Week 34: What? I Don’t Know how to Breathe?

Friday 24th August 2018

Reading time 03 minutes 18 seconds 

Scuba Diving Lesson One: Don’t forget to breathe.

Performance Anxiety. Who hasn’t had that? Am I right? 

I’m a cynic, who is willing to be proved wrong, which could mean I may not understand the true meaning of the word cynic. However I was over the moon to see a talk this week at the Edinburgh Fringe discussing this issue so I signed up immediately.

It was a free talk. I’m always wary of free stuff as I believe there is a catch, generally because there is. For example my “Free Festival” Edinburgh occasionally show becomes a hostage situation when I ask for money as the audience are leaving. 

I arrived at the discussion and I clearly didn’t read the information as there were yoga mats and cushions in a circle on the floor. What was this? Another intervention? Had I enrolled in a Buddhist trap again? Wasn’t that meant to happen in my next life?

I had to sign a disclaimer. What had I got myself into this time? I must start paying attention beyond the headlines.

There were 10 of us in the class and the instructor listed her credentials as being qualified in medicine and even more qualified in being anxious. She was here to teach how not to be. 

She was also a performer so she ticked every box. 

I liked her immediately because of her friendly manner and her hairstyle. No person who has a Bob haircut is unlikeable and it’s statements like these that start discussion threads.

I have a desire in a classroom to be better than everyone else which is ridiculous and as I grow older, or idler according to spell check, I’m learning how competitive I really am. Even more so in non-competitive situations as that’s when you can really clean up because the others won’t be expecting it. Suckers!

No one was making notes apart from me. At the end session when they ask questions I was certain to be top of the class.

Having been alive for over 47 years I believed I understood this breathing malarkey plus I’d been meditating for 6 months, so I was, from an internet viewpoint an expert.

I put my hand up immediately to answer a question just like the annoying kid in class. I’d peaked too early as it was one of those silly metaphorical ones. What’s the point of those?

Still I had beaten my class mates in getting my hand up so ner ner ner ner ner.

Humans have a tendency to tense up and hold our breath when scenarios cause us to be anxious. The tutor then explained the importance of breathing in stressful situations.

Have we ever seen a baby breathe? Everyone nodded. Bloody liars. Most of these people were babies. 

Apparently a baby breathes very differently because they have not been conditioned by society. Having never visited a maternity ward I hadn’t experienced this and apparently you can’t visit a one just to watch babies breathe because you are studying anxiety. It’s frowned upon.

We then did a breathing exercise and as I had socks older than most of my classmates I felt I could nail it. After this warm up we then went into the main exercise. Transformational breathing.

The idea is that you breathe in and out very hard through your mouth. While laying down listening to inspirational music.

I had to choose an issue that I’d like to fix and then we started the exercise. Breathing in and out rapidly whilst laying down reduces (or increases) the Carbon Dioxide (or monoxide) but I wasn’t really listening and didn’t follow as when people get all medical I tend to tune out. 

I then had what I can only describe as a life changing experience. 

Firstly while breathing the tutor came over and told me to relax my jaw. What the jaw I’ve been tensing for the last few years? Yes, just open your mouth wider and breathe. I’d been hanging out with some playful comedians for a few weeks and was waiting for a banana or something to be shoved in there. This didn’t happen and I again started to relax even more.

While in this state we than had to act like a child having a temper tantrum. I was really embarrassed by this but I was there so did what I was told. I heard my 9 classmates screaming like children. I joined in just as they all stopped.

My problem is performance anxiety on stage and after a few minutes my brain went into solution mode and the problems I’d been worrying about appeared as did their resolutions. I had about 5 of these over the space of about 7 minutes.

We were then bought out of our relaxed breathing state. I asked how long we’d been under which I guessed to be about 7-10 minutes. Nope it was 45 minutes. Everyone was shocked. Time had warped.

It was a bit like a LSD experience but without surrealism or needing Orange Juice.

We had all gained from it. You could feel the energy amongst us and we seemed to be united as one even though we all had separate experiences. The smiles were contagious. 

One woman who seemed uptight in the beginning was so talkative and relaxed it was lovely to see her being so free while talking. 

Another man had started crying and said he felt so much better. 

I went on stage two hours later and was calm and relaxed until one of my jokes didn’t work. I then repeated the exercises of having a tantrum like a child and breathing. The audience accepted this as weird things happen at the Edinburgh fringe and you never know what’s really going on in any performance.

I learnt a lot from breathing differently and will be investigating this more. If you’re interested the website is below. It’s already made a difference and as happy clappy hippy dippy as it sounds it kind of worked. 

Cynic no more or am I? 

Later that night, while demonstrating to some comedian friends, a banana did find its way into my mouth.


Picture: While at the world’s biggest arts festival I hang out in Maison De Moggy Edinburgh’s Cat Café because there is a fine balance between the Arts and Feline contact.