Linda Dessau : Breathing out stage fright
Breathing out stage fright
By Linda Dessau
You're stepping onto the stage, amidst pre-show flurry and excitement and last minute set list changes. In the audience are the booking agent for the hottest club in town and the reviewer everyone listens to. The blood pumps in your ears, your heart is racing, and your throat is so dry you can't possibly speak your lines. Every muscle is tense and you want to run.
It's called the "fight or flight" response. It's also called stage fright. Stage fright comes in many different forms. For some, it's a nervous energy that disappears as soon as they begin performing, or a familiar sensation that's always under the surface but feels manageable most of the time. For others, it's so debilitating that they can't get through an audition to even be part of a performance.
Stage fright has huge repercussions to the health and well-being of the performer. Dr. Louise Montello of Musicians Wellness, Inc. has worked with injured, blocked and anxious performers for many years, and has developed a rich set of tools that we can use in moments of stress and anxiety.
One of her most powerful techniques, from the Yoga tradition, is breath. Breath is a key link between the mind and the body. Our body's autonomic nervous system is made up of the parasympathetic nervous system (related to relaxation, creativity and awareness) and the sympathetic nervous system (related to analytical thinking and action). When we're in "fight or flight" mode, our sympathetic nervous systems are in charge, and our bodies, minds and emotions are locked into battle with an imaginary enemy (while our creative expression gets caught in the crossfire).
Deep breathing and the specific techniques that will be described in this article can reawaken your parasympathetic nervous system.
Note: In yogic breathing exercises, it's important to always breathe in and out through the nose.
1. Diaphragmatic breathing ("belly breathing")
2. Even breathing
3. Two-to-one breathing
4. Alternate nostril breathing
You'll be amazed at the difference these simple breathing exercises can make, with a few short minutes of practice every day. Then, at times of stress, you'll have a valuable tool to support your performance, and all your creative dreams •
© 2005 Linda Dessau. All rights reserved.
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