How I held my breath for 17 minutes | David Blaine


As a magician, I try to create images
that make people stop and think. I also try to challenge myself to do things that doctors
say are not possible. I was buried alive
in New York City in a coffin, buried alive in a coffin
in April, 1999, for a week. I lived there with nothing but water. And it ended up being so much fun that I decided I could pursue
doing more of these things. The next one is I froze myself
in a block of ice for three days and three nights
in New York City. That one was way more difficult
than I had expected. The one after that, I stood
on top of a hundred-foot pillar for 36 hours. I began to hallucinate so hard that the buildings that were behind me
started to look like big animal heads. So, next I went to London. In London I lived
in a glass box for 44 days with nothing but water. It was, for me, one of the most difficult
things I’d ever done, but it was also the most beautiful. There was so many skeptics,
especially the press in London, that they started flying cheeseburgers
on helicopters around my box to tempt me. (Laughter) So, I felt very validated when the New England Journal of Medicine
actually used the research for science. My next pursuit was I wanted to see
how long I could go without breathing, like how long I could survive
with nothing, not even air. I didn’t realize that it would become
the most amazing journey of my life. As a young magician, I was obsessed with Houdini
and his underwater challenges. So, I began, early on,
competing against the other kids, seeing how long I could stay underwater
while they went up and down to breathe, you know, five times,
while I stayed under on one breath. By the time I was a teenager, I was able to hold my breath
for three minutes and 30 seconds. I would later find out
that was Houdini’s personal record. In 1987 I heard of a story about a boy that fell through ice
and was trapped under a river. He was underneath,
not breathing for 45 minutes. When the rescue workers came, they resuscitated him
and there was no brain damage. His core temperature
had dropped to 77 degrees. As a magician,
I think everything is possible. And I think if something
is done by one person, it can be done by others. I started to think, if the boy could survive
without breathing for that long, there must be a way that I could do it. So, I met with a top neurosurgeon. And I asked him, how long
is it possible to go without breathing, like how long could I go without air? And he said to me that anything
over six minutes you have a serious risk
of hypoxic brain damage. So, I took that as a challenge, basically. (Laughter) My first try, I figured
that I could do something similar, and I created a water tank, and I filled it with ice
and freezing cold water. And I stayed inside of that water tank hoping my core temperature
would start to drop. And I was shivering. In my first attempt to hold my breath,
I couldn’t even last a minute. So, I realized that was completely
not going to work. I went to talk to a doctor friend — and I asked him, “How could I do that?” “I want to hold my breath for a really
long time. How could it be done?” And he said, “David, you’re a magician, create the illusion of not breathing,
it will be much easier.” (Laughter) So, he came up with this idea
of creating a rebreather, with a CO2 scrubber, which was basically
a tube from Home Depot, with a balloon duct-taped to it, that he thought we could put inside of me, and somehow be able to circulate
the air and rebreathe with this thing in me. This is a little hard to watch. But this is that attempt. So, that clearly wasn’t going to work. (Laughter) Then I actually started thinking
about liquid breathing. There is a chemical
that’s called perflubron. And it’s so high in oxygen levels
that in theory you could breathe it. So, I got my hands on that chemical, filled the sink up with it,
and stuck my face in the sink and tried to breathe that in,
which was really impossible. It’s basically like trying
to breathe, as a doctor said, while having an elephant
standing on your chest. So, that idea disappeared. Then I started thinking, would it be possible to hook up
a heart/lung bypass machine and have a surgery where it was
a tube going into my artery, and then appear to not breathe
while they were oxygenating my blood? Which was another insane idea, obviously. Then I thought about
the craziest idea of all the ideas: to actually do it. (Laughter) To actually try to hold
my breath past the point that doctors would
consider you brain dead. So, I started researching
into pearl divers. You know, because they go down
for four minutes on one breath. And when I was researching pearl divers,
I found the world of free-diving. It was the most amazing thing
that I ever discovered, pretty much. There is many different
aspects to free-diving. There is depth records,
where people go as deep as they can. And then there is static apnea. That’s holding your breath
as long as you can in one place without moving. That was the one that I studied. The first thing that I learned
is when you’re holding your breath, you should never move at all;
that wastes energy. And that depletes oxygen, and it builds up CO2 in your blood. So, I learned never to move. And I learned how to slow
my heart rate down. I had to remain
perfectly still and just relax and think that I wasn’t in my body,
and just control that. And then I learned how to purge. Purging is basically hyperventilating. You blow in and out — (Breathing loudly) You do that, you get lightheaded,
you get tingling. And you’re really ridding
your body of CO2. So, when you hold your breath,
it’s infinitely easier. Then I learned that you have
to take a huge breath, and just hold and relax
and never let any air out, and just hold and relax
through all the pain. Every morning, this is for months, I would wake up
and the first thing that I would do is I would hold my breath for, out of 52 minutes,
I would hold my breath for 44 minutes. So, basically what that means
is I would purge, I’d breathe really hard for a minute. And I would hold, immediately after,
for five and a half minutes. Then I would breathe again for a minute,
purging as hard as I can, then immediately after that I would hold
again for five and a half minutes. I would repeat this process
eight times in a row. Out of 52 minutes, you’re only
breathing for eight minutes. At the end of that
you’re completely fried, your brain. You feel like you’re walking
around in a daze. And you have these awful headaches. Basically, I’m not the best person
to talk to when I’m doing that stuff. I started learning
about the world-record holder. His name is Tom Sietas. And this guy is perfectly built
for holding his breath. He’s six foot four. He’s 160 pounds. And his total lung capacity
is twice the size of an average person. I’m six foot one, and fat. We’ll say big-boned. (Laughter) I had to drop 50 pounds in three months. So, everything that I put into my body,
I considered as medicine. Every bit of food was exactly
what it was for its nutritional value. I ate really small controlled portions
throughout the day. And I started to really adapt my body. [Individual results may vary] (Laughter) The thinner I was, the longer
I was able to hold my breath. And by eating so well
and training so hard, my resting heart-rate dropped
to 38 beats per minute. Which is lower than most Olympic athletes. In four months of training, I was able to hold my breath
for over seven minutes. I wanted to try holding
my breath everywhere. I wanted to try it
in the most extreme situations to see if I could slow
my heart rate down under duress. (Laughter) I decided that I was going
to break the world record live on prime-time television. The world record was
eight minutes and 58 seconds, held by Tom Sietas, that guy
with the whale lungs I told you about. I assumed that I could put
a water tank at Lincoln Center and if I stayed there a week not eating, I would get comfortable in that situation
and I would slow my metabolism, which I was sure would help me
hold my breath longer than I had been able to do it. I was completely wrong. I entered the sphere a week
before the scheduled air date. And I thought everything
seemed to be on track. Two days before my big
breath-hold attempt, for the record, the producers of my television special thought that just watching somebody
holding their breath, and almost drowning, is too boring for television. (Laughter) So, I had to add handcuffs,
while holding my breath, to escape from. This was a critical mistake. Because of the movement,
I was wasting oxygen. And by seven minutes I had gone
into these awful convulsions. By 7:08, I started to black out. And by seven minutes and 30 seconds, they had to pull my body out
and bring me back. I had failed on every level. (Laughter) So, naturally, the only way out
of the slump that I could think of was, I decided to call Oprah. (Laughter) I told her that I wanted to up the ante and hold my breath longer
than any human being ever had. This was a different record. This was a pure O2 static apnea record that Guinness had set
the world record at 13 minutes. So, basically you breathe pure O2 first,
oxygenating your body, flushing out CO2, and you are able to hold much longer. I realized that my real competition
was the beaver. (Laughter) (Laughter ends) In January of ’08, Oprah gave me four months
to prepare and train. So, I would sleep
in a hypoxic tent every night. A hypoxic tent is a tent
that simulates altitude at 15,000 feet. So, it’s like base camp, Everest. What that does is, you start building up
the red bloodcell count in your body, which helps you carry oxygen better. Every morning, again,
after getting out of that tent, your brain is completely wiped out. My first attempt on pure O2,
I was able to go up to 15 minutes. So, it was a pretty big success. The neurosurgeon
pulled me out of the water because in his mind, at 15 minutes
your brain is done, you’re brain dead. So, he pulled me up, and I was fine. There was one person there
that was definitely not impressed. It was my ex-girlfriend. While I was breaking the record
underwater for the first time, she was sifting through my Blackberry,
checking all my messages. (Laughter) My brother had a picture of it.
It is really — (Laughter) (Laughter ends) I then announced that I was going
to go for Sietas’ record, publicly. And what he did in response,
is he went on Regis and Kelly, and broke his old record. Then his main competitor
went out and broke his record. So, he suddenly pushed the record up to
16 minutes and 32 seconds. Which was three minutes
longer than I had prepared. It was longer than the record. I wanted to get the Science Times
to document this. I wanted to get them to do a piece on it. So, I did what any person seriously pursuing scientific
advancement would do. I walked into the New York Times offices
and did card tricks to everybody. (Laughter) So, I don’t know if it was the magic
or the lure of the Cayman Islands, but John Tierney flew down and did a piece on the seriousness
of breath-holding. While he was there,
I tried to impress him, of course. And I did a dive down to 160 feet, which is basically the height
of a 16 story building, and as I was coming up,
I blacked out underwater, which is really dangerous;
that’s how you drown. Luckily, Kirk had seen me
and he swam over and pulled me up. So, I started full focus. I completely trained to get
my breath-hold time up for what I needed to do. But there was no way to prepare
for the live television aspect of it, being on Oprah. But in practice, I would do it
face down, floating on the pool. But for TV they wanted me to be upright
so they could see my face, basically. The other problem
was the suit was so buoyant that they had to strap my feet in
to keep me from floating up. So, I had to use my legs to hold my feet
into the straps that were loose, which was a real problem for me. That made me extremely nervous,
raising the heart rate. Then, what they also did was, which we never did before,
is there was a heart-rate monitor. And it was right next to the sphere. So, every time my heart would beat,
I’d hear the beep-beep-beep-beep, you know, the ticking, really loud. Which was making me more nervous. And there was no way to slow
my heart rate down. Normally, I would start
at 38 beats per minute, and while holding my breath,
it would drop to 12 beats per minute, which is pretty unusual. (Laughter) This time it started at 120 beats,
and it never went down. I spent the first five minutes underwater desperately trying to slow
my heart rate down. I was just sitting there thinking, “I’ve got to slow this down.
I’m going to fail.” And I was getting more nervous. And the heart rate
just kept going up and up, all the way up to 150 beats. Basically it’s the same thing that created
my downfall at Lincoln Center. It was a waste of O2. When I made it to the halfway
mark, at eight minutes, I was 100 percent certain that I was not going
to be able to make this. There was no way for me to do it. I figured, Oprah had dedicated an hour to doing this breath-hold thing,
if I had cracked early, it would be a whole show
about how depressed I am. (Laughter) So, I figured I’m better off just fighting
and staying there until I black out, at least then they can pull me out
and take care of me and all that. (Laughter) I kept pushing to 10 minutes. At 10 minutes you start getting all
these really strong tingling sensations in your fingers and toes. And I knew that that was blood shunting, when the blood rushes away
from your extremities to provide oxygen to your vital organs. At 11 minutes I started feeling
throbbing sensations in my legs, and my lips started
to feel really strange. At minute 12 I started
to have ringing in my ears, and I started to feel my arm going numb. And I’m a hypochondriac, and I remember
arm numb means heart attack. So, I started to really
get really paranoid. Then at 13 minutes, maybe
because of the hypochondria, I started feeling pains all over my chest. It was awful. (Laughter) At 14 minutes,
I had these awful contractions, like this urge to breathe. (Laughter) (Laughter ends) At 15 minutes I was suffering
major O2 deprivation to the heart. And I started having
ischemia to the heart. My heartbeat would go from 120 to 50, to 150, to 40, to 20, to 150 again. It would skip a beat. It would start. It would stop.
And I felt all this. And I was sure that I was going
to have a heart attack. So, at 16 minutes what I did
is I slid my feet out because I knew that if I did go out,
if I did have a heart attack, they’d have to jump into the binding
and take my feet out before pulling me up. I was really nervous. I let my feet out,
and I started floating to the top. And I didn’t take my head out. But I was just floating there
waiting for my heart to stop, just waiting. They had doctors with the “Pst,”
you know, sitting there waiting. And then suddenly I hear screaming. And I think that there
is some weird thing — that I had died or something had happened. And then I realized
that I had made it to 16:32. So, with the energy
of everybody that was there, I decided to keep pushing. And I went to 17 minutes and four seconds. (Applause) (Applause ends) As though that wasn’t enough,
what I did immediately after is I went to Quest Labs and had them take every blood
sample that they could to test for everything
and to see where my levels were, so the doctors could use it, once again. I also didn’t want anybody to question it. I had the world record and I wanted
to make sure it was legitimate. So, I get to New York City the next day, I’m walking out of the Apple store, and this kid walks up to me
he’s like, “Yo, D!” I’m like “Yeah?” He said, “If you really
held your breath that long, why’d you come out of the water dry?” I was like “What?” (Laughter) And that’s my life. So — (Laughter) As a magician,
I try to show things to people that seem impossible. And I think magic, whether I’m holding my breath
or shuffling a deck of cards, is pretty simple. It’s practice, it’s training,
and it’s — (Sobs) It’s practice, it’s training
and experimenting, (Sobs) while pushing through the pain
to be the best that I can be. And that’s what magic
is to me, so, thank you. (Applause)


100 Responses

  1. St T.

    August 9, 2019 8:14 pm

    Him going on a 40 day hunger strick has nothing to do with magic. It's more of a stunt than act of magic, I don't like the whole I'm a gorou because I have magic/mentalist abilites. Any rational person knows that to be bullshit yet so many fall for it and loose touch with reality. There is something very immoral about misleading people in that way.

  2. Bradley Ruffner

    August 9, 2019 11:31 pm

    David Blaine …"YOU ROCK"….i have always loved the way you do your stuff just please dont kill yourself doing your crazy stunts because there is only one of you and me personally will miss you …

  3. inyourfacetimmy

    August 11, 2019 9:42 am

    this is the first time i can really relate to this guy. He is trying his best to be one of the best, even if that means to get hurt in the process. I do believe his story, as Tom Sietas World record is now at 22 min. 22. sek. But honestly it's difficult to put trust in a magician.

  4. Notechis

    August 11, 2019 6:55 pm

    Unfortunately using pure oxygen before isn't a real world rekord in apnea. It's just for the show, worthless.

  5. Blind

    August 12, 2019 2:13 am

    Immediate thumbs down because whatever is said here is a lie. He didnt hold his breath for 17 min. Oh its david blane? Yeah total bluushit.

  6. Phoenix Uprising

    August 12, 2019 6:56 am

    David is superhuman. Sadly, through all those hard work he has done the damage to his body may be irreversible. He seems to have COPD maybe from overworking his lungs. My dad sounds just like that due to smoking.


    August 12, 2019 2:23 pm

    Of course there wasnt any brain damage after he held his breath… the damage was already there

    Just a joke, the guy is amazing for what he is doing

  8. xtrakrisb420

    August 13, 2019 3:18 am

    i will always be amazed by the dedication and forthought david blaine always puts into his magic acts and physical feats. i watched him complete the world record that he talks about here, and oh my god its was nerve-racking. thank you david for you courage and dedication to this dying craft!!!

  9. Dr.Mantis Tobbagon

    August 13, 2019 3:26 am

    Before all the blackouts he could give this lecture in twelve minutes. Now it takes him around twenty.

  10. Dr.Mantis Tobbagon

    August 13, 2019 3:43 am

    I remember taking a huge bong hit just before my mom came in my room to tell me some tragic news. To this day I don't know what had happened but tears were running down my face. She hugged me, held me for awhile as the room grew darker and darker until finally she stepped out and shut the door. I exhaled the smoke and floated around with it for some time. My brain was screaming that sound from the emergency broadcast test and my room was loaded with tiny stars. After I started feeling a bit more grounded I figured one more good bong hit would do the job. So I reloaded and just as I inhaled the last puff of smoke grandma came in. Now I have to wear this stupid helmet all the time.

  11. ChrisB

    August 13, 2019 3:25 pm

    I got the World Record at 17 minutes…

    some kid was under frozen water for 45 minutes…

    Guinness: Clearly 17 is longer than 45.

  12. jan bramsen

    August 13, 2019 7:00 pm

    David blane.. URGH. fake and stupid. No wonder the pop is getting dumber. cocking segments and stupid magiv shows like this surly helps..

  13. Stella Muamba Ngufulu

    August 13, 2019 11:00 pm

    I’m sorry but it’s incredible how many stupid people exist. I sure no one of you ever broke such world record! It takes months of training pushing your limits non stop to be the best! There are only very view on earth who succeeded and that’s for a reason. Because it’s incredible hard! If you got a great job or a baby you are crying. So now imagine you broke a world record for which you were Milli seconds away to die. In fact you decided to risk your life for it. You Will Definitely Cry! And now imagine doctors, researchers, scientists etc are listening to you an uneducated person explaining how you have done it. So for those who are making fun of the fact how he talks and breath and cries – you are idiots!

  14. Vijay Vichhi

    August 14, 2019 11:52 am

    Really inspirational stuff. Goes to show people who say he sold his soul or whatever, that he is actually an over motivated guy ready to put in the work and fight through the failures in order to achieve his goal. Oh and that's just how he has always spoken. He's a bit of a weirdo. But an awesome weirdo.

  15. Yolo Beans

    August 15, 2019 9:51 pm

    I paused the video at about 17 minutes to go get some food. I realized when I came back that he held his breath as long as I had been watching the video. Really puts it in perspective

  16. ニクラス

    August 16, 2019 5:26 am

    Serious question:
    Does he talk like this because that's how he always talked, or did he actually take some brain damage when holding his breath for 17 min?

  17. James O'Connell

    August 16, 2019 3:57 pm

    Not magic; not an illusion. Dangerous physical stunts have no relation to entertainment. If you watch someone willingly do something dangerous for your entertainment, you're complicit in any harm that might come to them.

  18. That Ebutuoy Guy

    August 17, 2019 1:00 am

    I think he already has some brain damage from the way he's speaking; to say nothing of the acts he attempts.

  19. Ryan Rafter

    August 17, 2019 4:13 pm

    I have such a crush on this guy… but if by some batshit insane miracle I wound up his lover, I think I would need to be drugged whenever he takes on a dangerous record breaking attempt because losing my partner would utterly destroy me inside. a fate worse than death itself. but as an admiring pining fanboy, I am so proud of Daddy Blaine (lol, whats with the rolling eyes? 😉 dont judge my affectionate names lol!)

  20. Flono McFlooneyloo

    August 18, 2019 2:06 am

    Why have a TED talk where the person lies? He did not hold his breath for 17 minutes. It's a stunt. It's stage magic and some of his stuff is just camera tricks and re-filming with a different audience and yes you guessed it lying. Magicians consider lying part of magic. If they say 'no camera tricks' it means 'we used camera tricks'. Don't be naive, but of course people love to be fooled, especially scientists, LOL.

  21. quantrill

    August 18, 2019 6:09 pm

    I call bullshit i douth he can do 1 min without air, bullshit on 44 days without food. Its all staged.

  22. dominik rebej

    August 18, 2019 8:13 pm

    That has to be fake like duuude he didnt even now the basic of freediving and apnea how could he last 17 minutes in the water

  23. a SuPeR sMaSh BrO

    August 19, 2019 2:32 am

    17 Minutes? I had to sit under water 100 blocks deep for 5 hours a DAY trying to make my underwater base. The whole thing took 365 Days.

  24. Crackles McFarly

    August 19, 2019 3:51 am

    I held a big Load for 18 minutes. I got near launch then paused then engaged again then paused and did this for 18 minutes…..finally I allowed the Load to be delivered. I think my 18 minute chore is more amazing than blaine's fake breath holding.

  25. Crackles McFarly

    August 19, 2019 3:52 am

    Blaine has the kind of face that makes you want to punch it 7 to 10 times in a row real fast….and an hour later do it again.

  26. JTO! Gaming

    August 19, 2019 1:09 pm

    im not even gonna watch this video as it seems that it claims that this tool held his breathe for 17 minutes lmao are ppl are believing it!!! Ted starting to look more and more like a leftist BS

  27. Infinity Stones

    August 21, 2019 1:51 am

    He's a magician people. He didn't hold his breath for 17 minutes. He's lying. That's what magicians do.

  28. Chris Baker

    August 21, 2019 5:36 am

    The Ice thing is weird because they showed how he did it. He never stayed in it. Always switched out people when they were shaving the Ice

  29. ElPocho DelMundo

    August 21, 2019 10:27 am

    Wow, David Blaine. I remember him from decades ago. If I'm not mstaken, he was in his early teens when he first went pro.

  30. ElPocho DelMundo

    August 21, 2019 10:48 am

    I've loved David Blaine for decades. I wonder, do you suppose he could go six months without urinating? Defecating?

  31. Andy Pandy

    August 21, 2019 11:23 am

    He's starting to sound a bit brain damaged. I was on my way to hospital in an ambulance after a fire, they turned on the lights and siren and sped up, I asked why and they said my heart rate was becoming excessive, it took me 2 mins to work out how to reduce my heart rate by 30bpm, I can now raise or lower it at will, but only by 20bpm, as I'm not in a mess now.

  32. Bilgeemine Demir

    August 21, 2019 1:10 pm

    Turkce ceviri yapan arakdasim bir hata yapmissin Adam 3 Dalika 30 saniye diyor. 30 saniye degil

  33. The Great Juan

    August 21, 2019 2:00 pm

    He is the best magician when i was young… We had this thing that he was using black magic…. Hahaha…

  34. Tom Treacy

    August 21, 2019 3:01 pm

    He definitely has given himself brain damage doing that stunt but all adult brains are dying, some just faster than others. Smoking a cigarette, drinking a beer, banging your head off something or getting hit, growing old etc all these things kill brain cells. I sometimes think that reading Youtube comments can cause severe bain dramage…

  35. Connor H

    August 21, 2019 10:33 pm

    Lemme sum the video up so u dont waste 20 minutes of your life. He had oxygen for most of the time when it got to 2 minutes before hand he didnt have any and actually held his breath. Congrats… magic isn't real.


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