Practising yoga and meditation as a means of tackling public speaking can provide an opportunity for learning to manage inner tension. But it also offers the chance to look inside ourselves and express our own identity, whilst aiming to create an authentic relationship with listeners.

The problems posed by public speaking

Speaking in public conjures up images of tension, difficulty in appearing natural and spontaneous, a lack of strength and energy, a voice that sounds flat and a body that is tense. This applies for lessons, meetings and presentations. Public Speaking puts us in the spotlight, in a position whereby our contents and appearance are “at risk” of being judged.

Let us start with the impact public speaking has on mind and body. Anxiety and tension trigger a familiar reaction: adrenalin kicks in, our heartrate speeds up, muscles become tense, breathing becomes laboured and it gets hard to concentrate on a task. Body and mind are preparing for action by reacting to external stimuli, almost as if preparing to fight for survival, without first working out whether we are taking on a threatening criminal, or an audience of experts to whom we are presenting our work.

The result is that we lose our ability to focus on the task and instead shift it onto the sense of danger. We allow a rational approach to prevail in which we try to do the “right thing”, leaving plenty of room to the internal capacity for judging and criticising.

Yoga, meditation and Public Speaking

Yoga and meditation are without a doubt exceptionally useful when it comes to tackling what happens inside us in tense circumstances such as public speaking. The link between practising yoga and meditation and taking the floor might not at first seem immediate, but there is no doubt that it is both possible and indeed effective.

Yoga and meditation offer us techniques that have a profound effect on us, and can even change how we speak in public. It does so in two ways:

  • Yoga for body and mind
    • The starting point involves controlling our breathing with pranayama, which leads to the body relaxing and the mind homing in on the here and now. Here, by way of example, is an anti-stress meditation exercise which is useful for preparing to speak in public, even just before the “show”.
      We can learn to be physically present and stable towards an audience by activating our body’s energy centres. To do so, we have to practice positions and meditation exercises.
  • Yoga for conscious communication
    • Every time we speak in public, it is as if we are looking out of the window of our own personal, limited perspective. The more we are under stress, the more this perspective is restricted.
      Doing yoga means being part of a broader context, of real communication which involves awareness and kindness without tension, whether in public or in private. To do so, we must harness our own energy to support what we are saying, whilst always seeking to find

Tackling the challenges posed by public speaking through yoga and meditation involves finding space to breathe and take care of ourselves, both by doing a training session and by practising at home or at work.

The following posts will provide a starting point for examining yoga for the body and yoga for conscious communication in detail.