Day 19: The Simple Breath Trick That Takes You From Rookie to Rockstar
It’s five minutes to show-time. Peeking out from backstage, you hear the prior conference speaker wrapping up, your stage time looming and the opening line you’ve rehearsed for days ready to go.
Then “glossophobia” sets in.
Nervous energy starts to run through your body, knots form in your stomach, heart races, adrenalin kicks in, and your breathing quickly shallows.
But a simple and quick minute of focused breathing can move you from a puddled mess to a calm, centered, and memorable speaker.
Your savior is called Four-Part breathing – a simple form of breath resonance where you inhale, hold and exhale the breath for a count of four seconds.
Some teachers call it “Box Breathing” as you can visualize yourself tracing the outline of a box to help you focus. Trace up the left side of the box on an inhale, across the top when you hold your breath in, trace down the right side on an exhale, and across the bottom when you hold your breath out.
This visualization is a very strong mechanism as it helps to keep the mind focused and engaged, and the more you’re engaged, the less distracted it will become by the sounds, sights and excitement of what you’re about to do.
The principle is simple:
1. Slowly inhale for a count of four seconds
2. Hold the breath in for a count of four seconds
3. Exhale slowly for a count of four seconds
4. Hold the breath out for account of four seconds.
Four full breath cycles is all that is often needed to get the body back to a state of homeostasis, but some people may need five or six cycles to feel completely calm.
This technique is also great to practice when you have been “triggered” by an unexpected trauma event, and in fact US military LT Colonel Dave Grossman trains law enforcement professionals to teach this technique to trauma survivors as it breaks the threat response cycle in the nervous system. That is, the perception there is overwhelming threat where the nervous system goes into fight / flight response.
So try it the next time you have a big presentation, feel completely frazzled, or any situation where you feel under attack or threatened.
This form of breath retention is used extensively in yogic practice to access and harness the body’s own energy (prana) and move and channel that energy more freely around the body and calm the mind.
You don’t need to step on a mat, into a studio, or wear any fancy outfits, to benefit from this simple technique. With a quiet two minutes you are ready to step onstage, present with confidence and deliver that keynote like a rockstar!