Breathing Exercises for Speaking
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Proper breathing technique is fundamental to having a strong, confident speaking voice. Performing some simple exercises will help you to project your sound and maintain a relaxed manner while speaking. Breathing exercises are particularly useful when you are preparing to speak in front of a group.
In order to breath properly, you must stand in a posture that facilitates deep inhalation and exhalation. Stand with your feet nearly shoulder-width apart, distributing your weight on both the balls of your feet and your heels. With each exhalation, release tension in your shoulders and relax your neck and jaws.
Exaggerated Movement Exercise
A relaxed jaw and throat facilitate deep breathing. Rosemary Scott Vohs, storytelling and speech communication instructor at Western Washington University, suggests making some exaggerated movements with your face to ease tension in the jaw and open the throat. First, lift the eyebrows and open the mouth wide. Then, yawn widely and loudly, saying “yah, yah, yah.” Stretch your mouth, saying “eee, ooo, eee, ooo,” in an exaggerated fashion.
Deep Breathing Exercise
Deep breathing helps to calm your nerves and manage stress before a public speaking situation. Breath in slowly and deeply through your nose. When you have inhaled as deeply as possible, hold the breath for four seconds, then exhale through your mouth. Repeat this inhalation and exhalation pattern twice more.
The Oral Communication Program at the Center for Teaching and Learning at Stanford University recommends a “calming sigh” exercise as a method of conquering your public speaking fear. After inhaling deeply, release a vocalized sigh as you exhale.
Breathing from the diaphragm rather than from the chest is important for complete voice support. After taking a few breaths deep enough to expand your belly, add a gentle and sustained “ha” sound on the exhalation. Finally, add some “shoulder bounces” by drawing your shoulders to your ears, then rapidly releasing them. Perform the shoulder bounces the entire time you are sounding “ha” during your exhalation. This exercise releases tension and prepares your body to support your speech.
Vowel Sound Exercise
Using diaphragmatic support, say “hoo, ho, ha, hey.” Begin at the volume of a whisper, and increase to a voiced whisper. Then repeat the exercise at normal volume and then at a loud volume.
Controlling the air as it flows from your mouth on your exhalation gives your voice power and resonance. Practice this control by breathing in deeply, then exhaling for as long as possible. Then try saying the alphabet as many times as possible on one exhalation.
Gwen Bruno has been a full-time freelance writer since 2009, with her gardening-related articles appearing on DavesGarden. She is a former teacher and librarian, and she holds a bachelor's degree in education from Augustana College and master's degrees in education and library science from North Park University and the University of Wisconsin.