Breath and the Actor
From our first breath to our last, breathing is an intrinsic part of that each and every part of our lives. The breath is both instinctive and expressive, it is a vital part of our physical functioning as a human being, but it is also an essential part of our emotive capacity to express ourselves.
There are two types of breath, the inhale and the exhale, the in-breath and the out-breath. Breathing in prepares us, it fills us with the oxygen vital to thought and to fight or flight survival. The outbreath is how we communicate, it is the expressive breath. We ‘inspire’ on the in-breath and we ‘express’ on the out.
In times of stress or pressure, when we exert, many times, we hold our breath. Yet it requires a natural and relaxed breathing cycle for the actor to both inspire and express themselves, we have to learn to breathe through toughest experiences.
When we breathe in, the 3-dimensional barrel of our breathing apparatus should become fully inflated, whilst remaining free from tension. Likewise, when we release the breath and all the air to travel out of us, we should allow the deflation to be entirely unimpeded.
It is common for many beginning actors to have not considered their breathing when they begin taking classes. Many people think the belly button should be sucked in with the in-breath and pushed outwards with the out-breath. Nothing could be further from the truth. On the in-breath the barrel inflates, on the out-breath the barrel deflates. This process should be a cycle and not feel like two separate oppositional forces. The breath is an endless circle of in and out, inspire and express.
Breath is expression, breath is spirit, when we breathe no more, we live no more. It is ever present in our living existence, but we take it for granted. Each and every actor, no matter their level or experience should take the time to learn more about the ‘breath of life’.
Breath is one of the few outlets for the actor’s inner expressiveness and feelings, without deeper knowledge, experience and exploration of the part it plays in acting, the actor is missing something vital.
Breath is projection, breath is tension, breath is relaxation, breath is articulation of thought and feeling, breath is inspiration and expression.
Mark Westbrook is an Acting Coach based in Scotland, he offers free advice and tips to actors through his website http: http://www.acting-blog.com