Do you suffer from stage or public speaking fright? You have perfected your performance or your speech. And now you’re about to step on stage. But suddenly you are paralyzed, your heart is racing and your palms dripping in sweat. It’s the dreaded stage fright! The good news is that yoga can help! Here are 5 ways yoga helps manage stage fright.
What is stage fright?
Stage fright shows up in different ways in different people. However, there are many common expressions. One often experiences a higher heart rate and shallow breathing. Some sweat profusely, or suddenly feel cold or hot. Others have knots in their stomachs, or throats, or legs that go soft. Sometimes, we feel all that at the same time!
Basically, stage fright is a very strong or exaggerated response to the stress of an impending event. And it turns out, managing stress is one of yoga’s benefits!
How does yoga help manage stress and stage fright?
Yoga’s effect on breath and heart rates
In yoga asana, we focus on breathing deeply and smoothly. And breath is precisely one of the keys to managing stress and stage fright.
Why? Because our nervous system is closely linked to the rhythms of the breath and the heart.
When we are feeling stressed out, our heart speeds up, our blood pressure increases and our breath becomes fast and shallow.
On the other hand, when we’re at peace and safe, our body relaxes, heart and breathing rates slow down, and our blood pressure drops.
The good news is that we can directly reduce stress and stage fright by working on… the breath! And this is very efficient, even without being a longtime yogi. (and even without being a yogi at all!).
Benefits of a regular yoga practice on stress management
However, as a yogini for over half of my life, I *must* share the benefits of regular practice on managing stage fright!
So here are the benefits:
From a physiological perspective, regular yoga practice improves the body’s ability to respond to changing heart rates. These rhythm amplitudes are called Heart Rate Variability.
When we are under stress, breathing accelerates and the heart beats faster. With a regular yoga practice, our heart is accustomed to handling these differences in rhythm better, and can return to a slower rhythm more quickly. This is true during the yoga session itself, but also off the mat. With regular practice, yoga helps the heart and breath calm down more easily. Hence, stress becomes easier to manage.
Additionally, beyond the benefits on the breath and the heart, the practice of yoga helps us put unpleasant moments of life into perspective. Is the moment as unpleasant as we make it? Can we keep our cool? Will this moment pass?
Yoga to manage stage fright
So concretely, how can yoga help manage stage fright?
1- Set up a regular yoga practice
OK, let’s start with the most obvious. A regular practice of yoga, meditation and pranayama helps to manage daily and exceptional stresses, such as stage fright. The more regular the practice, the more a calm body and mind come naturally, on and off stage.
2- Lion’s Breath to Release excess stress and prepare your voice
Lion’s Breath comes from Simhasana, Lion’s Pose.
How to practice Lion’s Breath:
- Stand or sit backstage. Take a deep breath in.
- On the exhale sound “HAAAAAA”. Open your mouth wide, roll your eyes, and stick your tongue out as much as possible, as if you want to touch your chin!
- And then breathe in and repeat: “HAAAA” like the roar of the lion.
- Continue for 1-2 minutes, or 5-10 full breaths.
Lion’s Breath helps release the neck and face muscles, as well as the tongue. Making the sound HAAAA helps release the throat and prepare to speak with the poise of a lion or lioness!
3- Deep breaths to quickly calm down
The breath is directly linked to the nervous system. Acting on the breath allows you to act directly on the physical effects of stress.
Deep breaths now!
How to practice long deep breaths :
- Stand or sit, in your dressing room or in your bubble amidst the excitement behind the scenes.
- Take long and deep breaths.
- Place your hands on your stomach. Breathe in the belly, in the rib cage. Let each big inhale fill the belly, the rib cage. Let each exhalation empty without forcing.
- Focus on this movement of the breath going in and out. This concentration will help you “empty” your mind. Repeat for 2-3 minutes, or 10-20 full breaths.
Taking long, deep and smooth breaths directly and effectively calms the nervous system. We instantly (or nearly) feel more relaxed and our heart rate slows down.
4- Spray lavender essential oil
Use the potent magic of smells and perfumes! Smells bypass the barriers of the rational mind. You’ll relax “in spite of” yourself!
How to use essential oils to manage stress:
- Choose an essential oil that appeals to you and has relaxing characteristics. Some suggestions that I personally like include Lavender, Ylang-ylang, Bergamot, Petitgrain, Palmarosa…
- Dilute a few drops in a bottle of water with a spray nozzle, and shake before spraying around you.
- Or, in a simpler version: pour a few drops into a tissue and breathe deeply.
5- Visualize your perfect performance
Visualization is a powerful tool. Let’s apply it to stage fright, performing and stress management!
How to use visualizations to manage stage fright:
- Visualize yourself coming on stage with confidence, ready to give joy to the audience, ready to share your important message or teaching.
- Visualize your performance. See yourself from start to finish (fast-tracked of course!), relaxed, confident, happy to be there, embodied by your mission.
- And visualize your exit, satisfied with your performance, your speech, your course.
With these 5 yoga tips to help you manage stage fright and stressful moments in life, you’re ready to give the best show ever!
Lights, camera, action !