Back to breath, back to basics
. . .
More than just offering technical coaching for those looking to enhance their vocal health, I seek to enrich the inner lives of the people I work with by exploring the relationship between breath, body, free expression and how the union of this trio can lead to greater emotional grounding and self-possession. Get in touch with your resources!
Philosophy and Experiences
The simple act of breathing...
is something we don't think about on a daily basis. In fact, it's something we don't even need to think about. As a part of the autonomic nervous system, our breathing is controlled by the Vagus Nerve which commands a variety of complex and integral functions throughout the brain and abdomen including digestion and relaying emotional signals. As young children, our bodies know to let these autonomic responses take care of themselves. However, as we mature, we become self-conscious, we experience trauma, societal expectations and norms shape our behaviour. As we learn to shape our reactions to external stimuli (emotional, physical, expressive), we begin to control our breath response outside of what the autonomic nervous system is already doing: we start to hold our breath as a means of conscious emotional suppression.
But, why is controlling our breath a problem?
We often hear singers and performing artists speaking to the importance of "breath control" and the extensive technical training they undergo in order to be expressive and audible. But the difference between profession-based "Breath Control" and unconscious daily breath control is a stark one. Professional "Breath Control" is about using the body's natural breath to its full potential through awareness and muscular training that allows performers access to vocal resonance and stamina. Unconscious breath control is a habit that develops from our desire to filter and curate our emotional responses. We do this because there are expectations put upon us. Being social creatures is complex, and the ability to choose when to filter or unfilter (or mask/unmask) our reactions is useful. However, over time, this holding becomes habit, and after a certain point we are no longer making a conscious choice to filter our expression, but rather are suppressing it altogether, even in the privacy of our own spaces. This holding also prevents our nervous systems from fully processing and releasing whatever residual emotions linger from the day, week, month, or year.
How are breath and emotion connected?
While studying breathing and vocal techniques in university, I began to discover that the search for a richer, clearer speaking voice was also creating a richer, deeper emotional life. Not only was my breath grounded, but so were my emotions. The more I was able to allow my breath to naturally come and go—the way we all breathe as babies—the less likely it was for my emotions to overwhelm me. Most importantly, my voice became an extension of my inner life. My thoughts and feelings, which before had felt so difficult to put into words, were as easy to express as it was to exhale. I was beginning to understand how deeply voice, breath, and emotion were merely three parts of a larger whole.
After this realization, I became endlessly curious about the relationship between the allowed breath (letting it come and go on its own) and the nervous system. As the field of neuroscience has expanded beyond the skull-case brain to include the gut brain and the complex web of our bodies' connective tissue, it's becoming more apparent that our intuition isn't just a hunch and that our vital organs play as much a part in our emotional and environmental processing as our grey-matter if not more.
When we allow ourselves to breathe by softening our lower bellies and relaxing our rib cages, the parasympathetic (calming) nervous system is activated. With our nervous systems no longer on the alert, the possibility opens up for us to experience intense emotions without feeling out of control or losing our sense of grounding. Bessel van der Kolk speaks of the importance of a "visceral feeling of safety" in the process of healing from trauma and flourishing as individuals. I believe the allowed breath is a major key in feeling that safety. At the very least, it has been for me.
Further Studies and Exploration
Since studying with Breathexperience Canada and receiving authorization to teach the method, the clearer my own resources for resilience and healing have become. By simply allowing my breath to come and go on its own and noticing the movement of it through my body, I have access to creative freedom and expression the likes of which I'd previously been able to grasp only briefly, and never to my satisfaction.
The amount of clarity and release I have been able to offer myself through this simple process is startling. I look forward to helping others find and access their own resources for resilience and wisdom.