Why You Should Be Aware of Your Breathing

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Photo Source: Photo by Eli DeFaria on Unsplash

When auditioning, the nerves can be fierce. Our mind begins projecting what might go wrong, how we may mess up or forget our words, and suddenly our body is in distress. When we begin to feel this onslaught of panic and stress we might try to tell ourselves, “just breathe!” We might notice that as we attempt to calm down and we are unsuccessful, it actually causes us more stress.

Our first human act is breathing. It signals our entry into this world. We arrive here and the first thing we are given is this gift of life, this gift of breath, and our journey begins. It’s a gift that continues to be given. Until an audition or a high stakes situation, we might never even pay any attention to our breath.

The yogis say that having connection and intimacy with our breath creates connection and intimacy with our lives and our dreams. The element of the Heart Chakra is air. What we touch with our breath, we touch with our very soul.

Whether in the creative process or an interview or an audition, the breath will be on the frontline giving us valuable feedback every step of the process. Many of us when faced with nerves or even excitement over our art and our process, will bypass the depth of our lungs and breathe shallowly above the heart. We cut ourselves off from our capacity to relax and connect, and we can’t understand why we are not performing as well as we did back home in our living room when rehearsing. Rather than trying to deepen or manipulate our breath, perhaps we could ask, what is it trying to offer me?

There is a story of a famous Opera singer who after years of stage fright and anxiety decided to leave the business. In her final interview, she was asked to describe what led her to ultimately leave her dream behind. She described the moment backstage, right before going into a performance, saying she would sweat and shake from head to toe. She said her breath was short and shallow and she felt like she might faint. She felt so much fear well up inside of her chest that it was hard to even take a breath and after years of performing, it had never shifted or gone away. She took that as a sign that she was doing the wrong thing and quit performing.

Years later another singer was interviewed. He had had a very long successful career as a singer and songwriter and was asked to describe what led him to have such a big and long career. He described the moment backstage right before going into a performance and how he would sweat and shake from head to toe. He said his breath was short and shallow and he always felt like he might pass out at any moment. He felt so much fear well up inside of him, that it was hard to breathe at times. After years and years of performing, it was always there. That was exactly how he knew he was in the right place, doing exactly the right thing.  

Our breath is there to connect us. What we connect to is our choice. We can see it as a gift or a curse. As a sign that it is too much and we should move into fight or flight, or as a sign that we are so excited and in love and the stakes are so high that our breath wants to burst out of our body with joy. We, as powerful creators, always get to choose.

We can also bring awareness to space between our breaths. We live in a world so obsessed with filling in space. When one show ends we long for the next. When we finish one project, we are already planning and executing the next in line without taking space to process what has just completed. Life happens not only in events but in the space between. When we can learn to relax and even extend the space between our inhale and exhale with ease, we can learn to more gracefully move in the spaces between work and active creation.

Wherever we are, in our process or career, we can tune into our breath and deepen our relationship to all that we have, all that we desire, and all we have come through. When we are brave enough to face ourselves, there will be nothing more to fear. We will no longer retreat in panic. We will move forward in love. We will carve out our own interior landscape and the canvas of life will expand before us.

Your body doesn’t know the difference between excitement and fear. Each audition, performance, and conversation is an opportunity to tell the story you want to tell.

*This post was originally published on Mat 7, 2019. It has since been updated.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Natalie Roy
Natalie Roy is an actress, author, and spiritual teacher. She’s also a 500-hour certified yoga and meditation teacher specializing in visualization technique, positive psychology for actors, the yoga sutras and taking ancient Eastern philosophy and practices and playing them into the audition room and onto set.
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