A minor precursory warning: much of this is unmitigated stream-of-consciousness. And all of it is dangerous. Just be careful.
We are 10 years old swimming in a pool on a hot summer day, with the bright idea to have a breath-holding contest. With fierce determination we inhale our deepest breath, dunk ourselves inches below the surface of the water, intimidatingly stare through our foggy goggles, just waiting to see who will break first. With both index fingers, I pull the corners of my mouth apart, stick out my tongue, and cross my eyes. Trying to suppress your giddy, pre-teen laughter, you crack and shoot up out of the water for a refreshing gasp of air. I break the pool’s horizon soon after.
For whatever reason, I was reminiscing on these childhood challenges that I was about to recall vividly two days ago. Then it dawned on me…this can be my next self-experimentation.
So, for the next two weeks, my mission is to develop the ability to hold my breath for five minutes straight.
Why? I’m glad you asked. I have a few reasons:
- It’s a simple thing that can be done by anyone (probably with some ease too, assuming proper technique, practice, and dedication to the technique/practice).
- After thinking about this self-inflicted challenge beyond the extent that I would have thought about it as a 10-year-old, there’s a real beauty to breath control. Meditation, yoga, swimmers and other high-performing athletes, psychopaths, and doctors master their breathing. Lack of breathing is basically the same thing, right? Meditating is a regular practice of mine anyway; I carry a special affinity for the breath. It’s something that can always be controlled, and you can’t say that about many things, so I’d like to suspend breathing after mastering the breath. I have a convoluted logic in my mind about this one that I hope translates well as I’m writing it down. Regardless, though, if it doesn’t translate and you don’t have any idea why holding my breath for five minutes is appealing, fine. You still get the entertainment of watching me do something that makes no sense.
- David Blaine. Aside from that link, check this inspiring video out. And if you thought that was cool, you need to know about Stig Severinsen and his world record.
- Lastly, I want the childish heroism of being able to say that I’ve held my breath for five minutes.
While I was thinking about it, I sat down, took three deep breaths, and held. I am sure that I was turning blue after my modest 48-second hold. I did it a second time after about ten minutes of recovery – 1 minute and 3 seconds. I was fairly surprised at the immediate results just by “flexing” my lungs. I then watched youtube videos, where I learned that forced hyperventilating will (essentially/I’m simplifying what I think I understood) over-oxigenate your body while dispelling a lot of carbon dioxide, which is what will eventually force a “gasp reflex”. After hyperventilating for about forty-five rough breaths, I held my breath with ease for 2 minutes and 10 seconds. I more than DOUBLED my breath hold. Albeit, it was a workout to hyperventilate, but I was able to hold for twice as long with no practice, training, or previous warm-up other than the first two holds that I tried.
I’m going to continue working on this daily and probably host a live feed on Facebook. I want to gain data, though. If you want to join this challenge, keep me posted on your initial breath holds with no practice and then your holds with practice.