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The way you breathe has a significant impact on your speaking ability. Your breathing might even be more important than the content of what you are saying, says Katherine Axtell in an article for Whitman College. Whether in public speaking situations or in casual conversation, your breath can affect your delivery, tone and rate, as well as nonverbal communication such as posture and eye contact. Practicing specific breathing exercises may help improve your speaking technique and help you deliver your content in a more relaxed and confident manner.
Before you practice breathing exercises, you should develop the proper posture to allow for maximum lung capacity use, says Axtell. Using your entire lung capacity helps you speak in a calm and relaxed manner, with improved vocal quality. Stand up straight, with your feet slightly apart and your head and neck in line with your spine. Imagine someone gently pulling a string on the top of your head to lengthen and extend your spine tall. Lift your rib cage and pull your shoulder blades toward each other without pressing or straining. Keep your chin lifted and your facial muscles relaxed.
Abdominal Breathing Exercise
Deep abdominal breathing exercises, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, can help you get the most out of every breath. By practicing this exercise regularly, you might experience increased feelings of calmness, reduced anxiety and stress and improved stamina. You might also help increase your lung capacity, according to the American Medical Student Association. To practice this technique, stand using the posture method described. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Inhale deeply, imagining that you are filling a balloon in your tummy with air. The lower hand should rise while the upper hand should remain relatively still. Pause for a few seconds, then exhale completely, using a slight abdominal contraction at the end of the breath to empty your lungs of air.
Breath Control Exercise
Practice breath control exercises once you've mastered the abdominal breathing technique. This exercise can help you develop better breath control and help you speak with a more effective voice, according to the Department of Speech and Language Therapy at Cambridge University Hospitals. Breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth for a few seconds. Then start to count to three on each in breath and out breath. Gradually change the count by breathing in for two seconds and breathing out for four seconds. Experiment with lengthening your exhalations and shortening your inhalations. This most closely resembles the natural breath pattern used during speaking.
The Hissing Breath Exercise
The hissing breath exercise helps alleviate tension in your facial muscles, increases your lung capacity and supports your voice, according to BBC Sing. To practice this simple exercise, breathe in through your mouth for a count of four. Exhale out of your mouth with your mouth slightly closed, tongue resting on the roof of your mouth, to make a hissing sound for four counts. Inhale for six counts and hiss for 10 counts, then inhale for six counts and hissing for 12 counts. Continue practicing this exercise, varying the rate of each inhale and hissing exhalation. This can help increase your ability to control your breath.