Performance hacks – loosen up your stomach

vom 10. April 2018

Actors have long been able to do what the Navy Seals do! – Part2

Stories are circulating on the net about the four “tricks” with which the Navy Seals of the US Army train themselves, apart from physically and on their weapons. I have searched for original sources and unfortunately have not found them yet.

I don’t care, because I find these stories very plausible! Because actors use similar techniques.

Some remain capable of acting in real, threatening and extreme situations by using the techniques to keep a clear head, while others use theirs to ensure that they lose their mind in a controlled manner in order to appear credible and truthful in an extreme – but invented – situation.

The four “tricks” are very simple:

  1. positive self-talks
  2. Breathing (that’s what this article is about)
  3. Imagination
  4. a positive goal

And since actors use the same techniques as the tough guys – just the other way around – you don’t even need the “secret” Navy Seals technique. You can use the well-documented and constantly optimized techniques of actors, which have been tried and tested for almost two centuries, to achieve the same thing.

How? I’ll show you how in 4 steps.

Step 1 – positive self-talk, can be found Du here!

This text is about step 2: Your breath!

“Oh no, another one of those esoteric things!” or “Wow, if she tells me to watch my breath again … I’m going to be aggressive!” I know it can be annoying. It doesn’t help, if you want to learn to control your emotions, you MUST learn to control your breath!

What does self-control have to do with the breath?

Very simple! Here’s a little experiment for you:

Please remember the last time you were really annoyed, angry or scared! Well, do you remember? What was the occasion and how did you get involved? What did you do? Were you alone or accompanied? What exactly got you like that? If you have just started to imagine it so beautifully

… then please check your breathing now!

And? Where do you feel your breath? You are probably breathing very high, i.e. into your shoulders and chest. Your shoulders may even move significantly upwards. Perhaps your chest feels tight at the same time.

And now please also check the tension in your abdominal wall! This is probably rather fixed…. Well done, that’s what actors call “reinkitschen”!

Sometimes it is necessary for actors to get themselves into an extreme state of threat or anger or even lust very quickly and without mental or emotional preparation, for example in an improvisation or when filming a daily. And then a very promising trick is to just pretend muscularly that you’re scared or pissed off. For example, the abdominal wall is tensed and breathing is directed into the shoulders. Then you can flatten and shorten the breathing rate and suddenly the panic or tantrum is there!

The feeling follows the muscular specification…

Of course it works the other way round too! When the next scene is directly followed by a romantic sequence, the two fighting cocks backstage or behind the camera reduce the hormone cocktail they have built up by making large, violent movements, deepening and calming their breathing and relaxing as many muscles as possible. Then they use the adrenaline left over from the previous fight scene to create a particularly longing, perhaps covetous feeling – again primarily muscular.

No body can actually switch from anger to romance so quickly. In order to be broken down, hormones need either time or exercise, preferably both. You can still do it: by controlling your muscles, especially those of your abdominal wall.

To put it simply, your abdominal wall is like the on/off switch for your emotions.

It happens to you unconsciously in everyday life: you want to quickly pick up some milk at the supermarket and end up in an endless queue at the checkout with the most weekly groceries – you’re annoyed and nervous and jittery!

What are your abdominal muscles doing? – It’s solid!

Where do you breathe? – In the shoulders!

As this works in both directions, such traffic jams in front of the checkout or in traffic are ideal for exercising and loosening the abdominal muscles.

My training suggestion for you:

  1. Always choose the longest and slowest queue in the supermarket and practise relaxing! Focus on your abdominal wall.
  2. Use every traffic jam you get into to sharpen your awareness of your abdominal wall and train your ability to relax it at will!

Because when you are under emotional stress, your abdominal wall usually tenses up. And if you then know exactly how to relax your abdominal wall in an emergency, you will be able to fall back on your logical thinking functions much better in the next step – despite intense fear, anger or whatever.

And if one day you can do it well with the abdominal wall, then go ahead!

Find out what your legs, feet, hands and arms or your neck do when you are stressed and try – with your deep abdominal breathing, which you can then access more easily – to relax these parts of your body too.

Next time I’ll tell you how an “action” works and how you can use imagination to better master challenging situations!

Until then, have fun practicing and I would be very happy if you let me know how you get on with my tips. Or maybe even: what you do and what helps you when you prepare for challenges!

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