I have been exploring the uses and benefits of deep breathing regularly the last couple years. My exploration began when I moved to NYC and was practicing Bikram Yoga and Gyrotonics regularly. Both of these disciplines control and coordinate breathing with movement in a rhythmic way to ensure you are breathing deeply. In Bikram Yoga I discovered quickly that I had to utilize deep breathing in order to keep my heart rate under control in that crazy 105 degree room.
More recently I have been using deep breathing to help manage stress or anxiety associated with performance. Of course playing a wind instrument coordinates breathing with movement in a rhythmic way; so once I begin playing, my anxiety typically subsides. It occurred to me more recently, however, that there was no good reason to not employ this strategy BEFORE the performance so that I could walk on feeling good from the start of the concert/recital.
The strategy I employ for deep breathing before performances is one I learned from my teacher, Peter Lloyd, and cultivated in the yoga studio. My strategy is to count (Peter advocates using a metronome) my inhalations and exhalations, giving my exhalation a longer duration. Typically I inhale for 2 counts (at 60 counts per minute) and exhale for 8 counts (I may modify the counts to fit what feels right for me in the moment).
Why does this work for me? What does it do? Slow breathing results in mild increases in carbon dioxide which causes a slowing of the heart rate (I love science!). For me, this results in:
- Reduction in tension, stress and anxiety
- Lower blood pressure
- Greater poise and coordination
- Optimal ‘energy’ levels
- Improved attention
The trapeze rig has been a really fun place for me to continue cultivating this skill (it’s a process!). Every time I notice my heart rate increasing as I walk to the top of the rig, I begin employing this strategy. The more times I do this, the more quickly and easily I begin to recognize the moments when my heart rate is beginning to increase. I’m definitely going to have to utilize this strategy when Vanessa and I head to New Hampshire for our first outdoor flying trapeze adventure! I am told that the platform will be super tiny?!?! and I’ll have to climb a ladder?!?! to get to rig platform! #FacingFears