The topic of breathing arises in practically every coaching session, masterclass and workshop we run at MSB Executive. You’d be forgiven for rolling your eyes at the thought of being taught how to breathe! Surely we already know everything there is to know? After all, we breathe in and out thousands of times a day (the exact number of daily breaths is around 22,000).
However, not all breathing is equal. A few simple ‘good breathing’ techniques can have profound effects on our state of mind and body. Since breathing is so fundamental to MSB’s work on confidence and communication, we have decided to dedicate three blogs to the subject.
This first blog will provide an overview of the many ways breathing affects our communication. The second blog dives more deeply into the connection between good breathing and a strong, clear voice. The final blog looks at how breathing affects our inner world – and how a few simple breathing exercises can promote confidence, good health and emotional wellbeing.
The Virtuous Circle of Confidence
If we feel on top of the world, it always shows: the shining eyes, the spring in the step, the radiant smile. We feel great and we look great. It works the other way round, too: we know we’re looking great, and this creates a great feeling. What a nice feedback loop! If anyone catches us in this positive moment, they’ll hear it in our voice – we’ll sound bright and bouncy, and we’ll give lots of smiles and eye contact.
Is this just pure chance? To be at our best, are we at the mercy of our moods? Perhaps not! When talking about confidence, I often sketch this diagram:
Breathing is central to feeling, looking and sounding great. If we get our breathing right, we can begin to send out that positive message about ourselves.
Breathing and Posture
Good breathing is central – literally, because it happens in the centre (or core) of our body. Good breathing stabilises us physically. It is an important factor in healthy posture and confident body language. At MSB Executive, our work on posture always starts with breathing.
Breathing and Voice
The connection between breathing and voice, though it might seem obvious, is a fascinating and profound subject. (Part 2 of this series will cover it in more depth.) To speak, we add sound to the air flowing out of our body. For a good voice, we need a good air flow. Voice professionals call this ‘supporting the voice’, and actors and singers work hard to make it a habit. When we’re on stage night after night – especially in large theatres – if we don’t support our voice, we’ll be hoarse by the end of the first week. Breath support is vital for good everyday speaking, too. At MSB Executive, we give our clients a range of practical breathing exercises to help them towards a clear and dynamic voice.
Breathing and Confidence
And finally, good breathing propels a feeling of confidence. This is partly due to the psychological and emotional benefits of good breathing (I’ll cover this in Part 3) and partly because of the feedback loop I mentioned above. Just by standing well and producing a good voice we generate confidence. Thoughts such as, ‘Wow, I sound great!’ or ‘I feel so strong sitting like this’ begin to flow through the brain. We can achieve these positive inner feelings with straightforward outer adjustments. I wrote more about the ‘outside-in’ phenomenon in my earlier blog, Matter over Mind.
I start almost every coaching session with a breathing exercise. Wherever I include breathing, it’s a part of the session I always look forward to and enjoy. Spending a few moments just breathing is pleasurable, relaxing and invigorating. Try it!