Simple Exercises to Achieve Proper Breathing

Did you know that proper breathing is fundamental to all communication?  Lisa B. Marshall, aka The Public Speaker, provides a few exercises, which will help you breathe properly.

Lisa B. Marshall
3-minute read

Proper communication is often dependent upon proper breathing. Breathing deeply is the easiest way to decrease stress; you’re getting more oxygen into your blood stream, awakening the brain, and calming all those “fight or flight” symptoms.

But you also want to breathe deeply in order to improve how you sound to others. Here’s an email I recently received, and my response:

"Hi Lisa,

I came across your article on deep breathing on Quick and Dirty Tips. I have been in choir for several years, but I still cannot figure out how to do it. I now have a phone job and sometimes have to breathe in the middle of a sentence and I'm worried that the sound of my breathing will show up on the call recording (I wear a headset with a microphone). Therefore, do you have any exercises that might help me master this technique? I can get more air using chest breathing, but I know expanding the lower lungs offers more breath support. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

Kelsey N"

Thanks for contacting me, Kelsey. Breathing shallowly only fills the top third of your lungs, creating the need to breathe in mid-sentence sometimes, which you have experienced. You are right to realize that breathing from the diaphragm will help you in your telephone job, and your singing. But it does take practice.

If you are having trouble with diaphragmatic breathing, practice when lying down. You will naturally breathe correctly and it will help you understand what to do. When lying down, put your hands on your belly and breathe. You should feel your hands going up when you inhale and going down when you exhale. Once you understand how to do it lying down, the next step is practice standing up. I suggest putting your hands on the small of your back. Then, when you breathe, imagine filling your hands with a ball of breath.  Feeling your body move will likely help you visualize exactly how to breathe properly. 

If you are still not confident, other things you can try are: imagine you are blowing out a birthday candle, taking in a deep breath breath before holding your breath under water, or blowing up balloons. In fact, go ahead and blow up a balloon! It’s one of the suggestions Ben Greenfield, aka Get-Fit Guy, makes in his post How to Breathe the Right Way.

Once you start to get the feel of it, you can then breathe without your hands on your back. Instead move them to your front on your belly, like you did when you were lying down. Again, you should will feel your belly get bigger as you inhale. Eventually you will be able to do it without hands all together.  

One way to check to see if you are breathing properly is to have someone put their hands on your shoulders. You should be able to take a very deep breathe without the other person feeling any movement. If your shoulders are still moving upwards, try to doing the exercise again with your friend's help, but this time in front of a mirror. Again, put your hands on the small of your back and concentrate on moving air to fill up your hands. Look in the mirror and have your friend tell you as soon as your shoulders begin to move.

I'm hopeful with these exercises you'll be able to finally figure it out. It's definitely worth the investment of time for this very important and fundamental skill for better communication.  

Don't forget to check out my post, How to Breathe Properly, and Ben’s post, How to Breathe the Right Way. Between the two, and what I've suggested here, you should be breathing deeply in no time! Let me know how it goes.

This is Lisa B. Marshall helping you to lead and influence.  If you'd like to learn more about compelling communication, I invite you to read my bestselling books, Smart Talk and Ace Your Interview and listen to my other podcast, Smart Talk. As always, your success is my business

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.