Yes breathing can be used as a focus point and reduce brain activity and calm the neural system. Top level freedivers have spent a decade or more trying out different preparations before a deep dive. The gullible beginner chooses the champion that is deepest or most serious and pays close attention thinking he should copy this champion. But increasing the amounts of O2 in your lungs does not mean you have ACCESS to more O2 in the body. And having access to more O2 in the body is not the same as having access to more O2 in the brain. As mentioned above a lot of breathing (ventilation, hyperventilation) does mean you maximize the levels of O2 in your lung (the full lungs carries about 50% of your oxygen during a breath hold), BUT it does not neccessarily mean that your body or brain have access to more O2. You can also switch to a slightly swifter inhale and instead prolonging the exhale with the blocking, thus calming heart and slightly increasing oxygen saturation pressure in lung and maybe increasing blood pressure slightly. The buddhist basic meditation technique (Anapanasati) uses focus on the breathing process as a mental mantra.
Most mid level athletes do slow deep breathing (could be called sub dominal breathing or belly breathing). Bottom line is, however careful you watch your breathing, freediving always involves a certain degree hyperventilation as defined by medical standards.
Trying 3 sub-neutral exhales while monitoring CO2 I see a drop from 40 to 20 mmhg on myself.
However you breath, in what volumes, intervals, purges, sub dominal e t c the only interesting thing is: how much CO2 do you want to have when you leave the surface. High levels of CO2 increases blood flow to the brain (vasodilation), and (worth mentioning again) the opposite, if you ventilate a lot that will create vasoconstriction and less O2 reaching the brain. Picture right: Arteries (blood channels) distributes new blood from the lungs, full of oxygen.
When talking about CO2 tolerance one must acknowledge that we are most likely talking about a mental tolerance.
Worth mentioning is that there is a reason why yoga breathing techniques always involves breathing through nose. Kapalabati – a type of yoga breathing, similar to fire breathing, but slightly milder. To control the lower or inferior lobes of the lungs, place the palms of the hands onto the lower margin of the ribcage, in the region of the diaphragm.
Start to breathe deeply by first inhaling into the front section of the lower lungs as indicated in picture #1, then into the side section (pic #2), and finally followed by the back section (pic #3).
Note: For all three parts, concentrate on sending the breath deep into the lower lung area here, not allowing the upper or mid chest area to expand at all. Exhale in reverse order by first releasing the air from the back section, then from the side and finally the front section of the lower lungs. There are many definitions, this is my best try to be all encompassing and yet stay to tradition. Yama means self-control, restraint, the act of checking or curbing, suppression, any great moral rule or duty, it also means a rein, curb, or bridle, and can also refer to a driver or charioteer . The balancing of prana and apana refers to many levels relative to the vayus (vital winds of the body); making inhale and exhale the same length, making the inhale steady pressure and the exhale steady pressure continually through the breath, it also refers to the meeting of the prana as it is pulled downwards with apana as it is pulled upwards into the Kandasthana (called the Hara by Toaists). Juice ginger root, mix fresh ginger with equal amount honey, add pinch of salt, 1 tbs before meal, if gas add cumin. In a sitting position watch the natural breath entering and leaving, and watch the chest rise and fall as the natural breath enters and leaves.
The positioning of the chest encourages abdominal breathing while keeping the chest expansive. The lack of movement in the upper body will be important when one practices higher meditation practices and the movement of the body becomes a distraction which adds fluctuation to the mind.
For mastery of the breath, exhalation and inhalation should always be smooth and prolonged.

When the breath enters the body through conscious volition, it is called püraka by those who know the science of the body. Commentary: This order will vary according to the individual and must be learned from a competant teacher.
Commentary: The practitioner should begin by becoming aware of the natural breath and the mechanisms and consciousness involved. The vital air does not pass in the middle channel because the nadis (energy channels) are full of impurities. When all the nadis and chakras which are the abode of impurities and toxins are purified, then the yogi is able to direct the prana. Therefore pranayama should be done daily with a sattvic state of mind so that the impurities are driven out of the sushumna nadi and purification occurs. Newcomers that wants to get serious in competitive freediving get very stuck up by the idea that there is something wrong with their breathing, and that they must learn some secret special kind of breathing in order to develop.
You will feel full of confidence after having done your three and a half cycles, of slow this, fast that, deep this, and blocking here and there, resting 12 secs, doing a purge, and than a slow inhale followed by a subdominal relax release.
They have come to chose a preparation that suits their bodies, their metabolism, their fitness level, their muscles, their choice of equipment, their choice of temperature, their choice of speed and their mental temperament.
Temperature, your current metabolism, tiredness, suit, surface conditions, your squeeze depth, wind e t c, it is all part of an equation that could demand a different breathing approach related to the circumstances. Just stop breathing or focus on slow exhales (preferably by blocking slightly at the epiglottis). Just breath out fully (down to RV) and do a bigger than normal inhale (above Tidal volume to TLC). Low levels of CO2 creates vasoconstriction in the brain, in plain language: blood flow (and delivery of O2) is restricted.
Breathing can be used to calm your self, the heart, the nervous system, the blood pressure. The breathing described above can create this even flow that regulates among other, blood pressure. Ryozo Shomineda, William Trubridge, Guillaume Nery Alexey Molchanov are very calm before their dives. Even the small sub neutral breaths of Trubridge most likely lowers his CO2 below normal - but not much (educated guess). There might be such a thing as slowly pushing your reaction levels, a grey zone between mind and body. But one would be unwise not to do 2-3 full breathe outs (down to almost RV) before a deep dive since just a few breaths can increase total O2 volumes by 5%.
He runs a freediving school in Sweden, competes in World Championships and has had several National Records.
Together prana and yama means the control of the prana; to put the reins on the prana and drive it like a charioteer.
It is often translated as making inhale and exhale the same, but has many deeper connotations. There are many different types of breaths; yogic breath, belly breath, chest breath, full breath, partial inhalation, etc. There are many muscles involved in lifting the chest when one inhales to make room for the air being inhaled. The teaching is to constantly be aware of the breath whether it is inhaling, exhaling or being held. Then slowly increase the length of the breath, normally first doubling then tripling the natural breath. Some people don´t get contractions, some people have naturally high metabolism (burning of O2 in the cells), some people have (or get) more acidic blood than others, some people have lower base-tension in the body e t c.
But remember heart rate is not only decided by your body's need for oxygen (your metabolism).
Kapalabati, Nadi Shodan, fire breathing, psychic breathing can be used to learn to control your breathing apparatus.

It is a force that moves within the human, it is present when the human being is alive and absent when dead. One must learn the 5 vayus for a full understanding of pranayama and how it affects the human system.
All are used for different types of Pranayama according to the technique being applied or the disorder being rectified with the breath. Notice on the exhale that the abdominal muscles are contracting and the diaphragm is forcefully moving upwards against the lungs. Take the position of the chest at the top of the inhale and when you exhale hold the chest in the same position as if at the top of the breath.
At the end of the exhale the chest is to remain upraised as if it was at the top of an inhale and the abdominal muscles and diaphragm expel the air.
The breath must be smooth, the pressure should be the same all the way through the inhale, and the exhale. During your freediving career your body will change, and so must your training and preparation methods. It is also regulated by your stress levels (hormones released in the blood and neurotransmitters firing of in the brain), and your health status, and more.
The breathing is mainly controlled by the levels of CO2 (ultimatly directed by the nervous system).
And while controlling breathing, you are increasing mental control at the same time, since the mind is involved in all motoric activities. But remember: controlling the content of your mind is much harder than controlling your motoric skills (movements). After breath hold artery system is oxygenated quickly, but the venous return may need several minutes of breathing until the system is back to normal levels.
Western science fails to grasp the working of prana, so one must learn the teachings of the ancient sages.
The internal intercostal muscles are also contracting to pull the rib cage closer to the body and contract the lungs.
One easy way is to block your air at the epiglottis, controlling the flow of air into a steadier calmer flow. There are many less known techniques that look more like Chi Gong than what has been taught in the west as pranayama. The pectorals hold the chest up externally while the internal intercostals are inhibited from doing their natural contraction. On the next inhale the breath comes back to the top of the inhale and often some small amount of lift was lost. This means my diaphragm creates a contraction (a breathing manouvre) every time I reach 40 mmhg CO2.
The chest is to be taken to a fully upright position and keep upright while the breath is exhaled. To balance the inhale and the exhale will have little power if the breath itself is not smooth and even. To learn the control of prana is to purify the energetic system of the body and make the mind ready for the highest levels of consciousness. Sometimes it is helpful to slightly lift the chest upwards while exhaling to avoid any falling of the chest. Subtle is a gentle quality to breath, so the evenness is not to be done by increasing the force of breath but instead by restraining the breath to a soft state.
By practicing the evenness and subtleness of breath it will become conscious and under the control of the individual. The breath should not be lengthened until the proper evenness and conscious control has been achieved.

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