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AQUATIC TACTICS: Equalizing Pressure-The “Hands-Free” Series by Mark Hatmaker


[This article is best consumed in series with the prior offerings regarding Aquatic Tactics.]

In the previous lesson we covered the science behind the essential need for pressure-equalization when working sub-surface and ran through a series of methods to accomplish this end that required a free hand, i.e., “The Pinch Series.”

We closed that exploration with the following observation… “how do we account for equalizations made by indigenous divers at depth who may have a fishing spear in one hand and a sea-harvesting basket in the other or a clutched surface-line? Let alone the horrible contingency of a sub-surface swim with hands shackled behind one’s back.”

Without hands being free, how does one make the vital equalization?

Turns out there are few hands-free methods used by indigenous divers that we can adopt for our own uses.

We won’t go over the same anatomy lesson offered in the prior offering but wisdom dictates that if one is refreshed as to how we used controlled air-pressure and subtle twists and turns of our own anatomy to move the Eustachian tubes from collapsed to open that will make consumption of what follows much easier.

A yawn is the classic hands-free method used to equalize pressure above surface. Anytime we increase altitude whether flying, enjoying a mountain drive, or assaulting K2 a yawn accompanied by a popping in the ears as the Eustachian tubes move from collapsed to open is our natural bit of pressure-equalization.

The trouble is that sub-surface the wide-mouthed yawn is not feasible, but we can utilize methods that simulate the yawn.

“The Closed Mouth Yawn.” Contract the muscles in the soft palate [the rear roof of the mouth] while you leave your mouth closed. Add to this a bit of contraction of the muscles in the throat and moving the jaw forward and down.

This series of motions performed smoothly often provides the tubal opening required to equalize pressure. This is an easy one to experiment with on dry land, if performed before a mirror be prepared for your unusual facial expressions.

Tilting.” The most common [and perhaps easiest] of the indigenous sub-surface equalizations is running the head through a series of tilts. An extreme tilt of the head to the left side stretches and often opens the Eustachian tube on the right side and vice versa.

You should find that if you tilt the head while looking upward, that is head tilted backward in addition to the sideward tilts there is an easier avenue to “popping.”

If you combine titling with the constriction of soft palate and throat muscles with a bit of jaw-maneuvering the job is often accomplished asap.

Again, refer to the timing of equalizations in the prior article in this series. It is vital to be in front of the need to equalize and that starts when bone-dry.

[Next in this series—Safe Ascents.]

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