|Flickr photo by Tony George|
Even though we all breathe, all the time, many of us don't know how to breathe properly. Wouldn't it be cool if you knew how to use your breath to relax and calm your nerves to achieve instant clarity and focus? Whether you're a teacher or trainer addressing a classroom, or you're a student taking that final exam, I'd like to pass on a trick that I've learned through yoga to help you achieve instant calm through the breath.
Most people when they get nervous begin to breathe in short shallow breaths from the top of their chest. This type of breathing produces adrenalin which instantly puts your body in to a nervous fight or flight mode. For sure it's useful when you're in a dangerous situation, but not when you're trying to relax in to an exam. The more you breathe like this, the more adrenaline you get, and the more nervous you feel.
What you want to do instead is breathe nice and deep from the bottom of your belly so that your body's air supply is fully recycled providing your body and mind with a fresh sense of calm and clarity.
How to do it.
First off, check whether you are breathing correctly. Lie down or sit up nice and straight, and put your hands on your belly. Breathe in and out through your nose where both the inhale and exhale should be of equal length. What you should notice is your belly rises considerably on an inhale as your body fills with air, and falls on an exhale. That makes sense right? Well try it. You'll be amazed at how often this is not the case.
If that's not what's happening, try pushing your belly out on the inhale and suck it back on an exhale. Practice it over and over. This way you're getting fresh air circulating through your body.
If you can't do it or it takes too much concentration for you to get there, there's a simple trick to instantly switch your body to this type of deep breathing. Press your tongue to the back of your top front teeth, then move it up just a little to where your teeth meet your gums. Now breathe through your nose. This automatically puts your body in to a deep breathing mode and you should feel your belly rise on inhale, fall on exhale.
Likewise, if you were to move your tongue to the roof of your mouth your breath will move up to your rib cage. Finally, if you flip your tongue to the back of the roof of your mouth, you will find yourself doing short, shallow breathing from the top of your chest - the one you want to avoid when trying to calm down.
Hopefully this technique will help you to focus in and study for that final exam, deliver a killer company presentation or ace an online assessment!