World record: 22 minutes without air
An underwater feat to leave you breathless
In the normal course of breathing for 22 minutes, provided you’re not exerting yourself, you involuntarily take about 450 breaths.
Stig Severinsen took one.
The 39-year-old Danish free diver set a Guinness World Record earlier this year by remaining face-down in a pool for 22 minutes straight, breaking his own record of 20 minutes and 10 seconds in the process.
This was the new record for oxygenated static apnea, wherein a diver first gulps pure oxygen from a tank to feed the body’s cells and flush out carbon dioxide, then remains as still as possible to preserve precious energy. The record for holding without oxygenating is 8:58, held by free diver Tom Sietas.
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For Stig, holding his breath is more than just a sporting challenge. While the rest of us consider oxygen deprivation something of an inconvenience, he sees breath control as a means to boosting the immune system and reducing stress and pain. He even considers it a path to fulfillment, as expressed in his 2010 book Breatheology: The Art of Conscious Breathing.
David Blaine would concur. In a charismatic TED Talk from October 2009, the extreme magician explained the grueling training behind his attempt to break the prior oxygenated static apnea record of 16:32 — on the Oprah show, where all the most wonderful things happen.
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Blaine was suspended in a sphere of water in front of the cameras. At eight minutes, less than halfway through, he wasn’t sure he’d make it. At 11 minutes, he had throbbing sensations in his legs and lips, followed by a numb arm that made him fear a heart attack. Blaine says at 16 minutes he wasn’t even sure he was alive anymore. But, hearing the crowd roar as he passed the 16:32 mark, he held out to set the record (at that time) at 17:04.
For both Severinsen and Blaine, breath control has a spiritual component capable of instilling a singularly pure sense of joy. In a surprisingly emotional close to the TED segment, Blaine expresses that as a magician he tries to show things to people that seem impossible.
“It’s practice, it’s training, it’s experimenting, while pushing through the pain to be the best that I can be,” he says.
Severinsen as well says that the practice of breath control can make you thankful for all things you have in your life. Like, say, air.
File photo of free diver Stig Severinsen (Morten Bjoern Larsen/POLFOTO/AP)
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