If you were like most kids, you probably once said, “I’m going to hold my breath until ….” Of course, after a minute or so, most of us gave in and took a deep breath. But how long could you hold your breath? The world record is nearly 12 minutes for freediving with one unaided breath. Although you probably won’t reach that level, you can work toward holding your breath for 5 minutes.
Note: Holding your breath is dangerous. Do not attempt this without adult supervision.
Things to Remember
Trust Your Gut
The key to holding your breath is controlling your diaphragm, the muscle that tells your lungs to breathe. The buildup of CO2 in the blood is what causes your diaphragm to move and take a breath for oxygen. So if you can train it to absorb more oxygen, then you can stay underwater longer.
To see this diaphragmatic movement in action, get in a resting position and place one hand on your stomach and another on your chest. Take a deep breath in through the nose and slowly exhale. You should see your belly move, but not your chest. This shows your diaphragm is controlling your breath.
Preparing your body to breathe requires relaxed muscles. As you practice breathing, loosen any muscle contractions. Hold your arms out and slowly release them while breathing to calm down your metabolic rate and nervous system.
Mental preparation is as important as physical preparation. Anticipation or worry distracts from the body’s resting state. Don’t think of how many minutes you will be able to do, just empty your mind and focus on breathing.
Repeat Breathing Exercises
Lay down and practice breathing slowly with your diaphragm for 2-3 minutes. Breathe from the belly and then to the chest; then hold the breath for 5 seconds. Repeat five times for at least 3 minutes. After that, take three slow, deep breaths and hold it as long as you can; then slowly exhale. Do this procedure again. Practice it twice every day to see increased breathing control.
Holding your breath takes time and patience as well as mental fortitude to stay relaxed as you tell your body it doesn’t need to breathe – yet.