Breathe Deeply

As I finalize preparing for my fall Appellate Writing and Advocacy course, and I think about our new moot court teams this year, I have been considering what makes for a top-notch oral argument.

One basic, and sometimes overlooked, concept is how to breathe when presenting an argument. This is something I think about, because I have spent a lot of time over the years singing in choirs. Anyone who has sung in a choir or done any voice training has heard about “diaphragmatic breathing.” This type of breathing supports the vocal cords fully. It’s also pretty close to the type of breathing taught in yoga classes.

When you breathe from your diaphragm muscle, your chest doesn’t move up and down vertically. Instead, your abdomen moves out horizontally, allowing for greater lung capacity. When you first learn how to breathe this way, it feels self-conscious and strange, but after a while, it can be second nature.

Diaphragmatic breathing, because it gives you greater lung capacity, allows you to project your voice better, and for longer periods of time. Being in control of your breath makes you in control of your voice, since your vocal cords are naturally tied to your breathing. This control in turn helps you to relax while you are speaking. More oxygen in your lungs also may provide you with more oxygen to your brain, giving you the mental edge.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Debra Moore

    Wow! thanks for that! Although you were specifically speaking about speaking and argumentation and breathing, this type of breathing has many, many, more benefits as well.

    We have all heard that we should breathe and breathe deeply for the calming of the nerves, but many incuding myself really did not know how to breathe without the chest going up and down. So thank you for that clarification. We shall all reap the many benefits of this type of breathing.

  2. Sunil Mulay

    Indeed deep breathing has many more benefits. More importantly though, NOT breathing diagrammatically comes with a whole bunch of dis-benefits!

    If the diaphragm is not regularly engaged, it can become tight and fibrous and lead to postural issues, as it is essentially a muscle which connects the ribs to the lower back. An inactive diaphragm also usually leads to excessive engagement of the neck muscles which are responsible for pulling the ribs up to create lunge space for inhalation. With this comes increased tension and fatigue in the neck muscles which can lead to pain.

    Breathing using the diaphragm brings about instant calmness as it also engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us “rest and digest”.

    So, there is a lot to breathing – something we usually just take for granted!!

  3. Sunil Mulay

    Oh, and a great way to check if you are engaging your diaphragm adequately is to lie on your back, with one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Take a deep breath and check which hand rises more, and the sequence. Your belly hand should rise first and significantly more than your chest. If the reverse is happening, then you are probably not engaging your diaphragm enough!

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