If I had a dollar for every time someone underestimated the importance of proper breathing, I’d be an insanely wealthy man. It’s a miracle cure when it comes to stress, and yet we still take it for granted. The mindfulness industry, which includes conscious breathing, is now a $1 billion line of business for a reason. Athletes, musicians, actors, and executives are all now understanding the importance of good breathing habits. Even the Navy SEALs (talk about a stressful job) spend copious amounts of time during their training working on, you guessed it, breathing. It’s a crucial part of our existence. But, because we can do it both voluntarily and involuntarily, people often ignore the significance it plays in glossophobia – better known as the fear of public speaking.
THE BENEFITS OF PROPER BREATHING
Breathing is one of the most basic functions of the human body. Done correctly, it can help you sleep better, digest food more efficiently, improve your body’s immune response, release powerful endorphins, and reduce stress levels. Every system in your body relies on oxygen. Breathing not only calms you down, it also gives you a greater sense of mental clarity. When you’re anxious, your heart rate speeds up and your body goes into fight or flight. While your nervous system is in this state, the last thing it’s trying to do is help you speak with clarity. It’s simply looking for a way to get the hell out of the situation.
Breathing is typically the very first thing I work on with my clients. Doing it properly, according to very hard, scientific facts, will calm your nerves and allow you to work more efficiently. My clients who embrace this knowledge from the start are invariably the ones who make the quickest progress. It’s become an incredible prognosticator for me — better breathing equals a more relaxed mind and a better performance.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Download a breathing app and practice it every day. Or, better yet, take a yoga or meditation class. Then, when you start to feel your body tense up while speaking in front of people, you’ll be able to take a moment to remind yourself to breathe deeply and properly. Your nervous system will know what to do next.
Understand that breathing properly is not something that happens overnight. You’ll want to practice mindful breathing well before you’re in front of an audience so it’s easier to access this technique under pressure. If you don’t practice slowing your breath down when the pressure is at bay, what do you think is going to happen when the stress dial gets cranked up several notches?
1. Find a comfortable seated position. Make sure you’re sitting upright and that your feet are shoulder distance apart and firmly planted on the ground.
2. Close your eyes and start to notice your breath. Take interest in the length and quality of it.
3. Slowly begin to add more length to the inhale. Don’t force it. Just see if you can make it a bit longer with each breath.
4. Now start to balance out the breath by making the exhales match the length of the inhales.
5. Finally, see if you can stretch out the transitions of the breath a little. Those moments in between the inhale and the exhale, and vice versa. Don’t hold the breath here. Instead, let it hover. Think of it like a bungee cord at the very end of its length, just floating in space.
6. Repeat this exercise daily and before long you’ll start to do this naturally without having to think about it. Consequently, when it’s time to speak in front of people, your psychosomatic system will organically know what to do.