Take a deep breath…does this help or hinder?

I was privileged to do some voice coaching sessions and run a voice workshop over the weekend with some very enthusiastic and engaging participants. It was fascinating the number of times that the topic of ‘taking a deep breath’ came up over the weekend. It got me thinking about the sorts of reasons that people are often told this, and so I thought I would share the top 5 reasons that I have heard over the last month:

1. to feel calmer

2. to experience less pain

3. to stop stammering/stuttering

4. to help to project the voice

5. to sing better

The funny thing is that quite frequently it has the opposite effect to what is 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.

So, alternatives?

One simple idea is to focus on the outbreath, as discussed by voice experts such as Christina Shewell. The idea is you let the breath out, and keep pushing it out (such as while making a ‘f’sound) 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’…just try it!

Our body knows what to do, we just have to let it. So, it’s a case of getting out of our own way, and letting or body lead!

Sounds simple? In some ways it is! It’s but one of many topics that we cover during my Voice Care and Voice Projection Workshops.





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