As I launch my new website, I feel both excitement and the nervousness of starting something new…. A natural reaction is that I find that I’m holding my breath, and so I need to let the breath flow….While there are outstanding benefits of focusing on our breath, it can also cause problems, particularly when it relates to effective voice use. I have found that time and again, clients who have struggled with some aspect of speaking have been told to ‘take a deep breath’. This could be to help cope with nerves, to stop stammering, to project the voice better, or to sing better.
Taking a Breath can have the Opposite Effect
Now in theory this sounds like a very simple and sensible idea, but the funny thing is that quite frequently it has the opposite effect to what was intended.
The concept is certainly a sensible one and the intent is clearly to help…when taken to mean having good breath support as a basis for the voice, or using the breath to help a person cope with pain or anxiety. Unfortunately, this frequently used cue often results in a deep gulp of air, shoulders heading for the ears, tightening of the throat, neck, and any other area in the vicinity! In the case of voice projection, not really a recipe for free, easy, voice use!
Phrases such as ‘take a deep breath’, are a prime example of how well meaning advice can maintain, or contribute to problems that a person experiences. It also highlights the power of language when working with the voice.
One simple idea is to focus on the out breath, as discussed by voice experts such as Christina Shewell. The idea is you let the breath out, either quietly or whilst making a sound, and keep going until it feels like you’ve no more air in your lungs. Don’t stop yet! Keep going to the point where you feel that you really can’t go any further, and then an amazing thing happens…after a brief pause, your body takes over the breath just drops in. This experience is in stark contrast to following the instruction of ‘take a deep breath’ or ‘breathe in.
Try it out and let me know what you think.
Bye for now,