Sunday, October 26, 2014
Setting a world record for breath holding is a superhuman feat as it is, but how about freediving 500 feet under an iceberg on a single breath? National Geographic is known for stunning scenery, and this episode not only lets us be right with Stig as he prepares to set a new Guinness World Record for free diving under ice, showing exactly how he prepares for the dive and explaining the science behind it, but it also takes us under the iceberg where we can see the astonishing scenery that draws divers beneath the surface of these dangerous, frozen, natural sculptures.
It may seem ironic that the man who authored Breatheology – The Art of Conscious Breathing is described as “The Man Who Doesn’t Breathe,” but breath holding is a big part of Stig’s work. He teaches breath holding as a survival mechanism for surfers and others who participate in water sports. While it is a fundamental aspect of the sport of freediving, breath holding is also the key to increasing lung capacity, which is essential to the success of athletes in many different sports.
In addition to the physical benefits of breath holding, there is a psychological aspect that benefits anyone, whether they are athletic or not. In Breatheology, Stig makes the claim that “breath holding is one of the best methods to learn relaxation and mind control.” Both of those attributes are key factors not only in his success as a free diver but also in every aspect of his life.
One of the steps Stig goes through in the preparation for his long-distance, under-ice diving is lowering his heart rate. In the NatGeo film, we see him reduce it from 88 bps to what would otherwise be an alarming number — 30 bps. The drop occurs in a matter of seconds. Stig’s associate, Professor Greg Whyte, explains it as tapping into the mammalian dive response, which we usually only hear of in infants and attributes Stig’s ability to lower his heart rate so swiftly to his meditative capacity. The film documents the entire process as well as the record-setting dive.
It’s the nature of a champion to push limits, and for most, setting a Guinness World Record that isn’t likely to be challenged any time soon would be enough. But Stig isn’t anything like most people.
He also holds the Guinness World Record for the “longest breath hold ever performed,” set in May 2012 when he shattered his own previous world record by holding his breath for an astounding 22 minutes. This breath holding process differs from deep or long distance freediving in that it is done while floating in a dive-training pool and is preceded by inhalation of pure oxygen.
The National Geographic presentation is a great way to get a close-up view of the power of conscious breathing and breath holding. Breatheology Academy offers a complete training program to gain the benefits for yourself.
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