One of the hardest things for a vocalist or an athlete to do before a show, presentation, training session, or game is to relax. We all tend to get stressed out when we’re put in a position where we have to deliver results. It’s this stress that can lead to tension and eventually have a negative impact on your performance. Today I want to walk you through my top three stress management techniques that you can use to calm yourself down before any situation where you have to deliver at peak performance.
Strategy #1: Controlled Breathing
The first strategy is to learn controlled breathing techniques. Sometimes we get so preoccupied with our daily routines that we rarely take the time to step back and take a minute or two to recharge. Research shows that deep breathing periodically throughout the day lowers your stress levels and improves your focus. Increasing the oxygen flow to the brain through deep breathing will allow you to concentrate better, lower your pulse, and give you greater clarity to focus on the task at hand.
I don’t practice yoga as often as I should, but I recognize the benefits it has for both athletes and vocalists, especially when it comes to breathing. At its core, speaking and singing are nothing more than expelling air to produce sound, so being able to control your breathing is vital for a healthy voice and body. There are quite a few yoga breathing techniques that can help you relax before a performance, presentation, workout, or game. Here are my three favorite yoga breathing exercises.
The first one is called pranayama, which means “breath control” in Sanskrit. Elongating your exhales. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, or sit on a pillow on the floor with your hips above your knees, or sit on a chair. Slowly inhale through the nose for a count of four, then exhale through the mouth for a slow count of 6 or longer. Do this for one minute.
The next one is called Kapalbhati or Skull Shining Breath. Place both hands on your belly, one hand just below the chest and the other hand on the abdomen. Inhale deeply through the nose, then forcefully exhale through the nose in shorts bursts, about 1 exhale per second for 10 seconds. pulling your abdomen inwards. Do this for about 5 or 6 rounds. Make sure to watch the above video.
This next exercise is one of my all-time favorite breathing exercises because it works. It’s called Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing. Start by bending your index, middle, and ring fingers toward your palm. Press your thumb onto your left nostril to close it off, then slowly inhale through your right nostril. Hold the breath for about two seconds, then close your right nostril with your pinky finger and exhale through your left nostril. After you’ve exhaled, inhale slowly through the left nostril, hold it for two seconds, then exhale through the right nostril. Repeat this cycle for three or four rounds. At the end of four rounds, inhale through both nostrils and exhale through the mouth.
Doing these three breathing exercises will calm your nervous system, bring you mental clarity and balance your energy so that you can perform at your best.
Strategy #2: Don’t overdo your warmup
The next strategy is not to overdo your warm-up. When I was on The Voice of Germany, I was extremely nervous before my performances. To combat these nervous feelings, I would sing scales until I was blue in the face, pace the room, and do a few other things I thought would calm me down before showtime. However, this wasn’t my normal routine. I usually sit quietly in my dressing room, stand with my eyes closed on the side of the stage, or slowly pace the room until it’s time to go on stage. Animals use the same strategy while hunting: they quietly stalk their prey before they pounce.
Doing as little as possible has proven to be a far more effective way to prepare for a performance than excessive vocal warmups. If you absolutely need to warm up your voice, try doing sirens, or practice your lines or the song you’re about to sing.
If you need to get rid of that nervous energy, try doing something physical instead, like push-ups, jumping jacks, or other physical exercises.
Strategy #3: Keep your eyes on the prize
Most successful people achieve their goals by having a clear picture of the intended outcome in their minds. Focus brings clarity. Ask yourself, “why am I doing this?” Be honest with yourself. Picture what the end result of your actions could look like. Visualizing your end game can go a long way towards helping you relax before it’s time to step out and do your thing.
In the fitness world, it’s said that a relaxed muscle is an efficient muscle. This philosophy also applies to your voice, without question. If you learn to focus your energy through breathing and visualization exercises, you will be prepared for any vocal performance situation.
Keep stress under control
So I hope you now have a better understanding of what you can do to relax and focus your energy before you get to work, but that’s just one small part of the bigger picture. Remember: these tips are just a jump-off point; it takes time to develop skill and achieve mastery, be in singing or in sports. As you guys know, I’m all about helping people like you get stronger, healthier voices and bodies, so if you’re looking for a program that incorporates all of the vocal and fitness tips that I give you on this channel, please check out my VOXXBODY® workout.