Breathing - bigger, better, more?
Breathing is natural and we do it without having to think - right? Sometimes circumstances can disrupt that natural process for example stress, anxiety or postural habits. Thankfully, we can influence the pace and tone of our breathing to improve our well-being, posture, focus, intention and creativity. As a wind player I have spent nearly 40 years 'controlling' breath. I have always felt like I needed 'more!' The language we use to teach breathing to students and monitor our own breathing can mislead us and affect how our body works. How often have we said to a student ‘take a big breath in’, they react by pulling in the tummy, expanding the chest and lift the shoulders. Rethinking the words we use can really help our students and ourselves.
A good starting point can be to connect body movement with breath. This simple exercise is a useful way to calm the mind pre-concert or before an audition, a way to release tension and re-balance and also adds 'spring' and responsiveness to the breath when playing.
Take 5 minutes to visualise your breath:
Sit comfortably or lie on your back (legs bent, feet flat on the floor)
Turn your attention to your breath
Allow each breath to initiate movement in the body rather than moving your body to 'take' the breath
Visualise your body in 3D space (breathing involves the front, back and sides of your body)
Notice how each part of your body moves in response to the breath (belly, back body, ribs, collar bones and shoulders blades)
Notice how movement in the body can be created by the breath rather than moving to ‘get’ the breath
Having established this calm breath pattern, now draw your attention to the out breath
Gradually lengthen the out breath and notice how the inhale becomes a reflex rather than an active process
Enjoy the 'pause' between the out and in breath
Out 'collar bones, ribs, belly' pause
In 'belly, ribs, collarbones'
Steady and slow