So when was the last time that you spent any time thinking about how you breath? I’m going to guess that it was sometime when you couldn’t get air – underwater, someone sitting on your chest, bag over your head, etc. Since you are reading these words, I’m going to guess that somehow you were able to get that next precious gasp of air and that you’ve probably not paid any attention to the whole breathing thing since then. However, maybe it’s time that you did…
We’ve all been in the audience when someone gives a speech for the first time. Generally, it doesn’t go very well. One big reason for the disappointing results is that they are generally quite nervous and end up talking VERY fast as they race to get it over and be allowed to sit down again. As you can probably guess, this is exactly the wrong way to deliver a speech and their breathing has a lot to do with it.
So what’s really going on here? Speakers don’t show up thinking “Hmm, I bet that if I talk really, really fast things will go well for me.” Instead, they are victims of their own bodies. It all starts with feeling nervous, this releases chemicals into your system that makes your heart start to beat faster. Your breath then follows suit by becoming shallow and fast. Because you are nervous, you start to bring oxygen only into the upper part of your lungs. This means that your body starts to react to not having enough oxygen despite your rapid breathing rate! Things start to go downhill after this as far as your muscles, nervous system, brain, and even your voice are concerned.
What’s a speaker to do? Being aware that everyone gets nervous when they are called upon to talk in public is the first step. The next is to consciously take control of your breath. If you spend some time thinking about how you are breathing, then you’ll be able to counteract the negative effects that poor breathing can cause.
How do I control my breathing? There are six steps that you need to think your way through. Your body is automatically doing the same thing; however, you need to take control and make sure that your body is working the way that YOU want it to work. Here’s your proper breathing checklist:
- Check your posture – stand up straight!
- Relax! (Head, neck, shoulders)
- Nose – Yes, Mouth – No. Breath thorough your nose, not your mouth.
- Breath deeply – fill your lungs all the way down to the bottom.
- Exhale all the way – get all of that used air out of there.
- Observe your breath – is it smooth and even, or short and ragged? Change it if needed.