Performance Nerves? Breathe Deeply

Breathe-220x300Just look on the Web. There is a lot of advice and many techniques on how to conquer your performance nerves. We all know what happens when stage fright strikes. The mouth dries up, breathing becomes shallow and rapid, the heartbeat quickens, our knees shake and we feel nauseous. We can’t sing well as a result. Obviously, mastering your vocal technique and the music are the first things you can do to help combat nerves. There are many other ideas out there, such as visualizing success, not failure, and not drinking a lot of coffee the day of the performance. But we still get nervous. Years ago when I would be waiting to go on stage to perform, I would sometimes do Tai Chi to calm myself if there was room backstage. It always worked. Some people call Tai Chi meditation in motion. Breathing in and out is synchronized with the movements. Years later when I began doing yoga, I learned a breathing technique that required no special area, and that I could do while sitting or standing. It’s called the 1:2 breathing practice, or the extended exhale breathing practice. To do this exercise breathe in deeply but easily (a ‘diaphragmatic’ breath). Then exhale, extending the exhale to twice the amount of time as the inhale. So if, for example, you breathe in to the count of 3, you exhale to the count of 6. This slows the heart rate, steadies the breathing, and seems to lower blood pressure, and is all possibly related to a phenomenon called respiratory sinus arrhythmia in which the heart rate quickens with inhalation and slows with exhalation. In any case, it works! There is one exception that I know of, and that is if you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks, you may hyperventilate if you do the 1:2 breathing technique. In that case, low steady breaths will help to calm your nerves.

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