Breathing Exercises

Was does African drumming, Mexican folk dancing, roller exercise, and chanting have in common?

Each of these were classes that I took at a beautiful health spa in Mexico.

Perhaps the most surprising class was the chanting class, which included a lot of time discussing breathing. As a professional speaker I figured I pretty much knew all about “proper” technique for deep breathing (if you want to learn more about the basic deep breathing technique listen to my show The Public Speaker: Quick and Dirty Tips for Improving Your Communication), but what I didn’t know what that there are several techniques for breathing– each for different situations.

Since my trip I have been testing them out and I have found a few of the exercises to be quite helpful. I thought I’d share them here. I know it’s may seem a bit beyond the scope of this blog, however, proper breathing technique should be part of every speaker’s basic tool belt.

So here are my four favorite exercises that I learned:

1. Energizing or Stimulating Breath

  • Breath in and out of your nose, with your mouth closed. At first you can do this slowly breathing in through your nostrils while making a big belling and ballooning out your abdominal muscles. When you exhale, do it also through your nose, but exhale more quickly than the inhale. It’s almost like you are snapping in your abdomen towards your spine. Gradually you can get faster and faster.
  • Some people suggest a rapid inhale/exhale through the nose (without ballooning). In this case, the inhale is the same length as the exhale and it kind of sounds like you are blowing up a tire.

I don’t recommend you do this one longer than 10 or 15 seconds when you first start. After practicing you can slowing extend the length of the 5 seconds or so, but don’t go longer than a minute. Why? Because there is risk for hyperventilation, be sure you are in a safe place. (Really, I got dizzy just writing this post because I was kept testing my instructions!)

This one is great when you need an extra energy boost. You can do when you wake up, in the afternoon when you feeling a bit sleepy, or at night when you are trying to get one last thing done!

2. Relaxing Breath

  • Sit or stand and take slow deep breath in. Exhale, slowly, to the count of ten.
  • Which each breath concentrate on relaxing your muscles. Start at the bottom of your bottom and move up to your head giving each area of your body attention. If you feel stressful in a certain spot, spend a bit more time.

I particularly find this relaxing and will often do this just before drifting off to sleep. Sometimes, I am so relaxed that I don’t even make it all the way to my head!

3. Aerobic Exercise Breath

  • You should always you proper deep breathing during aerobic exercise.
  • In through the nose and out through the nose, is best. If you can’t, then in through the nose and out through the mouth. As a last resort, in through mouth, out through mouth.

The trick to proper aerobic exercise is to not have to stop to breathe! Before I learned this, I was always stopping to breathe. I now understand the importance of adjusting the intensity of the workout so that I can maintain my breath.

4. Strength Training Breath

  • Never hold your breath while strength training.
  • Exhale on effort.


I like to encourage you to give some of these techniques a try. Let us us know what you think in the comments. Or share with us your favorite breathing techniques.

There are 2 comments .

zen17 —

Great stuff. Thanks for helping to get this information out there.
wishing you much peace,

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Breathing is an important part of yoga, known as pranayama, and having practiced it for many years I have found it really helps me to project my voice when speaking so I only use a microphone if I really need to.

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