Let your breath take away your tension
This month I was fortunate enough to have a few days away in the depths of the countryside. Not only that, but I had the luxury of a relaxing massage to unwind and relax.
The effect on my voice was incredible. When I began to speak again after a whole hour of silence I was really surprised to hear the quality of my voice.
Like many voice professionals, I take care of my voice by performing regular vocal warm ups and strengthening exercises, but the effect of the massage on the quality of my voice was immediate and impactful.
Fortunately, the next thing on my agenda that day was to interview a local business person for my radio show. I was so pleased to hear my voice was low and resonant and quickly and effortlessly responded to my changes in pitch.
Being able to rely on your voice when you have an important speaking engagement is fundamental to your success as a professional speaker but also helps you to be able to focus solely on the content of your speech.
Nerves that kick in before an important speech or interview can restrict and constrict the muscles that surround your larynx and prevent the vocal folds from working effectively. Tension builds in your shoulders and neck and without a sustained effort to relax them, can dominate a poor posture and negatively impact your voice.
To overcome the effect of tension, you can undertake a series of relaxation exercises, that help the muscles release the taut feelings between your shoulders and in your neck.
Relaxation exercises to help speech muscles work better:
- Take a breath from deep inside. Visualise your breath coming from the depths of your lungs and as you breathe in, allow your ribs to gently expand and lift away from your centre.
- Keep your mouth closed if you’re able, allowing the breath to gently flow into your lungs via your nose. Inside your nose you have a wealth of cilia which are microscopic hairs that cleanse and warm the air that enters your lungs.
- Take it slowly. Long, slow breaths will help to cleanse the lungs, slow down your heart rate and help those essential muscles to release tension and relax your body.
- Gently squeeze your hands to make a fist with each, feel the tension, then let it go.
- Release the tension in your shoulders and feel them sink down away from your ears.
Simple breathing exercises can be very effective at slowing down the heart rate and enabling you to think more clearly.
Take time to breathe before you speak when you are making your presentation or interview. Breathing helps to clarify your thoughts and also to maintain a relaxed posture and flow of speech.
Ideally, it is helpful to also stretch out your ribs, your back, your neck and so on before you embark on a speech, but these simple breathing exercises can help tremendously.
A massage helps to slow down your breathing and also relaxes the muscles to give your voice a very good basis for working optimally. Alternatively, five minutes spent breathing slowly and deeply can also be a fantastic way to re-centre and your route to delivering a great speech.