Friday, August 24, 2007

The Breath of Life

Hello again, after a long summer away. While I loved teaching an acting intensive in Berkeley, and then directing a speech institute at Stanford, I'm glad to be back in Colorado.

If you've ever taken a workshop from me, you are acquainted with my emphasis on working with the breath. Why is breathing so important?

To begin with the obvious, if breathing ceases, so do you. Conversely, if you breathe more fully, you bring more life into your being. Breath is directed consciousness. Just as many fitness and yoga instructors speak of directing the breath to a particular body part, it can help wake you up. And when you're more awake - physically, mentally, and emotionally - you'll be much more engaging to your audience.

Second, the breath awakens different resonators in the body, which are tied into our voice placement. If your voice tends to be stuck in a particular place - such as nasal or very high, or a little monotone - working with the breath will help expand your range of pitch and tone.

Third, if your throat has ever felt scratchy after talking too long, this is likely a combination of shallow breathing and muscle tension. Proper breathing helps prevent vocal strain.

Finally, per the previous post, breath fosters presence. It brings you into your body, and into the present moment. Breath gives you time to feel your audience, and space to collect your thoughts. Breath is giving and receiving.

While many of my clients want to jump straight into "tricks" for engaging an audience, these are far less important than creating a strong foundation. Learning essential technique such as breathwork will translate into far more virtuosity than you thought possible!