How_to_hold_your_breath In Challenges

How to Hold Your Breath for 3+ Minutes

This is another article, ‘How to Hold Your Breath Longer Than Houdini‘, I’ve nicked from my old site Deadat30. I think it’s a gem and one I’ll certainly revisit in the future. (Maybe with the addition of water this time..)

Harry Houdini, probably the most well known magician of all time, famous for amazing feats of escape, deception and illusion. Despite performing in the early 1900’s, his name is still as  synonymous with magic today as it was in his prime.  I’m sure everyone’s heard of the disappearing elephant.. Perhaps what put Houdini into a class of his own however, particularly in his day, were his acts of physical endurance.

In particular, the ability to hold his breath for long periods of time. He incorporated this advantage into many of his most notable stunts  (the milk can escape, buried alive and the underwater box escape) allowing him to outdo most of his competition.

I recently came across an article on Houdini, which claimed his personal best for holding his breath was 3 minutes 30 seconds. After a bit of further investigation, this did indeed seem accurate. My curiosity was piqued. Orignially I thought this would be next to impossible for me to beat, I figured 1:30 was a decent time and even that was a struggle..

I did a bit more research into how free-divers and the like manage to hold their breath for so long and found out that David Blaine formerly held the world record with a ridiculous time of 17 minutes and 4 seconds. (This was oxygen assisted, meaning he inhaled pure oxygen for upto 30 minutes prior to the attempt.) He has done a TED talk on the subject and goes into detail about the technique he used to break the world record, explaining anyone can use it with a degree of success (relative success, dont expect to beat that record…unless you’re this guy).

I decided to give it a crack..



I attempted, as a baseline measure, to hold my breath for as long as I could without any sort of technique or training. I managed 1:20.


Attempt 1

I got Russell to time me so I could focus on keeping relaxed and keeping my mind off the ridiculous challenge I was doing.. The result: 3:02

I was involuntarily heaving towards the end, my body attempting to breath despite no air being inhaled. Bit disappointed I didn’t get it, despite holding my breath for more than double the amount of time I had ever managed previously.


Attempt 2

Woke up at 2am. Nothing much to do at that time so decided to attempt this foolish endevour yet again. My time: 3:35

I believe being so relaxed, with a lowered heart-rate from sleeping helped me big time here. Add to that the fact I had tried it before and knew moreso of what to expect when you deliberately trick your body into thinking it’s going to die..

I could have potentially gone a few more seconds but I felt a tremendous pressure in my head and my right ear started making funny sounds..


The Technique

*This is the technique prescribed by David Blaine. There are plenty more out there but they all appear to involve a similar process and essentially the same breathing exercises.


  • Deep breathing: 1:30
  • Purging: 1:15
  • Hold breath for target 1:30 (After 1:30: Take 3 semi-purge breaths)


  • 1:30 deep breathing
  • 1:30 purging
  • Hold breath for target 2:30 (After 2:30: Take 3 semi-purge breaths)


  • 2:00 deep breathing
  • 1:45 purging
  • Hold breath for as long as possible


Deep Breathing

Before holding your breath, inhale and exhale slowly from deep within your diaphragm. By doing this, you’re ridding your lungs of low-quality air. Spend five seconds breathing in, then hold the breath for one second, before breathing out for ten seconds.


Exhale forcefully, pushing as much air out of your lungs as possible. Puff out your cheeks as you do this, and imagine you are trying to blow a toy sailboat across a stretch of water. Once you have exhaled completely, inhale quickly and repeat. Try to keep your body as still as possible while you do this, to avoid expending any of the stored oxygen from the previous step.

*If you do this too hard you’ll feel like you’re going to pass out. If you keep going, you probably will. Slow down and take it a little easier..


Additional Pointers

– Make sure you’re seated comfortably (not lying down) and move as little as humanly possible.

-One thing David himself does when he does his record attempts is mentally move through each muscle in his body and ensure it is completely relaxed.

-Personally, I found leaning forward a little rather than leaning right back helped when I started struggling at the 3min mark.

-Another recommendation from Mr Blaine that I certainly found useful was running through the alphabet, naming a celebrity/famous figure for each. You may find some ridiculous names pop into your head..

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