In this article, I explore three potent online breathwork techniques for public speaking anxiety:

1. Belly Breath

2. 3-Part Breath

3. Box Breath

This post also examines the origins of public speaking fear and practical solutions like mindfulness meditation and systematic desensitization.

Public speaking, addressing an audience or group, evokes common fear and anxiety, affecting seasoned speakers and new learners alike. The stress response, negative thoughts, and shallow breaths exacerbate this daunting task.

Discover how yoga-inspired online breathwork for public speaking anxiety positively impacts body language, vocal cords, and overall confidence, offering a pathway to becoming a composed and confident public speaker.

Always consult with a medical professional before attmepting any new breathwork and movement technique.

Seeking professional help is vital for extreme anxiety cases.

Key Takeaways

  • Public Speaking Definition: Also known as “PS,” it is the art of delivering speeches or presentations in front of an audience to convey ideas, information, or emotions effectively and persuasively. It involves using voice, gestures, body language, and visual aids to engage and captivate listeners.
  • Understanding Public Speaking Anxiety: Fear of public speaking (glossophobia) can arise due to the pressure of being the center of attention and delivering a coherent speech. Physical symptoms like a racing heart and dry mouth, negative thoughts, and shallow breathing contribute to stage fright and performance anxiety.
  • Overcoming Anxiety: Various strategies help overcome public speaking anxiety, including mindfulness meditation, participation in online or in-person courses, systematic desensitization, and adopting relaxation techniques like breathwork as part of a toolkit of positive habits. For those with extreme anxiety, seeking professional help is a must.
  • The Power of Breathwork: Breathwork, such as alternate nostril breathing, deep breathing exercises, and slow breathing, helps reduce anxiety levels and improves emotional resilience. It enhances body language and vocal projection, making individuals better public speakers.
  • Choosing Online Breathwork Programs: When seeking online breathwork for public speaking anxiety, both free and paid programs offer valuable options. Consider factors like accessibility, affordability, and instructor credibility when choosing the right program.
  • Try Breathwork Now: Start with Belly Breath, focusing on deep diaphragmatic breathing. This simple yet effective technique cultivates calmness and composure, empowering you to speak with confidence and ease. As always, be sure to consult with a medical doctor before attempting any new technique.

Integrating these breathwork techniques into your public speaking routine can build confidence, manage anxiety, and help you become a more impactful and composed speaker, ultimately transforming fear into a stepping stone to success.

What is public speaking? 

Public speaking (PS) is the art of delivering speeches or presentations to an audience, effectively conveying ideas and emotions. Events can occur in various settings, from conferences to intimate conversations.

Successful PS involves clarity, confidence, and skillful use of voice, gestures, and visual aids. It is vital in education, leadership, entrepreneurship, and advocacy. It permeates our daily life in many facets. Whether you’re presenting in class, teaching a class, pitching an idea to your colleagues or boss, selling to a client, or holding a meeting over Zoom, you are doing a form of public speaking.

PS is a skill that can be developed with practice and self-awareness. Though exhilarating, PS may induce stage fright, anxiety, and nervousness that can negatively impact the overall quality of the speech or presentation.

Yoga, surprisingly, offers techniques to manage anxiety and build confidence. One component of yoga is pranayama, more commonly known as breathwork. 

Breathwork can help individuals deliver speeches with poise and composure. Embracing the power of breathwork empowers speakers to connect with audiences, inspire change, and create memorable experiences.

And the best part? It can be done for free in the comfort of your own home (or in the loo before your pitch).

Why do I have a fear of public speaking?

The fear of public speaking (glossophobia) can stem from a variety of factors and affect individuals at different stages of life, including college students and experienced public speakers. Each speaking engagement brings its unique set of challenges. Some of the reasons behind the fear of public speaking include:

  • The daunting task of standing in front of an audience and being the center of attention. The pressure to deliver a coherent and impactful speech free of error can create a high level of fear and anxiety.
  • Negative thoughts play a significant role in amplifying public speaking anxiety. You may become overly self-critical, doubting your abilities and fearing judgment from others. These thoughts can hinder confidence and the ability to speak effectively.
  • You may experience physical symptoms like a racing heart, sweaty palms, or a dry mouth, which are often triggered by the body’s stress response. This fight-or-flight reaction is a natural survival mechanism that prepares the body to confront perceived threats.
  • Shallow breaths are a common occurrence during moments of anxiety, leading to reduced oxygen supply. This can further exacerbate the physical symptoms and intensify the stress response. Understanding the role of the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps regulate relaxation and calmness, can be crucial in countering the stress response and promoting a more composed state of mind.
  • For some, the fear of public speaking can escalate into panic attacks or flight responses, where the instinct to escape the situation becomes overwhelming.

Overcoming the fear of public speaking involves acknowledging these factors and adopting effective strategies to manage anxiety.

Breathwork techniques can be immensely beneficial in promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety levels.

By practicing them, you can gradually build confidence and become more adept, turning fear into a stepping stone toward personal growth and success.

How do I overcome public speaking and performance anxiety?

The fear of public speaking can be conquered through a variety of effective strategies and techniques.

  1. ​ ​Mindfulness meditation is a powerful tool that allows individuals to stay present, focused, and composed while speaking in front of an audience. By cultivating awareness of their thoughts and emotions, speakers can manage anxiety and perform more confidently. Meditation, or dhyana, is a prominent component of a well-rounded yoga practice.
  2. Both online and in-person courses dedicated to public speaking can provide valuable guidance and support. These courses offer structured learning environments where participants can receive personalized feedback and practice their skills in a safe and encouraging setting. Online courses, in particular, offer flexibility and accessibility for those with busy schedules. Some examples are given here.
  3. Systematic desensitization is another approach commonly used to overcome public speaking fear. Gradual exposure to speaking situations, starting with smaller groups and gradually progressing to larger audiences, helps desensitize individuals to the fear response. This process allows speakers to build confidence at their own pace.
  4. Incorporating new positive habits into one’s daily routine can also aid in managing public speaking anxiety. Practices such as visualization, positive affirmations, and self-compassion can help reframe negative thought patterns and boost self-confidence.
  5. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation, are invaluable tools for calming the body and mind before a speaking engagement. These techniques promote a sense of ease and reduce physical symptoms associated with anxiety.

Combining the above techniques can lead to a transformative journey toward becoming a confident and effective public speaker. Embracing these strategies empowers you to connect with your audience, and deliver impactful speeches with poise and conviction.

Does breathwork help anxiety? 

Breathwork has emerged as a promising intervention for alleviating anxiety and promoting overall well-being. One such technique, alternate nostril breathing, involves inhaling and exhaling through one nostril at a time, believed to balance the flow of energy in the body, calming the mind, and reducing stress.

Deep breathing exercises, a core component of breathwork, encourage slow and controlled breaths, activating the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which induces a relaxation response. This response counteracts the fight-or-flight response triggered during anxiety, leading to reduced stress levels and a sense of calmness. You can read more about the science of the breath here.

The positive effects of breathwork extend beyond mental well-being. Body language and vocal cords are directly influenced by the way we breathe. Deep, controlled breathing can help regulate the tone and pace of speech, making individuals better public speakers by enhancing their vocal projection and articulation.

Research supports the efficacy of breathwork in reducing anxiety levels. Studies have shown that practicing breathwork regularly can lead to lower anxiety and stress levels, improving overall emotional resilience.

The good news is that breathwork is accessible and can be practiced anywhere, making it a valuable tool for managing anxiety on a day-to-day basis.

As an additional benefit, slow breathing techniques have been found to positively impact heart rate variability, a marker of cardiac health associated with stress resilience. Thus, embracing breathwork not only aids in managing anxiety but also contributes to better physical well-being.

Where can I find online breathwork for public speaking anxiety?

When considering best practices, it’s always in your best interest as a beginner to start breathwork under the guidance of a qualified and experienced teacher. Below is a table of a few resources for online breathwork, that you can apply to your daily routine to help with reducing public speaking anxiety.

Please note: These courses are not directly aimed at reducing public speaking anxiety per se, but the techniques included may contribute to reducing anxiety over time if practiced with consistency.

Free online breathwork

1. Infinite Breath

  • ​If you’re on the fence with breathwork, then a free course is what you need.
  • It’s free, and short but still covers a wide scope.

2. Integrative Breath

  • ​Though they offer comprehensive breathwork training programs, free classes are also available, so you can try before you buy.
  • Weekly weekend classes are offered online, and in-person classes are available for those in Denver, Colorado.

Paid online breathwork

(The following two paid programs are both ones I have taken and can personally vouch for). 

1. YogaLap Breath is Life

  • Perfect for beginners, this course is 100% on demand, so you can take it at your own pace.
  • Reasonably priced given the quality of content and teaching. Michael Bijker is a fantastic teacher, whose calm and grounded approach contagiously resonates through the screen
  • Take your time – there is a lot to cover so don’t rush through it. Allow yourself time to integrate each practice into your daily routine. For reference, I took about 10 months to complete the course. It can, of course, be done much quicker than that if you prefer.

2. Aham Yoga Pranayama Classes

  • ​Arundhati is a world-renowned yoga teacher. Studying under her guidance will be an incredible experience
  • You can opt for a drop-in class to test out the waters before committing to a monthly payment if it suits you.
  • Arundhati also offers breathwork training once a year, which I’ve been lucky enough to take. It really is fantastic, and you don’t have to be a yoga teacher to enroll. This training totally transformed my outlook on pranayama and my motivation for yoga. It was this training that influenced my teaching – I now teach the skills I learned here to my uni students to help them overcome public speaking anxiety.

What breathwork for public speaking anxiety can I try now?

If you’re seeking immediate relief from public speaking anxiety, incorporating breathwork into your routine can be a great way to start.

Focusing on your breathing pattern and being present in the moment can help calm nerves, especially if it’s your first time addressing an audience.

This section will focus on three common, beginner-friendly breathing techniques from yoga. In turn, Belly Breath (adham pranayama), 3-Part Breath (Dirgha Pranayama), and Box Breath (Sama Vrtti).

These simple yet effective breathing techniques empower you to speak with confidence and composure, making public speaking a more rewarding experience.

1. Belly Breath (Adham Pranayama)

Belly Breath, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, is a simple yet powerful breathwork technique that involves deepening and expanding the breath by engaging the diaphragm. It is fundamental to promoting relaxation, reducing stress, and managing anxiety. It’s an ideal tool for complete beginners seeking to improve their public speaking confidence. I teach this frequently to my students at university.

  1. Begin by sitting or lying down in a comfortable position. You can place both hands on your belly to feel the movement of your breath.
  2. Inhale deeply and slowly through your nose. Focus on drawing the breath deep into your lungs, allowing your abdomen to expand like a balloon. Feel your belly rising as you inhale.
  3. Exhale slowly through your mouth, gently contracting your abdominal muscles to help expel the air. Feel your belly lowering as you exhale.
  4. Stay Relaxed: Keep your chest relatively still during this process, emphasizing the movement in your abdomen. It might feel unnatural at first, but with practice, it will become more comfortable.
  5. Continue this deep belly breathing for several breath cycles, maintaining a steady rhythm. Inhale for a count of 4, hold for a brief moment and then exhale for a count of 4. Adjust the count based on your comfort level.
  6. Stay present and focused on your breath, letting go of any distracting thoughts. Embrace the sense of calmness and relaxation that comes with each breath.
  7. Practice Belly Breath for a few minutes each day, gradually increasing the duration as you become more familiar with the technique.

You can enhance your public speaking abilities through Belly Breath by cultivating a sense of calm and composure. Remember, practice is key to mastering this technique, and over time, it will become a valuable tool in managing public speaking anxiety and boosting your overall confidence.

2. 3-Part Breath (Dirga Pranayama)

The 3-Part Breath is a technique that encourages the complete expansion of the lungs and optimal oxygen intake. By dividing the breath into three distinct parts, this practice promotes relaxation, reduces stress, and fosters mindfulness. It is suitable for complete beginners.

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight. You can sit cross-legged or on a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Part 1 – Belly Breath: Begin with a deep inhale through your nose, allowing your abdomen to expand fully. Feel your diaphragm move downward as your lungs fill with air. Let your belly rise as you inhale.
  3. Part 2 – Ribcage Expansion: Continue inhaling and expand the breath into your ribcage. Feel your ribcage gently expanding outward, allowing the middle section of your lungs to fill with air.
  4. Part 3 – Collarbone and Chest Lift: Once your belly and ribcage are fully expanded, take another sip of breath and lift it into the upper chest, feeling your collarbones rise slightly. Your lungs should now be completely filled with air.
  5. Exhale Slowly: Exhale slowly and steadily through your nose, reversing the process. Release the air from your upper chest, then allow your ribcage to contract, followed by gently drawing your abdomen inward to push out any residual air.
  6. Repeat the Cycle: Continue for several rounds, maintaining a smooth and continuous flow of breath. Aim for a slow and controlled pace, finding a rhythm that suits your comfort level.
  7. Stay Present and Mindful: Focus on the sensation of the breath moving through your body. Let go of any distractions and immerse yourself in the calming rhythm.

This practice helps build a deeper connection with your breath and a greater sense of self-awareness. Incorporating this technique can provide a valuable foundation for managing anxiety.

3. Box Breath (Sama Vrtti)

Box Breathing, also known as Square Breathing or Four-Square Breathing, is a technique used to promote calmness, enhance focus, and manage stress. By following a structured pattern of inhaling, holding, exhaling, and holding again, this practice encourages controlled breathing and induces a sense of relaxation.

  1. Find a Comfortable Position: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position with your spine straight. Rest your hands on your knees or place them gently on your abdomen.
  2. Inhale deeply and slowly through your nose, counting to four in your mind. Feel the breath filling your lungs and expanding your abdomen. Allow the air to flow in a controlled and steady manner.
  3. At the top of your inhale, pause and hold your breath for four counts. Maintain a sense of relaxation during this brief breath-holding phase.
  4. Begin to exhale slowly and steadily through your nose, counting to four in your mind. Empty your lungs completely as you release your breath in a controlled manner.
  5. Once your lungs are empty, hold your breath for four counts before starting the next inhalation. Embrace the stillness during this moment of breath retention.
  6. Repeat the Cycle: Continue for several rounds, maintaining a smooth and even rhythm. As a beginner, you can start with a shorter duration and gradually increase it as you become more comfortable with the technique.
  7. Stay Focused and Mindful: Throughout the practice, focus your attention solely on the breath and the counting pattern.

By integrating Box Breathing into your daily routine, you can harness its calming effects to manage public speaking anxiety and develop a sense of equilibrium before and during speaking engagements. Practicing this breathwork technique regularly will empower you to speak with clarity, confidence, and presence, making it a valuable tool for enhancing your overall public speaking performance.

3 Breathing Techniques for Public Speaking Anxiety: Belly Breath, 3-Part Breath, and Box Breath.


1. What is Belly Breath, and how can it help with public speaking anxiety?

Belly Breath, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, involves deepening and expanding the breath by engaging the diaphragm. This fundamental breathwork technique promotes relaxation, reduces stress, and aids in managing anxiety. By incorporating Belly Breath into your routine, you can improve your public speaking confidence by cultivating calmness and composure.

2. How do I practice 3-Part Breath, and what benefits does it offer for public speaking?

3-Part Breath, or Dirga Pranayama, encourages complete expansion of the lungs by dividing the breath into three parts: belly, ribcage, and upper chest. Practicing this deep breathing technique promotes relaxation, reduces stress, and fosters mindfulness. By finding inner balance and tranquility, 3-Part Breath becomes a valuable tool for enhancing your public speaking abilities.

3. What is Box Breath, and how can it aid in managing public speaking anxiety?

Box Breath, also known as Square Breathing or Four-Square Breathing, follows a structured pattern of inhaling, holding, exhaling, and holding again. This simple yet effective breathwork technique induces a sense of relaxation, enhances focus, and manages stress. By incorporating Box Breath into your routine, you can cultivate a centered and composed state of mind, empowering your public speaking performance.

4. Can I combine these breathwork techniques for better results?

Absolutely! Combining Belly Breath, 3-Part Breath, and Box Breath can enhance the benefits of each technique. Before a public speaking event, start with Box Breath to center yourself and reduce anxiety. Then, transition to 3-Part Breath to foster self-awareness and inner balance. Finally, practice Belly Breath to stay composed and confident throughout your speech.

5. How often should I practice these breathwork techniques?

Consistency is key. Practice these breathwork techniques daily to build familiarity and comfort. Start with a few minutes each day and gradually increase the duration as you become more adept. By incorporating them into your daily routine, you can transform breathwork into a powerful tool for managing public speaking anxiety and unlocking your full speaking potential.

Remember to consult with a trusted medical professional first before trying these techniques, to make sure they are the right fit for you. 

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