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Breathing Training for Different Areas
Breathing Training, and the use of various breathing techniques, plays an integral part in improving performance or overcoming problems. The following are some of the areas that have benefited by good quality breathing or specific breathing techniques.
- Professionals (and experienced)
- Public speaking, lecturing, acting
- Stuttering (adults and children)
- Shallow breathing and panic attacks
- Relaxation and meditation
- Fit or very active, including professional athletes
- Those who become breathless easily or struggle when exercising
- Learning a new sport
- Injury, wheelchair, recovering from an operation
- For people who are unfit or don’t exercise at all
- Stretching and yoga.
- Yoga, Tai Chi, Martial Arts
- Pilates, Feldenkrais
Singers and certain musicians need to be able to comfortably and effectively lengthen their breathing for extended notes, or control their breath for short and powerful notes. For optimum results, it is crucial to regulate the breath and make it flow, as well as be able to control the diaphragm and abdominal muscles to relax or tighten them at will. In order to be versatile, there is also a skill in being able to sing/play a lengthened note, instantly change to a short and powerful one, and to keep changing efficiently according to the demand.
SPEAKING / LECTURING
There is a skilful art to voice projection and speaking confidently. Public speaking is known as one of people’s greatest fears. Unfortunately, fear can inhibit full, natural breathing, causing the speaker to overemphasize the use of the upper chest muscles more than the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. Unnecessary overuse of the upper chest muscles tends to make the voice weaker, therefore limiting its projection. This manner of speaking gives the impression that the speaker is nervous and lacks confidence, and can also lead to soreness of throat.
speakers have the ability to fully utilize their diaphragm and abdominal
muscles appropriately, and naturally use their breath correctly as they
speak. Most people feel anxious before talking in front of people, but
even professionals can experience anxiety before presenting. So feeling
anxious and nervous is normal, however if these emotions cannot be controlled,
the end result is often a poor performance.
Particular breathing techniques, such
as Relaxation Breathing, can help to put the mind and body at ease before speaking and
during the presentation. A combination of relaxing and learning to “speak from
the diaphragm” results in a deeper and more confident sounding voice, which
can also be projected properly. This helps the speaker to feel and appear more
confident when delivering a speech, and can generally help to overcome the
crippling fear of speaking in front of people.
The above information about voice projection and public speaking applies to acting in general, in particular to stage actors who need to powerfully project their voice. The tone of voice and knowing how to adjust its volume and pitch, is required to effectively portray various sounds and emotions from quiet/shy to loud/angry. It is crucial to firstly be able to control and regulate the flow of air, and secondly to learn how to strengthen and relax the diaphragm. Mastering these two skills will establish a foundation, which will make all other aspects of Breathing Training for acting easier to master.
For most people, speaking is a natural
act. However, when a person stutters, the diaphragm contracts when it should
relax. It is not uncommon for children to stutter at some stage in their
childhood, but the problem is usually resolved as they mature. However, a
percentage of children do not outgrow their stuttering, and it continues on into
adulthood causing a multitude of problems in life.
There is an excellent course that helps people overcome stuttering called 'The McGuire Programme.' I sat in on a course, and actually witnessed for myself the incredible results with those who formerly could not speak without stuttering, be able to speak normally. As a result of what I saw, I personally recommend the training. The programme teaches a very powerful method of diaphragmatic breathing called ‘Costal Breathing’ which helps stutterers speak without stammering. The organizers and coaches (all former stutterers) are willing to learn as much as they can about breathing in relation to speech, and they continually work hard to keep improving their breathing and manner of speaking.
The difference between my Breathing Training and what is taught in The McGuire Programme is that my sessions are solely focused on breathing and how to specifically become acquainted with all the breathing muscles, as well as learn different breathing techniques. The McGuire Programme deals with all aspects of stuttering - physically, as well as mentally and emotionally. My training compliments their training, and can also be used for other areas, such as for relaxation and exercising. However, it cannot compare to the help and training the programme can offer for those who have a serious problem with speech.
You can visit their web site on: www.mcguire-freedomsroad.com
There is also a course designed for children who stutter and the results have been outstanding. It is designed and taught by people who formerly stuttered themselves. Their reason for creating the course is to prevent children having to go through what they have been through in their lives. It is a fun and enjoyable course that teaches children how to overcome stuttering, or any fears they may have towards speaking.
If you would like more information, go to: www.stuttering.com.au
BREATHING & PANIC ATTACKS
Everyone experiences stress to some degree; learning how to control it is the key. Certain methods of breathing can be used to help overcome stress, or simply help any time a person feels nervous or tense. The habit of shallow breathing can be replaced with a better quality breathing pattern. Sufferers of panic attacks have found that learning how to control their breathing helps them to calm down, and in many cases overcome their attacks.
Learning how to relax is an effective way of releasing stress and benefits both the mind and body. It is proven with biofeedback machines that particular breathing rhythms induce deep relaxation. Once the ability to breathe deeply is mastered along with the right mental training, falling into a deep state of relaxation can happen quickly and efficiently. No matter who you are or what you do, acquiring the ability to deeply relax both the mind and body is essential for physical and mental health, and the positive effects are accumulative.
A deep state of relaxation is required before any meditative state can be reached. There are numerous kinds of meditation, but they all aim to achieve the same purpose. Concentration on rhythmical and gentle breathing is a very popular method that is used worldwide. Like relaxation, there are also positive benefits that are achieved by continually practicing meditation.
Certain breathing techniques can help fine-tune performance and also help with recovery and flexibility. Breathing muscles can be worked from a different angle compared to standard training. Breathing Exercises can be performed when resting in-between training sessions, or if recovering from an injury. The Breathing Exercises do not interfere with physical training. If anything they can compliment it and give athletes an edge, as even fit athletes find some of the advanced exercises can challenge their breathing muscles and greatly increase flexibility.
EXERCISING & LEARNING A NEW SPORT
As every experienced athlete knows, every sport has ideal ways of breathing that preferably suits each type of movement or activity. For example, the breathing used for long distance running is different compared to a sprint. Also learning how to pull in a voluminous (or appropriate) amount of breath and having the ability to regulate it, are important aspects that must be applied when playing sport or exercising. Regardless of whether you are unfit or learning a new sport, by understanding and implementing the ideal ways of breathing, everyone can improve in their chosen activity or sport.
WHEELCHAIR, RECOVERY, UNFIT
Everyone knows the value and importance of exercising, however, you may have found yourself in a situation where you are forced to be inactive or unable to move freely. This may be permanent, or temporary if you are recovering from an injury or an operation. Or perhaps you loathe exercise, but still want to do some form of deep breathing. For whatever reason you are inactive, and for whatever period of time it may be for, Breathing Exercises are an alternate way of training your breathing muscles and doing some kind of deep breathing without exercising or being physically active.
When performing Breathing Exercises, you can choose to keep absolutely still, or you can use whatever movement you are capable of. Examples of Breathing Exercises include: Relaxation Breathing, Power Breathing, Rhythmical Breathing, etc There are a whole range to choose from, and all produce different effects both mentally and physically. The point is that you can strengthen your breathing muscles by practicing a variety of deep breathing exercises, which can help compensate for the lack of activity; so don’t be concerned if you cannot move at all.
Whether you practice yoga or are simply wanting to improve your flexibility, breathing in a way which induces muscle relaxation allows the body to stretch with ease. When stretching, most people make the mistake of breathing in a manner which causes the muscles to tighten, therefore inhibiting full flexibility, and making flexibility training an unpleasant and usually painful task. Gentle and lengthened breathing, on the other hand, can make stretching of the body more enjoyable, as it eases the pain and significantly increases flexibility as well.
TAI CHI, MARTIAL ARTS, PILATES, FELDENKRAIS
Specific methods of breathing are an influential component of these practices. In particular, it’s important to know how to breathe gently and also very powerfully, as this gives the ability to be able to effectively move through a full range of different movements with ease or dynamic power if needed. There is also a need for the breath to change for when there is no movement. So whether a beginner or experienced, it is important to know exactly which kind of breath is needed for the varied types of demands, and to be able to adapt accordingly.
Breathing techniques are commonly taught in preparation for labour, however many women complain that they don't feel confident with their breathing ability. Typical feedback after receiving good quality Breathing Training is that it can make a significant difference between a painful labour and a bearable one. Breathing muscles ideally should be strengthened, and can be even during pregnancy. It is also extremely important to learn how to deeply relax and recuperate in between contractions. Another crucial aspect is learning how to synchronize the breath with the contractions. Whether it is for the first birth or the fifth, the important thing to know is that, regardless of age, every female has the ability to learn particular breathing techniques and improve their breathing for a memorable childbirth.
It has always been assumed that children naturally know how to breathe fully and properly. Until I started training children, I would have agreed with that statement, but as a result of what I have observed, I do not anymore. First, let me clarify what I mean by the first sentence; I am not talking about the breathing we all do unconsciously to survive, as obviously that kind of breathing is happening automatically. What I’m referring to is the effect that modern day society has had on children’s ability to breathe fully when really active.
people who are now over the age of 30, would have spent most of their
childhood running around being physically active and eating reasonably
good food. What do a large number of children typically do today? They
spend endless hours - commonly sitting in a poor posture - in front of
a computer or a television, being driven almost everywhere, and often
eat unhealthy fast foods. If you think back to your childhood, it was
probably different. As we know, life in general is vastly different these
days. We have increased in modern technology, and decreased in physical
activity; I know the latter is a concern for many adults who care about
their children’s health.
The fact is, sitting on a computer and/or watching television for hours, and greasy, fattening food does not help build healthy lungs! Parents constantly ask me how we can fix this problem. You could first start by asking yourselves if you encourage your children to be active, and are you a good example yourself? Another question to consider is: do children have a desire to exercise and be active with all of the distractions life has to offer? How many kids would prefer to surf the net rather than go for a walk in the park? How about the choice between watching a good movie or playing an active game? How many children would prefer a grilled piece of fish with vegetables and fresh fruit rather than a Mc Donald’s burger with French fries, coke and a sundae?
Could you drag your kid/s away from the net, a good movie or Mc Donald's? Maybe a few of you could, but many kids would prefer those choices. A treat once in a while is a good thing, but it does become a problem when inactivity combined with unhealthy food is the norm. And the effects are evident. I worked with children 13 years ago, and I have worked with them recently. It is my observation that children are unhealthier, unfitter and generally more overweight than they used to be. Don’t take my word for it. Latest research says that Australia compares to America for problems with obesity; 60 Minutes also reported (Sept. 2000) that 1 in 4 American children are obese, and in Australia it is 1 in 3.
Parents have suggested to me that Breathing Training should be introduced from an early age; I agree. I believe some kind of training to help improve breathing should be introduced into the school system. Children should be taught which muscles are used for breathing, and how to control them; how to take a relaxing and deep abdominal breath; how to breathe for exercise and sports. And if they learn the difference between good /poor quality breathing, then bad habits can possibly be prevented from setting in at an early age. The training could help both on a physical and mental level. Relaxation Breathing could help them de-stress while studying and during exams. Other breathing techniques used for exercising could be used when they are physically active.
The subject of children and their breathing is an area which is undoubtedly crucial to address. It’s up to us as adults to at least begin teaching them good quality breathing, therefore avoiding the big mistake of growing up without the ability to control and strengthen their breathing muscles. I have found that children actually enjoy learning about their breathing. Lots of questions are asked, and they’re quite amused and intrigued when I move my ribcage. They want to learn how to do it themselves, and even insist that I check them to see if they’re doing all the techniques correctly. If anyone would like to discuss this further, please email me.
Asthma and the use of breathing techniques is a very controversial issue. Most asthmatics would be well aware of what’s called ‘The Buyteko Technique’ (also referred to as ‘The Russian Technique’) I am often asked about the technique, however, as I am not trained in their methods, it’s not my place to discuss this method of training. I have heard positive feedback about it, so I suggest you find their web site or ring them. Here I will discuss my style of Breathing Training in relation to Asthma. Before I do, it is my policy to advise you that: your medical specialist should be informed of everything you do outside of what they have told you. I will give you my opinion on how I think Breathing Training can be of some assistance, but I do not make any claims that my training will free you of asthma or your medication.
Basically, how I see that Breathing Training can help asthmatics is to at least give them more confidence with their ability to control their breathing muscles. In the event that they are caught without their inhaler, they will have more of a chance to control their breathing and ideally do some relaxed and regulated breathing until they reach their medication. This is even more important for children - or anyone who would not be able to contact someone - if they were experiencing an attack.
My goal for asthmatics is to overcome their overwhelming fear of breathing, and possibly feel more positive towards their breathing. Understandably, most asthmatics equate their breathing with a feeling of constriction, struggle and panic. Imagine feeling positive about your overall manner of breathing; slowly building up your confidence with being able to control your breathing muscles; learning how to regulate your breathing; allowing it to flow smoothly; and also being able to master ‘Relaxation Breathing.’
you are an asthmatic, it may be that you always have to use an inhaler, or you
could be fortunate to one day no longer need medication. Either way, there is no
reason why you can’t learn breathing techniques to help you not only gain
confidence with your breathing, but to also help you with relaxation, sleep,
singing, or for a particular sport. The fact is, and I have seen this numerous
times, that you can strengthen your breathing muscles and learn to control them
like anyone else can. According to the feedback I have received from asthmatics,
specific training of the breath can improve your general attitude towards your
whole manner of breathing, while still respecting that you have a respiratory
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