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Jon Beaupré is a voice and performance consultant for radio and television performers. Under the name Broadcast Voice, he provides private training and workshops for reporters, anchors, sports and weather casters, and others working in electronic and broadcast media. He teaches in the Broadcast Communications program at California State University at Los Angeles, and conducts workshops and seminars with the Associated Press Radio and Television Association. He has been a fixture on the convention circuit, teaching workshops at a wide range of specialty journalism and broadcast conventions and stations on both coasts of the U.S.

Moron Breathing - or - More On Breathing...

August 27th, 2001

Now that you have a sense of what the 'BATS' acronym stands for (Breathing, Audience, Three-part-rule, Set-up), we can look a little closer at some of the principles behind breathing.

There is no part of performance more important than proper, powerful breathing, and no part of performance that receives less attention. The vast majority of performance problems we as reporters or anchors face (shortness of breath, running out of air, stuttering, problems with interpretation, too much saliva in your mouth...) can be alleviated with proper breathing.

In its simplest form, as described in the first installment, your breathing should be diaphragmatic, that is to say from your stomach and not from your upper chest. This may feel peculiar at first as most of us are conditioned to breathe in our upper chest, something the great voice teacher Kristin Linklater calls "socialized breathing", since it often comes from the social pressures to have a narrow waist, to hold our stomachs in, to maintain a rigid posture.

Here are a couple of additional adjustment to add to your diaphragmatic breathing:

First, when you inhale as normal (one hand on your stomach which moves considerably, one on your chest which does not), take in a bit more air - maybe only 10% more. Also, when you normally exhale, push out a bit more - maybe only 10% more. This simply adjustment - pulling in a bit more and pushing out a bit more - suddenly increases your overall breathing capacity extraordinarily.

Second, when you exhale, consciously release the muscles in your body, from your shoulders down to your toes. You should associate the process of exhaling with a distinct physical pleasure, since it is at this phase of your breathing that the oxygen is disolving into your lung tissues.

Third, with each suceeding breath, your body should relax and release a little bit more, something like the way a car on a tire jack drops a notch with each succeeding movement of the lever. Each time you exhale, relax a little more. This should be mindful, deliberate, and distinctly pleasurable.

Fourth, whenever you have inhaled and exhaled enough to feel properly relaxed, as you prepare to take that big breath to launch your story or performance, pull your thinking down to the deepest part of your brain, and reflect on the great privilage it is to be in front of that audience, telling them stories and news that will inform, move, and perhaps entertain them, and maybe even change their lives.

Fifth, as you inhale for this preparation to launch your story and your performance, pause completely full of air, ready to speak, with no tension. This is a really wonderful state in which to find yourself. You are filled with oxygen, energized and relaxed at the same time, focussed in your brain, and ready to perform.

Overall, every breathing exercise we do is aimed at one thing: increasing the amount of air available to exhale. We'll explain what this means in future installments. In the meantime, breathe deeply.