Breathing exercise to reduce stage fear (temporary and permanent solutions)
If you observe people, who are in the stage of confusion and panic (e.g., in horror movies), you may realize that their breathing is erratic, deep, and through the mouth. Breathing controls blood supply, oxygenation, and excitability of the brain. When a person breathe more that the physiological norm for breathing at rest (which is tiny 6 liters of air for one minute), the person will not get any more oxygen in the arterial blood. The arterial blood is up to about 98% saturated with oxygen during miniscule normal breathing...
It has been known for centuries that use of a paper bag for rebreathing (a person exhales air in the paper bag and then inhales it back) helps artists and other performers to deal with stage fear or stage panic. It has been a popular technique, especially among young artists. Why does it help?
If you observe people, who are in the stage of confusion and panic (e.g., in horror movies), you may realize that their breathing is erratic, deep, and through the mouth. Breathing controls blood supply, oxygenation, and excitability of the brain. When a person breathe more that the physiological norm for breathing at rest (which is tiny 6 liters of air for one minute), the person will not get any more oxygen in the arterial blood. The arterial blood is up to about 98% saturated with oxygen during miniscule normal breathing. Hence, in case of breathing more, loss of CO2 is the main effect. Reduced CO2 causes 3 fundamental changes related to the brain.
1. Constriction of the carotid artery leading to the brain and reduced blood flow (up to about 40-50% less oxygen delivery in cases when we deliberately hyperventilate till fainting or passing out);
2. The suppressed Bohr effect: red blood cells cannot efficiently release oxygen to nerve cells in the brain when CO2 is below the norm;
3. Over-excited state of the brain since according to neurological research, “hyperventilation leads to spontaneous and asynchronous firing of neurons” (Huttunen J, Tolvanen H, Heinonen E, Voipio J, Wikstrom H, Ilmoniemi RJ, Hari R, Kaila K, Effects of voluntary hyperventilation on cortical sensory responses. Electroencephalographic and magnetoencephalographic studies, Experimental Brain Research 1999, 125(3): p. 248-254.)
Hence, CO2 rebreathing, as in case with the paper bag, quickly increase CO2, improves brain perfusion (blood flow), helps the release of oxygen by haemoglobin cells, and has calmative and sedative effect on over-excited nerve cells.
Apart from bag rebreathing, one can perform a simple exercise, based on deliberate mild breath reduction (breathing little less), while being totally relaxed (this is the key to success in breathing retraining). How is it done? Make slightly smaller inhalations using your diaphragm and then just relax it for exhalations. Breathe in such shallow or reduced manner with relaxation of all body muscles for about 2-3 minutes. You will notice that symptoms of anxiety, in most cases, are going to disappear.
This is the emergency procedure for panic attacks and anxiety problems. One may try to extend this reduced breathing exercise for 10-12 minutes to get a significant shift towards better concentration, coordination, and sharper mind so that to improve one’s stage performance.
Using a simple DIY breathing device for 10-12 minutes before the performance has even a stronger effect on body oxygenation and improved confidence and focus for better performance. You can download from the web a free book-manual “Amazing DIY breathing device” (Simplified theory and practice of breathing, body oxygenation, chronic diseases and breathing retraining; PDF file; 61 pages with more than 100 published western medical references). It describes a complete breathing normalization program for Level 2 students or how to achieve up to 25-30 s of oxygen in the body. (Body oxygenation can be measured using a simple stress-free breath-holding time test: after usual exhalation pinch your nose and count your breath-holding time using a watch, but only until first signs of stress or discomfort.) In anxiety states, people have less than 20-25 s of oxygen in the body, while normally we should have about 40-50 s.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Artour Rakhimov is a health educator in self-oxygenation, breathing and the Buteyko self-oxygenation medical therapy. He is the author of books and the educational website http://www.normalbreathing.com/ devoted to natural self-oxygenation, breathing education and breathing retraining