Human beings can survive without food for weeks, without water for days, but without air only for a few minutes. Our breath is the source of our life as well as the source of our voice.
Yet, the breath is one of the first things to be affected by stress and distress during the course of your life. Our breathing habits have developed as we developed into the characters we are now. For many of us, the breathing has become a shallow process that uses only the top part of the lungs.
Re-learning to breathe fully can make a huge difference to your executive presence. Here are some of the benefits – not mentioning the numerous health bonuses:
- You’ll sound more powerful. Profound breathing makes your voice more robust and dynamic, and prevents you from getting out of air when speaking.
- You’ll be smarter. The increased flow of oxygen to the brain helps you focus and clarify your thoughts.
- You’ll be calmer. Oxygen helps bring the adrenaline levels down, making it the perfect antidote to performance anxiety.
- You’ll be more connected. Profound breathing helps you stay more present and to center yourself physically, mentally and emotionally.
- You’ll look more confident. A proper posture for breathing also creates a strong appearance.
Changing the way you breathe requires awareness and regular practice – but it’s possible and worthwhile! If you spend a few minutes every day, you will notice that your breathing patterns will have changed within a few weeks. Practice in the car, sitting at your desk, or when you are about to go to sleep. Here is a simple exercise to get you going:
- Sit straight in a chair, both feet on the floor and feeling your sitting bones against the seat. Feel your spine growing up from the chair towards the ceiling, and your neck aligned with your spine. Relax your stomach muscles.
- Form a relaxed “fff” with your lips and exhale all the air in your lungs on a vigourous “ffffff” sound. As you exhale, pull your abdominal muscles in towards your spine to help press out the air. Keep your ribs expanded.
- Relax your stomach muscles completely (yes, let that floppy belly out!) without collapsing your posture. Let the air flow back into your lungs through your mouth. Welcome the air generously, and give it breadth and depth in the lower abdomen and then the lower ribs.
- Exhale all your air on an “ffff” and repeat!
As you get familiar with the exercise, you can start replacing the “ffff” by words and phrases. Always following the same principle with your tummy going in as you exhale/speak, and your abdomen relaxing and expanding as you inhale. For more, please watch my video “Breathing low and slow”.
Wishing you lot of inspired breathing!