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You Probably Suck at Breathing

Those Montel Williams commercials for Money Mutual really annoy me.

It has nothing to do with predatory lending or anything like that, though it certainly is a field worthy of disdain. It has to do with Montel’s shoulders.

His shoulders.

I looked for the commercial on YouTube but I can’t find it. If you really want to see what I’m talking about, turn on Spike TV for five minutes or so and the commercial will come on at least twice (love those Star Wars marathons). Every time Montel inhales, his shoulders come up. Violently. No big deal, right? Actually it is. It’s a sign that Montel has no idea how to breathe.

Your lungs aren’t in your shoulders and neither is your diaphragm. That’s one reason not to breathe with your shoulders. Another is that your shoulders aren’t strong enough to help you breathe. Watch how quickly Montel’s shoulders fall once he starts talking; it’s immediate, but he keeps on talking after they fall. That’s because his shoulders aren’t helping at all.

What’s the big deal? This: Breathing is an essential part of life. You can last a lot longer without food or water than you can without air. Aside from that, proper breathing is also a tool to help you relax, which is especially important is stressful situations.

So, to do it properly, you just employ different muscle groups — most important being your abdominals. Here is a simple drill:

Sit in a chair with your back straight. Now grip the sides of the seat of your chair with your hands and try taking a breath while maintaining your grip. You should notice that, since you can’t lift your shoulders, your stomach will expand as you inhale. That’s what you’re looking for. Breathe deeply and hold it, then exhale slowly. Do it all very very slowly.

For you aspiring broadcasters or anyone looking to improve their resonance, incorporate this drill with some stretching. Take a deep breath and hold it, then open your mouth a little and tilt your head to one side so your ear comes close to your shoulder (don’t open your mouth wide and don’t raise your shoulder to your ear). Then return to center and repeat to the other side. Try going forward and backward as well. This will help stretch the muscles in your neck and your oral cavity, making your voice a little more resonant.

And next time you feel stressed, take a deep breath the correct way. You’ll notice a difference.

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Andrew Krzmarzick

I’ve been going to a chiropractor over the last few weeks and he uses a breathing technique for healing that I find intriguing in light of this post. He basically places his finger on a spot on my back that is particularly tight and asks me to hold my breath, typically for about 30 seconds. What happens in the body when we hold our breaths is that the oxygen is reserved for critical organs – the brain et. al. Holding our breath, my chiropractor explained to me, also acts as a “reset” button for our bodies. His finger on that point in my back directs the body to focus on that area in a special way during that reset process.

I guess that’s all a way of saying that intentional breathing may have some merit.

Corey McCarren

I took a class on improv acting once and we did breathing exercises like that for about 20-30 minutes and I always thought the professor was a little bit off his rocker spending so much class time doing it. It makes sense looking back especially for those who get particularly anxious when speaking in front of people. That was actually one of the most enjoyable classes I’ve ever taken and it possibly had to do partly with the stress reducing exercises.

Jonet Prevost-White

Did you know that Montel Williams was diagnosed with MS in 1999? He is dealing with extreme pain all over his body. He takes medication, controls his diet and is relentless about not letting the disease beat him. His massage to people is to stay strong and fight. Do your research first before beating a man down about how he breathes.

“Walk a mile in my shoes…”

Chris Higginbotham

My intention certainly wasn’t to beat up on Montel’s illness, but rather to point out an example of a mistake made by just about everyone in the world (hence the title of the post). I appreciate Montel’s message and thanks for highlighting it.