Voyage entre deux inspirations: Guillaume Nery at TEDxToulouse

Voyage entre deux inspirations: Guillaume Nery at TEDxToulouse

Translator: Garen Gent-Randall
Reviewer: Adam Wyett (Video) (Man) 10 seconds 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 Official top Plus 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10 Guillaume Nery, France Constant weight, 123 metres, 3 minutes and 25 seconds National record attempt 70 metres [123 metres] (Applause) (Woman) National record! Guillaume Nery: Thank you. (Applause) Thank you very much.
Thanks for your warm welcome. That dive you just watched was a journey. A journey between two breaths. A journey which starts
between two breaths, the last one before diving into the water, and the first one
coming back to the surface. That dive was a journey
to the very limits of human possibility. A journey into the unknown. But it’s also, and above all,
a personal journey, where all sorts of things go on: Physiologically and mentally. And that’s why I’m here today, to share my journey with you,
and to take you with me. So, we start with the last breath. (Breathing in) (Breathing out) As you’ve just seen, it’s slow, deep and intense. And I end it with a special technique,
called the carp, which allows me to store
one or two extra litres of air in my lungs by compressing the air. Off I go; I leave the surface, and I’ve got about
10 litres of air in my lungs. I’ve just left the surface
and so the first mechanism kicks in — the diving reflex. The first thing the diving reflex does
is make your heart rate drop. My heart beat will drop
from about 60-70 per minute, to about 30-40 beats per minute, in a matter of seconds;
almost immediately. Second, the diving reflex causes
peripheral vasoconstriction, which means that the blood flow
will leave the extremities and prioritise the most important organs: the lungs, the heart, and the brain. Now, this mechanism is innate. I cannot control it. If you go underwater,
even if you’ve never done it before, you’ll experience the exact same effects. All human beings have this instinct. And what’s extraordinary is that we share this instinct
with marine mammals. All marine mammals:
dolphins, whales, sea lions, etc. When they dive, deep into the ocean, these mechanisms get activated but to a greater extent and, of course, it works
much better for them. It’s absolutely fascinating. Leaving the surface, I’m right away given
a push in the right direction allowing me to head on down
with confidence. So I go deeper into the blue, the pressure will slowly start
to squeeze my lungs, and since it’s the amount of air
in my lungs that makes me float, the further down I go,
the more pressure there is on my lungs, the less air I have to breathe,
the easier it becomes to go down. And at one point,
around 35 or 40 metres down, I don’t even need to swim. My body is dense and heavy enough to fall into the depths by itself and I’m in what is called
the free fall phase. Free fall is the best part of the dive. It’s why I still dive. Because it feels like
you’re being pulled down and you don’t have to do anything. I can go down from 35 metres to 123 metres
without making a single movement. I let myself be grabbed by the depths,
and it feels like I’m flying underwater. It’s a truly unbelievable feeling,
a wonderful feeling of freedom. And so I slide, slowly, to the bottom. 40 metres down, 50 metres down, and between 50 and 60 metres down,
a second physiological response kicks in: my lungs reach residual volume. It’s the theoretical volume below which our lungs
are not supposed to be compressed. And so this second response
is the (English) “blood shift”. The proper term
in French is “pulmonary erection”. I prefer “blood shift”. (Laughter) Let’s just use “blood shift”. So how does it work? The capillaries in the lungs
become engorged with blood due to pressure so the lungs can harden and protect the whole chest cavity
from being crushed. It prevents the two walls
of the lungs from collapsing, sticking together or caving in. Thanks to this phenomenon,
which we also share with marine mammals, I can continue with my dive. 60 metres down, 70 metres down, I keep falling, faster and faster, because the pressure is crushing my body,
more and more. Below 80 metres, the pressure becomes a lot stronger, and I start to actually feel it. I really start to feel the oppression. You can see how it looks —
not pretty at all. The diaphragm is completely collapsed, the ribcage has been squeezed in, and mentally,
there is something going on, as well. You’re thinking:
“OK, this doesn’t feel too good…” “What should I do?” If I relied on my earthly reflexes, what do we do on the surface
when there’s a problem? We want to resist, we go against it. We fight. Underwater, that doesn’t work. If you try that underwater,
you might tear your lungs, spit up blood, develop an edema, and then you have to stop.
For a while, at least. So what you need to do, mentally,
is to tell yourself that nature is stronger,
the elements are stronger than you. And so I let the water crush me. I accept the pressure, and go with it. At this point, I’m giving
my body this information, my lungs start relaxing. I relinquish all control, and relax completely. The pressure starts crushing me,
and it doesn’t feel horrible at all. I even feel like I’m in a cocoon, I even feel protected. And the dive continues. 80 metres, 85 metres down, 90, 100, 100 metres — that’s a magic number. In every sport, it’s a magic number. For swimmers and athletes,
and for us too, for free divers,
it’s a number everyone dreams of. Everyone wishes to be able
to go down 100 metres one day. And it’s a quite symbolic number for us,
because doctors and physiologists, in the 1970s, did their math and predicted that the human body
would not be able to go below 100 metres. Below that, they said,
the human body would implode. And then the little Frenchman,
Jacques Mayol, who you all know — the main character in “The Big Blue” — went for it, and dived down to 100 metres. He even went down to 105. At that time, he was doing no-limits.
He would use weights to go down quicker and come back up with a balloon,
like in “The Big Blue”. Today, we can go up to 200 metres
with no-limits. I can do 123 metres,
by just using my own muscles. And all this is in a way thanks to him,
because he challenged known facts, because with a sweep of his hand
he got rid of the theoretical beliefs and mental limits
that we like to impose on ourselves. He showed that the human body
has an infinite ability to adapt. So I carry on on my dive. 105, 110, 115, The bottom is getting closer, 120 metres, 123 metres. I’m at the bottom. And now, I’d like to ask you to join in
and to put yourself in my place. Close your eyes. Imagine you are 123 metres
under the surface. The surface is very very far away. You’re alone. There’s hardly any light. It’s cold. Bitterly cold. The pressure is crushing you completely,
13 times stronger than on the surface. And I know what you’re thinking, “This is horrible!” “What the hell am I doing?” “He must be crazy!” Well, I’m not! That’s not what I think
when I’m down there. When I’m at the bottom, I feel good. I get this extraordinary feeling
of well-being. Maybe it’s because
I’ve totally let go of all the tensions and I’ve let myself be taken over. I feel good,
and I don’t even want to breathe. Now, that’s a bit worrying, I know. I feel like I’m a tiny dot,
a little drop of water, floating in the middle of the ocean. And, each time,
the same image comes into my head: (English) The pale blue dot. (French) You may recognise this picture.
It’s literally a pale blue dot. It’s that little dot
the arrow is pointing to. Do you know what it is? It’s planet Earth. Planet Earth,
photographed by the Voyager probe, 4 billion kilometres away. It shows that our home is that dot over here. That little dot floating
in the middle of nothing. That’s how I feel
when I’m at the bottom, at 123 metres. I feel like a little dot, a speck of dust, stardust, floating in the middle of the cosmos, in the middle of nothing,
in the immensity of space. It’s an amazing sensation, because I look up, down,
left, right, in front, behind, and I see the same thing:
the infinite deep blue. Nowhere else on Earth
you can experience the same thing, looking all around you
and seeing the same thing. It’s extraordinary. And at that moment,
I still get the same feeling, each time, building up inside of me, a feeling of humility. I feel very humbled when I look at the photo
that was just on the screen, (Laughter) and when I’m at the bottom,
because I’m nothing. I’m a little speck of nothingness
lost in all of time and space. And it’s absolutely fascinating. I decide to go back up,
because I don’t belong there. I belong up there, on the surface. So I start heading back up. I get something of a shock, at the very moment
when I decide to go up again. First of all, it takes a huge effort
to tear yourself away from the bottom, since it pulled you in on the way down
it’s going to do the same on the way up. You need to swim twice as hard. Then, I get hit by another phenomenon: The bends. I don’t know
if you’ve heard of that — it’s also called
decompression sickness. It’s something that usually happens
to scuba divers, and it can also happen to free-divers. It happens because the nitrogen
dissolved in the blood, which is partly responsible
for the struggle between the conscious
and unconscious mind. So many thoughts rush through your head, left, right, and centre,
spinning through your head, You cannot control anything, you experience something similar
when you’re on acid. I’ve never taken acid,
but if I ever… — no, you seem like a sensible lot! Anyway, it’s supposed to have
the same effect as acid has on you. Above all, you shouldn’t try to control it.
You have to let it happen. Don’t try to control it. The more you do,
the harder it is to manage. Then a third thing comes along:
The desire to breathe. Well, I’m not a fish-man, I’m a human being, and the desire
to breathe reminds me of that fact. At 60 or 70 metres, You start to feel the need to breathe. And with everything else that’s going on you could very easily lose your mind and start to panic. When that happens, you’re thinking, “Where’s the surface? I want to go up.
I want to breathe. Now.” You should not do that. Never look up to the surface, not with your eyes, or your mind. You can never imagine yourself up there. You have to stay in the present. I look straight ahead of me at the rope that leads me
back to the surface. And I focus on that,
on the present moment. Because if I think about the surface,
I start to panic, and if I panic, it’s over. Time passes much faster this way. And at 30 metres,
there we are, I’m finally saved. I’m not alone any more. My safety divers, my guardian angels, are there. They leave the surface,
we meet up at 30 metres, and they escort me,
for the last few metres, which is where problems could arise. And each time I see them I think, “It’s thanks to you.” It’s thanks to them that I’m here
— my team. It brings back the sense of humility. Without them, my team,
without all these people around me, the adventure into the deep
would be impossible. A journey into the deep is a group action,
above anything else. So I’m happy to finish
my journey with them because it’s thanks to them
that I’m there. 20 metres, 10 metres. My lungs slowly return
to their normal volume, the Archimedes’ principle
helps me back to the surface. 5 metres below the surface,
I start to breathe out, so that as soon as I arrive at the surface
all I have to do is breathe in. Then I get to the surface. (Breathing in) Air floods into my lungs, it’s like being born again — a relief. Because it feels good. The journey was extraordinary but I did need
those little oxygen molecules that I’ve just breathed in. It’s an extraordinary sensation,
but at the same time it’s traumatising It’s a shock to the system. Can you imagine going from
complete darkness to the light of day? I go from the near-silence of the depths
to the hustle and bustle up top. In terms of touch, I go from the soft,
velvety feeling of the water, to the air which rubs across my face. In terms of taste, in terms of smell, there’s the air which rushes into my lungs. And in turn my lungs open up. They were completely squashed
just 90 seconds ago, and now, they’re opened up again. So all of this affects
quite a lot of things. I need a few seconds to come back, to feel “all there” again. But that has to happen quickly,
because the judges are in front of me to approve my attempt, and I have to show them that
I’m in perfectly healthy. You saw it in the video,
I was doing a so-called exit protocol. Once I’m at the surface,
I have 15 seconds to take off my nose clip to make this sign, and say (English) “I’m OK.” And you need to be bilingual. (Laughter) After all that, it’s not easy. Once the protocol is finished,
the judges show me a white card, and that’s when the joy starts. I can finally celebrate
what has just happened. So, the journey I’ve just told you about,
is a more extreme version of freediving. Luckily, it’s not just about that. Far from it. For the last 2 or 3 years, I’ve been trying
to show another side of freediving, because the media often talks
about competitions and records. But freediving is more than just that. It’s about being at ease in the water. It’s extremely beautiful,
very poetic, and artistic. My partner and I decided to shoot films,
and try to show another side of it. To make you want to go into the water. So, let me show you some images
to finish my story. It’s a patchwork of beautiful
underwater photos. (Music) To let you know that if one day
you try to stop breathing, you’ll realise
that when you stop breathing you stop thinking too. It calms you down. Today, in the 21st century,
we’re under so much pressure. Our minds are overworked,
we think at a million miles an hour, we’re always stressed, and being able to freedive,
helps you to, just for a moment, let your mind relax. Holding your breath underwater means giving yourself the chance
to experience weightlessness. Being underwater, floating, with your body completely relaxed,
letting go of all your tensions. That’s issue with the 21st century:
our backs and necks hurt, everything, because we’re stressed all the time. We’re always tense. But when you’re in the water,
you let yourself float, like in space. You let yourself go completely. It’s extraordinary,
you can finally get in touch with your body, your mind, with yourself. Everything feels better, all at once. Learning how to hold your breath,
is also about learning to breathe well. We breathe from our first breath,
at birth, to our last. Breathing is the rhythm of our lives. Learning how to breath better
helps you learn to live better. Holding your breath, in the sea,
not necessarily at 100 metres, but 2 or 3, putting on your goggles,
a pair of flippers, means you can go see another world, another universe, completely magical. Seeing little fish, seeing seaweed, all the flora and fauna, and being able to watch that discreetly, sliding under the water, looking around,
and coming back to the surface, leaving no trace. It’s a wonderful feeling, being able to become a part
of the sea like that. And let me tell you on more thing, holding your breath, being in the water,
finding this underwater world, is all about connecting
with yourself again. You’ve just heard about it, I’ve talked a lot about the body’s memory which dates back millions of years,
to our marine origins. The day you get back into the water, when you hold your breath
for a few seconds, you will be in touch
with those origins again. And I can guarantee you that it’s absolutely magic. I encourage you to try it out. Thank you. (Applause)

17 thoughts on “Voyage entre deux inspirations: Guillaume Nery at TEDxToulouse

  • May 20, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    merci pour ce bon moment !cette respiration …

  • February 17, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Merde c'(était quand ce tedx ?

  • February 25, 2014 at 4:26 am

    I wish I could understand french better 

  • March 3, 2014 at 8:51 am

    intéressant 😉

  • May 11, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Belles explications de ta passion sur le plan physiologique et de la philosophie de l'apnée BRAVO
    Guillaume MERCI

  • December 22, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    ça donne envi !! C'est une superbe présentation,félicitation.

  • March 9, 2015 at 12:40 am

    Beautiful lecture, both content and presentation!

  • March 17, 2015 at 6:28 am

    Magnifique! excellent contenu.

  • April 13, 2015 at 4:19 am

    Subtitles please!!

  • November 7, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    Great talk, but just a note on the subtitles.

    Where it talks about the "bends", this is a mistranslation. He's talking about nitrogen narcosis, which is a very different phenomenon, though also caused by high pressure nitrogen.

    The bends occurs after a dive (usually some hours) when the dissolved nitrogen comes out of solution and causes joins pains, or worse (see Decompression Sickness on wikipedia).

  • December 11, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    For some reason, Guillaume listed the depth limit doctors predicted as the max for human freedivers before the chest would implode (!) as 100 meters, listing that prediction as from the 1970s, a limit which Jacques Mayol reached in 1976. It's pretty well known, that the limit the doctors talked about was 50 meters, not 100, and that they listed it already in the 1950s, and that limit that was broken by Enzo Maiorca in 1961.

    I don't know, I didn't like it. It can only have been changed to list a Frenchman, Mayol, as the one shaming the doctors' prediction, even though it was an Italian, Maiorca. It wasn't factual, rather it comes off as archaic national pride, which doesn't belong in a TED talk. Rendez à César and stuff.

  • May 27, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    Un grand merci Guillaume….

  • October 13, 2017 at 2:07 am

    Huh. Neat.

  • April 25, 2018 at 10:20 pm

    je suis ici à apprendre français, parce que ce moment je trouve que très difficile

  • March 12, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    Subtitles please !!


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