Photo Courtesy: Savitr Sastri
Photo Courtesy: Savitr Sastri

Sports like diving can help one to relax

The fact that one can breathe while surrounded by water was initially unnerving but is now exhilarating

A day that involves just a 14-hour surgery is a good day for Savitr Sastri. A regular day at work involves consultations and visits too. Sastri, 38, is a consultant neuro and spine surgeon at Yashoda Hospital, Hyderabad. Doing something active out in the open is very important for him as it helps him to cope with the pressure of his profession. A knee injury that he picked up due to running about five years ago meant that Sastri had to find a low impact outdoor activity. “I have kayaked in open water, and trekked and rock climbed at various points in life. But kayaking gets boring after a while, and trekking and rock climbing are off limits now after my injury," says Sastri, who picked up diving on a whim.

In 2014 when he was between jobs, he spotted a few pictures of his friends diving in exotic locations. “My curiosity was piqued and I decided to go to the Andamans and get an initial open water certification," he says. Sastri returned to a new job and things got so hectic that he couldn’t find time till 2016 to have a second go at diving again. He got his advanced certification that year and has dived in Sipadan, Malaysia; the Maldives, Similan Islands, Thailand and this month Sastri was in Bali, Indonesia, to explore ocean.

Balancing act

Sastri says he is not an adrenaline junkie. “My day job provides enough and more of it. But I needed a hobby that was maybe a little more chilled out. Lying on a beach between dives or on the sun deck of a boat kind of fit that bill," he says. Though Sastri took up diving on a whim, he loves it for multiple reasons. “The sport itself has two very different facets both of which were super attractive to me. There is, of course, the diving; then there is the quietness underwater, where all you can hear is the sound of your breathing. It’s almost meditative," he says. “The fact that one can breathe while surrounded by water was initially unnerving but is now exhilarating. The other aspect that attracted me to diving is the nerdy bit about gases and pressure and how the body responds to it, the deeper one goes."

The nature of his job means Sastri often works weekends and cannot exactly plan getaways. But his work calendar still comes with proper breaks. He tries to get two decently long trips a year and squeeze in one shorter trip. “These trips are essential. Diving resets me. There’s no other way to put it. I also think just being somewhere unreachable and having a vacation where things run slower helps tremendously," he says.

Risk managementt

Diving can be simple initially but as you advance, it comes with its own set of dangers. A miscalculation in the amount of air in one’s tank could have serious implications and strong currents could make all careful planning redundant. “It’s probably riskier to be on a two-wheeler in city traffic. The courses that are insisted upon before anyone can dive are largely geared towards safety. One also never dives alone, there’s always a ‘buddy’," says Sastri, who once ran out of oxygen while 40m underwater. “That day I finally learnt to keep a cool head and be wary of sudden challenges."

Learning curve

Diving requires careful preparation before you jump into the water. “Largely because the situation underwater is unpredictable and you want to control as many factors as possible before diving in. Surgery is no different. It takes hours of poring over scans and making sure all the required instruments and technology is ready. Even then surgery can be unpredictable. The other thing that’s similar is the need for multiple redundancies, which I believe is essential," he says. Just like diving is safer with a buddy, even in surgery Sastri always operates in teams, which makes surgery safer and easier.

Sastri, who wants to train to become a technical diver, also believes diving has made him much calmer and he is now better able to deal with the eccentricities of his work. As far as his diving life goes, Sastri wants to do a dive master course, which is the first of the professional courses in scuba diving and then become an assistant instructor. “Hopefully, both before I’m 40," he smiles.

Adrenaline Rush is a series that looks at how professionals use lessons from adventure sports to make their work life more effective. Shrenik Avlani is co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.

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