The blog of Xeno, a slightly mad scientist
39-year-old Stig Severinsen, just set a world record for holding his breath under water for a lung-burning 22 minutes.
The record leaves the Denmark native’s previous underwater world-record performance of 20 minutes, 10 seconds, in the dust. According to Gadling, though, Stig earned his earlier achievement while submerged in a fish tank full of sharks. Under those conditions, who wouldn’t burn through air reserves a little faster?
To be fair, reports The Post Game, the accomplishment required some outside assistance: before holding his breath, he breathed pure oxygen piped into a respirator in the pool.
Unlike the venue for his earlier performance (see “shark tank,” above), this record was set in a dive training pool with the temperature dialed down to 30 degrees. Stig has also learned to drop his resting heart rate to “well below” 30 beats per minute while submerged, which slows the rate at which he burns oxygen.
In an interview on Reddit, Stig explained he also uses calming techniques he terms “meditation under water.” The method involves recalling childhood memories and focusing on imprinted mental imagery — in his case, images of dolphins and sharks.
Severinsen discovered he could use meditation to decrease his physical need for oxygen, a kind of mind over body approach. And once he’d perfected that, he began to see the potential for his methods beyond the world of freediving—it could inform an entire philosophical approach to life. “For me, breath holding work is ‘walking the talk’ of human potential. It’s more of a metaphor for what’s possible in life.” …
freediving for Severinsen became a form of meditation. He trained himself to slip into a state in which his brainwaves were operating on the alpha level instead of on the more active beta level. Essentially, Severinsen said he was learning to mimic the “mammalian dive reflex”, which whales and sea lions use instinctively.
By dropping himself into that alpha state, he lowered his entire body metabolism—thus using less energy and less air. More than anything, Severinsen credits the ability to achieve this state of mind to his phenomenal success as a freediver: “It’s more important to go into this state for long or deep dives than to have huge capacity in your lungs.”
And just how was Severinsen able to descend into this alpha state while floating in the ocean inhaling massive quantities of air while preparing for what many might describe as nothing less than a horrifically deep dive? Well, in the late 90’s, Severinsen had started to study yoga. And yoga became his secret weapon. He transposed the breathing and meditation techniques he learned from this ancient practice onto the elegant challenge of freediving. The results were impressive.
Between 2000 and 2007, he won no fewer than four freediving world championships: a gold medal in Switzerland in 2005, gold in Egypt in 2006 and a double gold in Slovenia in 2007.
He also set several world records—among them, a freedive in 2007 to 186 meters without using a set of fins to propel himself. That same year, he set another record by swimming 225 meters distance on one breath.
More recently, he wrote himself into the 2010 Guinness Book of World Records by being the first person to swim 72 meters under the ice without the use of an exposure suit. In 2012, he broke another record by becoming the first human being to hold his breath for 22 minutes.
Anyway you measure it, Severinsen’s combination of yogic breathing and freediving has been enormously successful.
Interestingly, despite being a freediving world champion, Severinsen said he still suffers the same anxieties as any kid holding his breath at the bottom of the pool. “Of course, I still feel that burning desire to head for the surface, but I’ve trained myself to let the diving response kick in.” His belief that feeling fear is inescapable but controlling that fear is quite achievable has become a personal doctrine and a metaphor for life. …
No brain damage after?