a messy ending to a five minute breath hold

8 Mar 24

By Dominic Byrne

Single Parent Getting After It

I woke intensely nervous. I was lacking confidence, and self-doubt was setting in. I ferried the kids off to school and hastily returned home. Capitalising on my deliberately empty stomach (it saves O2), I rushed to tackle this obstacle head-on. The obstacle is the way.

In the stillness of the room, the house in silence, my Japanese Zen playlist enveloped me like a comforting shroud. I lay on my yoga mat, eyes closed, preparing for the challenge that awaited—a five-minute breath hold. As I breathed through the apnea table I had rigidly followed for the previous 28 days, I could feel the anticipation building, a quiet storm within. Being excited and nervous while trying to relax through my warm-up rounds was an intense mind tussle.

I pressed the start button on my breathing app, knowing I would hear a beep at every minute interval and then again with just 10 seconds to go.

The initial minutes are always deceptively calm, a serene voyage into the depths of my consciousness. The world outside faded away, leaving only the rhythmic beating of my heart as a guide through the uncharted waters of breath retention. My body, once in constant motion, now lay still, surrendered to the flow of time.

The drumbeat of my heart reverberated like a distant echo, a steady reminder that life persisted within me despite the voluntary suspension of breath. Time became an elusive concept in those suspended moments, a malleable substance bending to the whims of my introspection. Past and future merged into an eternal now, a timeless expanse where worries and aspirations dissolved into the vast ocean of consciousness.

learning to hold my breath for five minuts
As I entered the third minute, I had my first wave of contractions, and a subtle dance unfolded between control and surrender. My elevated CO2 levels were triggering involuntary rhythmic waves of the diaphragm in an attempt to make me breathe. The urge to gasp for air already whispered temptingly, a siren’s call demanding acknowledgment. Yet, a steadfast determination anchored me to the present, urging me to explore the uncharted territories of my inner realm.

I know I can last two minutes after my first wave of contractions without a gulp of air, so I’m confident for the first time of the day, and confidence couldn’t come at a better time. In the darkness behind closed lids, a kaleidoscope of colours emerged, a vivid tapestry of emotions painted by the canvas of my mind. Deep blues and tranquil greens intertwined with flashes of fiery red, mirroring the ebb and flow of sensations coursing through my veins. Each hue carried a story, a narrative of resilience, as if the colours themselves were breathing life into my being.

As my app beeped with a minute to go, I couldn’t stop glancing at my phone, willing the seconds to tick faster; the contrasting reality was I had never seen seconds move any slower in my life. A raging tingling sensation enveloped my limbs, a jarring reminder that boundaries were meant to be tested and that growth often emerged from the discomfort of the unknown. The edges of my existence blurred, and I felt an ephemeral connection to something greater than myself – a cosmic dance where the universe and I shared a fleeting, breathless embrace.

As the ten second final beep approached, a crescendo of emotions swelled within. I was going to achieve this goal, and I was going to do it right now. The need for air intensified to an explosive finale, a primal instinct urging me to break free from the self-imposed confinement. Five Minutes!! With a triumphant gasp, I surrendered to the breath I had withheld, feeling the rush of oxygen cascade through every cell and then out my arse. I had sh*it my pants. Only a tiny bit, but there is nothing like shitting my pants to revitalise and ground me in an instant. I yelled at the top of my lungs; “Fuck Yeah!!”

The world instantly returned with a renewed clarity, and as I lay on my yoga mat, the echo of the breath hold lingered in the air like a whispered secret shared between the universe and me. In those five minutes, suspended between inhale and exhale, I had touched the boundaries of my existence, transcending the limitations of the tangible world and tapping into the infinite possibilities within the stillness of the breath.

I danced to the shower, fist-pumping the air, a very excited boy with soiled underwear.

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