How “Stress Breath” Limits Speech

As part of helping my clients speak more clearly, I often work with them on posture, mouth  movement and breath as precursors to our work together. That is, the work is primarily about pronunciation and articulation, not posture and breath, but you have to be breathing, open chested, and amenable to the new patterns, or you won’t be successful in applying what you learn.

In exploring people’s postural, breathing, and mouth movement patterns, I find that most people are standing in the way of their own success. Sometimes there are pain issues (especially neck and back pain) when it comes to freeing the voice. It’s important for clients to be able to change their pitch range and control their bodies, and if they are in pain, that won’t be possible.

In addition, I find most frequently that “stress breath” is what is causing people to be perceived as “talking too fast” by their listeners or sounding “rushed”, even being labeled as “incomprehensible” can be less about actual pronunciation errors and more about the breath getting in the way.

Stress breath is prevalent in our culture. People are often pressured to do more and compete with others, and as a result, they breathe in ways that may not support free speech. Speaking clearly is largely about preventing yourself from compressing, squeezing, limiting your breath, and allowing it to flow so your brain can focus on the bigger picture of helping you speak with clarity.

This is the reason Breath Awareness in Coaching is so imperative.


Dispelling Popular Myths / Keys to Good Breathing for Speech  


  • STOP worrying about whether you are “using your diaphragm” and START engaging Whole Body Breathing.
  • STOP blaming yourself for “breathing wrong” or “holding your breath” and START with breath awareness (Which areas of your body fill with air when you inhale? Your Chest? Your sides? Your Back? Your stomach? Your pelvic floor? Your clavicles? Your throat?).
  • STOP “forcing the breath” and START “allowing the breath”.
  • STOP pushing for big deep breaths and START inviting natural breath to occur at its own pace.
  • STOP criticizing yourself when you “do it wrong” when you notice you are talking fast or holding your breath and START encouraging yourself to breathe continuously in and out without holding when you notice that you are.
  •  STOP allowing yourself to talk really fast with rushed breath because there’s “some good reason” to do it (like an emergency) and START making good breathing habits a ritual and a new habit even in times of stress.


The question really is do you realize how much Stress Breath is affecting your health and your ability to speak, and what are you willing to do about it?