Breathing is simple, you breathe in and out thousands of times a day and night. But are you breathing properly? To breathe properly is to actively acknowledge that breath in and out and knowing how to use your breath in a myriad of situations. It is important in daily life and as a voiceover artist it becomes a crucial part of your tool kit.
Breathing is more than the two step process of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. This magical inhalation and exhalation process powers us. It has been shown to reduce stress hormones and dials down cortisol. For everyday life breathing mindfully can help us and for acting an awareness of breathing patterns can open doors to different characters and their state of mind.
Have you every practised breathing mindfully? When we go through everyday life we get caught up in the minutiae and tend to shallow breathe. Then when we look at our phones, type, or concentrate we tend to micro breathe, holding our breath more so than if we are simply walking to put the kettle on. By breathing improperly we risk being lesser versions of ourselves, in effect not getting enough oxygen into our bodies. Tensing up in a similar way during a voiceover session can also lead to tensing of the voice and the performance falters.
How do we breathe? While we start breathing from the moment we are born, like many things we can practice to make it perfect. Being completely concious of the process and what you are trying to achieve enables you to breathe much more deeply. For performance whether for voiceover or presenting to people the extra breath may allow you to bring much more to the table.
To achieve best practice in breathing, try the following steps:
- Physical release work – this will help you release tension enabling you to more deeply breathe. Find a quiet moment, free of distractions and shake out the tension from your body. Check your postural alignment and centre yourself by standing with your feet hip width apart, straight unlocked legs and pull yourself up with an invisible elastic.
- Corseting – This is one of my favourite breathing exercises, not just for voiceover work but for everyday lift. Thanks to the wonderful voice coach Yvonne Morley who teaches this exercise, it really delivers. This negative state exercise makes your tummy soften, releasing the tension and drawing more of the breath in lower down. Have a go yourself. Place your hands on your lower abdomen, imagine wearing a corset, tightening those tummy muscles then release or Corset off. Practice putting the Corset on and then Corset off daily. When in a stressful situation you can quickly Corset off to encourage the breath.
- Pause – when we deliver information, whether in a presentation or a character we need to develop story telling skills. Your audience needs to receive information in chunks and then they will need a chance to take on board the information. Pausing allows for that and more importantly, allows for you to take a moment to check in with yourself and breathe deeply again.
- Inspire – we inspire every day! The process of breathing in and being mentally stimulated have the same name! Flashes of inspiration can hit us to create all sorts of ideas. How interesting that the process of taking in much needed oxygen shares the name.
These steps will enable you to become mindful, think more clearly and reflect on you and your needs. Inspire, breathe, be.