Monday, June 29, 2009

NPR: Breathe Like a Baby

If you've focused on your breathing when you speak, as many of our readers do, you may have found that over-thinking your breath trips you up more than anything else. That's part of the message in an NPR story out this morning, "Baby Steps to Better Breathing," which features several vocal coaches helping singers and others to relax and, well, regress, to baby-like breathing. The difference, in part, is breathing naturally versus breathing as a stress response, something we've covered before. Here's what the story says about stressed-out breathing, that sharp intake of breath you make when an accident nearly happens, for example:
The quick inhale brings more oxygen in and sets off a flood of hormones that heighten our senses and help us respond quickly. "It helps us survive."

The trouble comes when chronic stress sets in. Under stress, a lot of interactions start to feel like near-collisions. "It becomes a part of us and we never release out of it," says Bilanchone. When we're stressed we may cheat the exhale or even hold our breath for moments. As adults, we can develop these bad habits that interfere with the natural rhythm of breath.
Spending time re-learning how to breathe should become part of your speaker practice, and you may find you'll benefit by excusing yourself about 10 minutes before a speech (a handy stairwell or restroom will do for this) so you can get in some long, slow, calming and deep breaths. Want to see your physiology? NPR offers this link to a page about how the diaphragm works and to how respiration works and how it applies to performers (like speakers).

Related posts: Speakers: 7 Reasons I Want You to Talk Less

When the Speaker Needs to Catch Her Breath (with relaxation response tips)

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