Today I’d like to show you another breathing exercise, and this simple little exercise is called “the straight pipe,” and I can easily say it’s one of my favorite exercises, but before we can get into how to do the exercise, let me give you a bit of background on this one.
Many people are unconsciously closing the channel and blocking the channel or interfering with the flow of breath through the channel when they’re speaking. So the straight pipe is a great little exercise to just experience how it feels to allow breath to flow in and out of your center with nothing getting in the way.
You can think of the breathing channel as a pipe with a bend in it. So, breath comes in, turns a corner and goes down. Breath comes up, turns a corner and comes out. But this corner can be a bit of a problem because you have your jaw, right here, on either side of the corner. You have your tongue, right here, underneath the corner, and the soft palate, right here, on top of the corner. And those three things are very often tense, and they’re very often locked together so that when one of them moves, all three of them think they have to move. So the corner is very prone to traffic jams.
With that in mind, I’d like to you stand. Don’t do this when seated. I’d like you to stand for this one. Stand and tilt your head backward, not so far that you’re crushing the back of your neck, but maybe just 60 degrees, just far enough to imagine that you’ve taken the bend out of the pipe. So now you have a straight pipe going from your lips to your belly. Just breathe through the pipe for a few moments while I talk.
I want you to imagine that the pipe is very large, so large you could drive a truck through it, so maybe a tunnel would be a good analogy. And imagine the walls of a pipe being perfectly smooth like glass. So there is nothing in the pipe to interfere with the flow of breath in or out in any way. There are no squeezing points to slow the breath down. There are no rough patches for the breath to scrape against and make sound, just this incredibly large, perfectly smooth straight pipe.
Bring your head forward again. And if you had to come up with some words to describe how it feels to breathe through the straight pipe, what kind of words would come to mind? You might have noticed that your breath felt very open, or perhaps it felt really easy. Maybe the breaths felt very full. Maybe there was a sense of directness, a sense that perhaps you’d shortened the distance from your mouth to your belly.
And did you also notice how silent your breath had become? In order for your breath to make noise, there has to be some kind of air turbulence. To get turbulence, you need some something obstructing the flow of breath to create that turbulence, so the more open the channel becomes, no obstructions, no turbulence, no sound.
Let’s go back to the straight pipe and just breathe for a few moments and come in from the opposite direction, asking yourself “How silent can my breath be, and how open do I become as a result of that?”
Whenever you hear yourself breathing, so let’s say you’re talking, “One, two, three, four, five. [gasp] One, two, three, four, five. [gasp] One, two, three, four, five. [gasp] One, two, three, four, five.” Whenever you hear that sort of breathy or gaspy quality to the in-breath, or whenever you feel the breath sort of scraping against the sides of the pipe as it goes in, that’s not openness. Something has to close to make that sound.
So whenever you notice that you can hear the sound of your in-breath, ask yourself, “What am I closing up? What parts of the channel could be more open so that breath flowing in and out through the pipe feels perfectly smooth and sounds perfectly silent?”
Imagine what this would do for you as a speaker if you had the ability to take a full breath in less than a second effortlessly and absolutely silently. Where and when you breathe in your speaking would no longer matter. I would be the only guy in the room who could tell you’d taken a breath, and I probably would have to be watching.
Now, of course, you can’t give your presentations with your head tilted back, but once you know that feeling, it’s not a big deal to put the bend back in the pipe and keep that corner just as open. It’s a different shape, but it’s still the same diameter.
So, that’s the straight pipe. Again, remember you’re standing for this one. You’re tilting your head back just far enough to imagine that you’ve taken the bend out of the pipe, that you have a straight pipe going from your mouth to your belly. Your jaw is completely relaxed. Make sure your tongue isn’t falling back into your throat. In fact, if you want to put your tongue out on your lip, that can’t hurt. And you’re just noticing how that breath feels flowing through the straight pipe, very open, easy, full, very direct, and silent.
The more you cultivate this feeling, the more familiar you become with this feeling, the more you’ll be able to speak in a way that’s very open, unobstructed, unrestricted in a way that’s very free and generous so that when you speak people get who you really are.
If you would like some more exercises that will help you explore how it feels to speak in a very relaxed and open manner, fully engaged, go to voiceandspeech.com and download the free report, The Sound of Success.