by Dr. Marvin Marshall
Using Breath Management for Better Listening and Voice Preservation
When breathing is active, listening and speaking are improved.
Listening and learning are most effective when breathing is active--rather than passive.
Breathing is ordinarily a passive and unconscious act. However, breathing can be made a conscious activity and thereby energize the body for more effective learning and listening alertness.
Once active breathing is learned and practiced, we find ourselves in possession of an extraordinarily powerful technique, which includes:
- lowering blood pressure,
- calming the emotions,
- pumping the spinal fluid,
- helping the body realign itself,
- calming and controlling the thought process,
- managing stress, and
- enriching the sound of the voice.
To begin teaching your body conscious breathing, imagine that someone hands you an extraordinary gift; you GASP in surprise and delight. Notice your mouth opens as you gasp. Now, slowly and deeply gasp. Fill your back and rib cage. Both are lifted and expanded in the act of gasping. Take a moment to fully appreciate what your upper body feels like when it is full of air. Now let the air out slowly. When your lungs are empty, take a moment to fully appreciate what your body feels like when it feels empty of air. Repeat this process until "full" and "empty" feel equally familiar.
As you become more and more familiar with feeling "full," you will notice the following:
- Your peripheral vision increases.
- Your hearing becomes more acute.
- Your emotions begin to calm down.
- You begin to listen more actively.
Once you have become comfortable with the feeling of your body in a "full of air" position, you are ready to practice.
Practicing Conscious Breathing
First, without inhaling, elevate your sternum--the breastbone, the center of the chest. This will automatically raise the rib cage and provide a more efficient breathing position.
If you find that lifting your sternum without inhaling is difficult, lift both arms above your head, pointing to the ceiling. Then, careful to leave the chest where the high arms put it, lower your arms. You will find your chest much higher than it was originally, your ribs expanded farther than they were originally, and you will be conscious of your back moving. This high chest, rib expanded, shoulders-relaxed position is the one you want to maintain.
Just keeping the sternum up puts you in a more relaxed, alert, in-control physiological position. You will find yourself listening, thinking, and speaking more clearly because the body is being used more efficiently. More oxygen is reaching the brain.
The typical breathing cycle is to inhale ("full"), exhale ("empty"), pause, pause, pause. We spend a great deal of time with a minimum amount of air in our lungs--or on "empty."
Practice slowly gasping (through your mouth) for 4 slow counts. Hold "full" for 4 counts. Slowly exhale for 4 counts. Hold "empty" for 4 counts. Repeat this process for 3 minutes. You have now learned a 3-minute "Stress Buster"!
Next, practice holding "full" for longer and longer periods of time. Begin with 5 seconds. Increase to 10 seconds. Continue increasing the amount of time you can stay "full" until you have reached 30 seconds.
Listen to a conversation, a radio program, or newscast while you practice listening on "full." Whenever your body becomes uncomfortable with the "full" feeling, exhale to "empty" for a moment, and then inhale back to "full."
By practicing conscious breathing and listening on "full," you will listen more actively. increase the flow of oxygen to your brain, and lower your body's stress. In addition, you will receive, store, and retrieve information more efficiently.
Teaching Your Students
INSPIRATION--filling and holding air in the body--can dramatically increase their ability to listen and learn.
The following is a simple formula to teach your students to increase their active listening skills. (Notice that this is not the 3-minute "stress buster" count.)
Once practiced, START EACH NEW ACTIVITY with the procedure.
Raise your sternum.
Inhale for 4 counts.
Stay "full" for 8 counts.
Exhale for 2 counts.
In for 4.
Hold for 8.
Out for 2.
Saving and Improving a Teacher's Voice
Teachers rely mostly on the voice to communicate. Overuse of the voice is a common problem for classroom teachers.
Using the active breathing approach of gasping and SPEAKING ON FULL reduces strain on the voice while simultaneously making the voice more resonant.
As a player of the great highland bagpipes, I have learned that to keep the skirl of the pipes constant and consistent, the bag must be full at all times. The fuller the bag, the easier the play! So it is with the human voice. The fuller the lungs, the less strain on the vocal chords.
When gasping, the larynx automatically lowers--thereby releasing tension in the throat. In addition, speaking on "full" holds the vocal chords tight, thereby reducing stress on them when vocalizing.
The author is indebted to William Hanrahan of Vocal Integration Concepts for his expertise in this area: http://www.vocalintegration.com
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Past Gazette Articles by Dr. Marshall:
- Ronald Reagan and the Art of Influence (June 2009)
- Discipline Is a Liberating Word (May 2009)
- Eliciting vs. Punishments (Apr. 2009)
- Habit vs. Awareness for the 3 Practices and for the Hierarchy of Social Development (Mar. 2009)
- How to Be Consistent (Feb. 2009)
- Teaching is an Art, Not a Science (Jan. 2009)
- Tapping Into Internal Motivation (Dec. 2008)
- People Do Better When They Feel Good (Nov. 2008)
- The Brain and Sleep (Oct. 2008)
- Using a Butterfly Analogy to Explain the Hierarchy of Social Development (Sept. 2008)
- 5 Classroom Tips (Aug. 2008)
- Discipline Without Stress, Inc. (July 2008)
- Visualization (June 2008)
- Promoting Responsibility - Or How Not To (May 2008)
- Immaculate Perception (April 2008)
- A System Is Superior To Talent (Mar. 2008)
- To promote responsibility, Elicit Rather Than Impose (Feb. 2008)
- Understanding Boys (Jan. 2008)
- Descartes' Error: I think; therefore, I am (July 2003)
- Metacognition -- Thinking about Thinking Is Essential for Learning (June 2003)
- Listening Lessons -- How to Help Kids Learn and Comprehend (May 2003)
- Approaches of Outstanding Teachers (Apr 2003)
- Using a Discipline Approach to Promote Learning (Mar 2003)
- Curriculum, Instruction, Classroom Management, and Discipline (Feb 2003)
- Learning and Relationships, The two are inseparable (Jan 2003)
- Accountability in Schools (Dec 2002)
- Suggestions For Motivation (Nov 2002)
- Given Names - When NOT to Use Them and when TO Use Them (Oct 2002)
- The Power Of Hierarchies (Sept 2002)
- Use the Language You Want Learned (Aug 2002)
- Observations From Last Year (July 2002)
- How The Horse Whisperer Trains a Wild Mustang in 30 Minutes (June 2002)
- Using Breath Management for Better Listening and Voice Preservation (May 2002)
- Reducing Stress By Promoting Responsibility--Rather than by Attempting to Manipulate Behavior (Apr 2002)
- Rules Vs. Expectations (Mar 2002)
- How to Achieve 100 Per Cent Student Participation (Feb 2002)
- Positivity, Choice, and Reflection Exercise for Students (Jan 2002)
- Learning Climate (Dec 2001)
- Reflection and Self-Evaluation (pt 3) (Nov 2001)
- Reflection and Self-Evaluation (pt 2) (Sep 2001)
- Reflection and Self-Evaluation (pt 1) (May 2001)
- The Empowerment Of Choice (pt 2) (Apr 2001)
- The Empowerment Of Choice (pt 1) (Mar 2001)
- Power Of Positivity (pt 2) (Feb 2001)
- Power Of Positivity (Jan 2001)
- Home Assignments (Dec 2000)
- Collaboration is the Key (Nov 2000)
- Classroom Meetings (Aug 2000)
Dr. Marshall's website: http://www.MarvinMarshall.com
Email Dr. Marshall: email@example.com
© Dr. Marvin Marshall, 2002.