Do You Hold Your Breath When Lettering?


Do you hold your breath when you are concentrating? When you try to make 'perfect' circles or even when typing, and you are afraid to make any mistakes?

I do that most of the time, and I didn't think much of it.

However, as I continued to go through my drills - slowly taking my time to draw straight lines, I discovered that I've been doing that more often than I realized. Then I started thinking about the different situations when I would unconsciously hold my breath. It turns out that I stop breathing for a while when I am afraid, or am in anticipation of something.

I did some Googling. "Holding your breath while doing _____" or similar search strings.

While I did not find any conclusive studies about this or maybe I just did not try hard enough, there are some accounts that mention about the ill effects of holding your breath unconsciously.

So what happens when you stop breathing?

I know my reference is not some scientific journal (yes, my professor would scream at me, but I least I tried). Most of the available references relate to sleep apnea. Although that is not related to lettering, the effects of the holding of breath are well-documented.

When you stop breathing even for a few seconds, there is no fresh oxygen that goes into your brain. This affects the blood and oxygen flow to the muscles, which are essential to lettering. Unconscious interruptions to your breathing normally occur when you are stressed. This causes tension in your body and it stiffens your muscles.

Regulate breathing

When you go to the gym, your instructor tells you to breathe properly and reminds you not to hold your breath as it is dangerous to do so. Dance instructors also stress the importance of proper breathing for better performance. Even pianists and actors who are not required to move much while performing are instructed to maintain regular breathing for best results.

My mentor who taught me calligraphy also told me to breathe normally. Why?

Aside from health reasons, normal breathing helps you become relaxed. Being in a relaxed state helps make the lines more continuous and smooth. It will give your letters more oomph as it will make you appear to be more confident.

Personal improvement plan

I personally need to practice this more. As I've been having this habit for a while, it will take some time to correct. I find that as I continue to be aware of my breathing habits on a regular basis, it becomes progressively easier. I also recently got back to meditating and this also helps regulate my breathing, especially when lettering. I am still in the process of finding the right balance between the act of inhaling and exhaling when drawing or creating straight lines.

So far, what seems to work well is inhaling or exhaling during a single stroke.

How about you? Do you notice this as well?

If you have any tips you can share, please let me know. :)