Breath training for calmness

By Rayma Ditson-Sommer, Ph.D.


It is no accident that the term “choking” is used during performances. This term actually describes what happens physiologically. The emotional pressure of the performance can actually render the person to feel like they are choking and anxiety sets in. the nervousness tends to constrict the muscles in the diaphragm. Chest and throat. Breathing becomes shallower and muscles receive less air and begin to tighten and shorten.

Biologically, rapid breathing demands that you take in a lot of oxygen and expel most of your carbon dioxide which prepares you for immediate action. At this time the body begins to overreact and so much CO2 is lost that the balance of carbon dioxide in the blood stream is too much. This causes hyperventilation and if this situation lasts too long the brain signals certain brain centers to shut down momentarily in defense to actually force you to resumes breathing normally. This is usually when fainting occurs.

To regain control you must bring the situation to conscious level and release the tension through the following exercise. As a calming effect begins you will redirect anxiety-causing distractions and focus upon your breathing and the fact that you can gain control of your emotions.

The exercise involves:

<!–[if !supportLists]–>1.    <!–[endif]–>INHALE: slowly and deeply, filling your chest with air. Count as you breathe in 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. This count is used to structure your brain by adopting a nice slow pace. Fill your chest easily! Not quickly.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>2.    <!–[endif]–>HOLD BREATH: counting 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and comfortably.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>3.    <!–[endif]–>EXHALE: Letting the air out through your mouth saying to yourself easy, easy, easy,easy. Let out as much air as you can. Think of the tension flowing out withair.

Do this 10 times to establish the cadence for your future breathing for relaxation.


<!–[if !supportLists]–>4.    <!–[endif]–>INHALE: breathe in fully

<!–[if !supportLists]–>5.    <!–[endif]–>HOLD BREATH: hold briefly  (thinking of the four counts)

<!–[if !supportLists]–>6.    <!–[endif]–>EXHALE: let air out slowly saying mentally easy, easy, easy, easy

Repeat this cycle 10 more times for practice.

You will soon begin to feel a calm, pleasant feeling starting at your chest and traveling through your body.

At this point you should think up positive statements for yourself relating you your breathing. Some of these could include:

<!–[if !supportLists]–>1.    <!–[endif]–>All the tension is leaving my body

<!–[if !supportLists]–>2.    <!–[endif]–>I feel very relaxed and focused

<!–[if !supportLists]–>3.    <!–[endif]–>Good feelings are replacing any tensions

<!–[if !supportLists]–>4.    <!–[endif]–>When I am performing I will remember these goods feelings and I will be calm


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<!–[if !supportLists]–>1.    <!–[endif]–>INHALE: breathe in again slowly

<!–[if !supportLists]–>2.    <!–[endif]–>HOLD BREATH: briefly

<!–[if !supportLists]–>3.    <!–[endif]–>EXHALE: let air out saying easy, easy, easy, easy

Following this last cycle of training tell yourself that you will remember the word “easy” as a signal to have your body and breathing relaxed. You now have learned to control your anxieties and helped your brain to stay synchronized and ready to perform.


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