something difficult or unpleasant. You need concentration and focus and the ability to anticipate what will happen next.”

Nielsen said the skills learned in his training and personal coaching sessions can help people learn to react to things differently, setting them up for success whether they simply want to eat healthier or make big career changes.

“So many things can distract us but when we concentrate on just this one breath we find better harmony life challenges,” he said.

Source: https://www.expats.cz/

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