Inhale Well and Speak Easily

One of the prime reasons to pursue Qigong is to get more energy. One of the Qigong ways to get more energy is working with breathing. Qigong breathing practices could be looked at as the foundation, or the essential aspect, of Qigong.

Sudden Inhalation Syndrome

There are many aspects to becoming a better breather, and many benefits. One of the aspects is becoming aware in your daily life of how you are breathing. Lately I have been noticing how some people have a pattern of speaking that can’t be good for them. I call this pattern Sudden Inhalation Syndrome.

What people with this habit do is take a rapid, high-chest, short, intense inhale before quickly speaking. It is a quick, strong sniff followed even more quickly with talking. Most people with such patterns are not aware of them.

This is Shock Breathing

Grasping such fast, small breaths emulates the kind of inhale a person takes when they are suddenly shocked by something unexpected or fearful. It is the breath of surprise and fear. Try a few of those breaths yourself, right now. Do you feel how intense the experience is? Such a breath can immediately lead to feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, unsteadiness, and dizziness. This breath method uses only secondary or tertiary breathing muscles to pull in air, creating muscular tension in the upper chest and neck and throat. It compresses the heart, constricts the throat, and compromises the lungs.

This collection of mental, emotional and physical states is not the ideal platform for speaking.

So Many Symptoms from Shock Breathing

Other possible symptoms include headaches, jaw pain, back pain and shoulder issues. Because the heart is being compressed along with very little abdominal expansion on the inhales, high blood pressure will come. Stress, fatigue, low grade frequent illness, digestive issues and elimination issues are likely as well. Sudden inhalations into the chest before speaking is a type of stress breathing. It overstimulates the fight, flight, fright, freeze mechanisms of the Sympathetic Nervous system. (By the way, the Sympathetic Nervous system doesn’t have much sympathy; It is all about survival in the midst of danger.)

Causes of Sudden Inhalation Syndrome

There are many reasons someone might be a a quick breath speaker with Sudden Inhalation Syndrome. Most of the reasons have to do with upbringing and emotional trauma earlier in life. For most people there is a something about having to get in a word as soon as possible after someone else was speaking. Whatever the causes, becoming aware of the pattern and retraining it, will lead to much healing.

I doubt recreating the experience of shock over and over again all day long is what most people want to do.

Breathe with Relaxation

Breathe...Then Speak

What to Do

Watch how you talk. Learn to notice when you breathe-speak this way. Give yourself reminders to check in frequently on yourself. Little stickers posted around are good for this. I like to give little green dots to my clients and students. This is a simple, cheap, and effective retraining technology.


Another method is to find a kind (a sympathetic) friend or coworker to help you notice. In Toastmasters, budding speakers are taught to eliminate verbal fillers like “ah,” “uhm”, and “you know” with a bell. Every time a speaker says a filler, the bellmaster rings the bell. In real time the speaker gets feedback. It takes only a few weeks to drop fillers to 5 to 10% of what they were. Have your watchful friend say “ding” or something else you choose when they catch you suddenly inhaling before speaking.

Also, when someone else is speaking, keep breathing. Don’t hold you breath.

Teach people who interrupt you to give you a chance to collect your thoughts and your oxygen when it is your turn to speak. As an adult, you don’t have to rush in to be heard, at least not in most of your life.

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