When I was in graduate school studying music composition, my singing professor told me that I was not using my ‘real’ voice when I spoke. I had no idea what she was talking about. I thought the voice you had was the voice you would always have. She then explained that the pitch of my habitual speaking voice was too high and that my ‘real’ or true voice was lower by several steps.

What I also did not know that was in order to achieve that warmer, deeper, more mature sound, I had to not only use my chest cavity to power my sound but I had to breathe with the support of my diaphragm as well, a technique that would change my life, and the lives of my clients, forever.

I started researching diaphragmatic breathing and discovered that 99% of the population do not breathe correctly. We are renowned for being shallow or lazy breathers. While all mammals breathe with the support of the diaphragm, it is only the most intelligent of the mammals that stops this practice sometime during childhood development!

What happens with shallow or upper chest breathing is that you are unable to rid your body of toxins which are present in the blood. In fact, shallow breathing actually increases the toxins which increase your stress. Do you know the first thing you are told to do if you are experiencing a panic attack? Breathe with the support of your diaphragm.

Many of the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing deal with this elimination of the toxins in the blood because it results in greater relaxation. This is why yoga and meditation are so popular today. People are stressed and are looking for ways to deal with the stress. My experience, as well as that of my clients, is that if you make diaphragmatic breathing a habit, you will discover that you are handling your stress and even minor pain much more effectively and, in many cases, eliminating it.

What I was noticing with my clients was that they not only sounded better in their ‘before & after’ videos, but they looked better as well. Their posture improved and they stood with confidence. Some people told me that they were getting more uninterrupted sleep and that they were falling asleep faster at night.

A young criminal lawyer reported that she got rid of a tension headache by practicing the breathing exercises on her way home from work. I am certainly not going to tell you that diaphragmatic breathing is a cure-all for headaches; but, as this woman’s headache was being caused by stress, she was able to breathe her stress away. Something similar happened to me when I was driving in a Canadian snow squall some years ago. I was feeling the tension in my lower back. Looking at several hours of driving ahead of me, I knew I could not handle those roads with a backache. So I consciously breathed, taking the air in, holding it, and then slowly exhaling. After about 20 seconds, my backache was gone and I was able to drive home.

When it comes to physical fitness and working out, I had another lawyer tell me that he was able to run longer when jogging. Admittedly, his muscles were not accustomed to the longer stretch, but his breathing made it possible. A professional golfer told me she was hitting the ball better because she started breathing with support when addressing the ball. Thus, her swing was more relaxed.

The clincher was a government official with whom I worked. This man said that when he breathed with support while on his exercise bike in the morning, his blood pressure dropped! However, if he reverted to shallow breathing, his blood pressure went up.

If you would like to see how you are breathing, stand in front of a mirror, minus your blouse or shirt, and take a deep breath. Did your shoulders rise? Did you suck in your mid-torso region? If so, then I can say with confidence that you are a shallow breather. When done properly, the shoulders do not rise and the mid-torso area, including the rib cage, expands out and down.

Let’s find your diaphragm and learn to breathe.

1. Place your hands under your rib cage and cough. The muscle that ‘kicked out’ is your diaphragm.

2. With your hands still under your rib cage, open your mouth and take in a breath of air through your mouth. You should feel your diaphragm expanding out as it presses against your hands.

[I do not want you to become a mouth breather; however, when learning to breathe for the purposes of voice, I want you to breathe through an open mouth. At all other times, I expect you to breathe through your nose. Please note that in speaking, we do not stop, close the mouth, inhale through the nose, and then continue talking. We breathe through an open mouth when speaking.]

3. Exhale through your mouth. You will feel that muscle collapse. I want you to imagine that your mid-torso is like a balloon. When you inhale, you are blowing up that balloon. When you exhale, you are collapsing or deflating the balloon.

Your next step is to make diaphragmatic breathing a habit. It will take some practice but it is definitely worth the effort. One of the best exercises is take a diaphragmatic breath every time you answer the phone. Become like Pavlov’s Dog. Phone rings, you breathe. When you begin a conversation, take a breath. We all breathe to speak; however, now I want you to do that consciously, taking your air all the way down to your diaphragm.

When you go to bed at night, practice breathing. When you are feeling stressed, stop what you are doing and breathe. When you are ready to yell at your kids, stop and take a breath, which will give you better control. The more situations in which you place yourself to breathe, the sooner it will become a habit.

Imagine adding 4-1/2 years to your lifespan by changing 1 simple technique. Learn to breathe correctly, find your ‘real’ voice, and discover the benefits that await. It can change your life forever.

Author's Bio: 

The Voice Lady, Nancy Daniels, offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It! the only video training on voice improvement. If you would like to see a dramatic ‘before & after’ clip, visit Nancy’s Voice Training Website and check out Craig’s video.