Healthy Narration Habits
What is #BoothHealth? I use my 15 years of experience as a medical myofascial therapist to educate fellow narrators on posture, breathing, and easy habits to stay healthy in the booth.
Do you know where your lungs are? Many people think our lungs are in the front of the chest. But the largest portion of our lungs are in our back. That’s where the most expansion occurs in a natural breath. So, when we narrate a long passage, getting to the end without gasping for air is easier if we have flexibility in our back muscles and connective tissue.
Try this test:
Bend at the waist and let your head drop into a relaxed position.
Rest your hands on your thighs to stop all the small accessory breathing muscles from helping the large breathing structures: diaphragm, back muscles and muscles between the ribs.
Take a deep breath and let your back rise towards the ceiling. Exhale. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Do you feel the expansion in your back? That’s a good feeling to be aware of and to replicate in the booth!
The talented actress and performance coach, and director, Paula Parker said, “Claim the page as your territory,” as you would claim the stage as your territory as a stage actor.
I love the powerful feeling this evokes. To help me recall her words, I like to add the physical element of spreading my toes when I claim my spot, on stage or behind the microphone; sitting or standing.
Spreading your toes is a wonderful habit to stretch the intrinsic muscles of the feet. Keeping your toes awake and able to spread wide, can help you not only feel grounded and rooted, but can help improve balance, maintain alignment of leg muscles and tendons, and keep your arches strong.
So spread out, grip the ground with those toes, and dig into your next narration/role.
Do you know where your head is? Do you have the postural problem of Forward Head Posture? If we become aware of our head placement, we can improve our posture, our breathing, our vision, and our lives as audiobook narrators.
Your ear should be directly over the center point of your shoulder. Have someone take photos of your profile and see how far you need to adjust to make that happen.
Almost 20 years ago, when I attended massage school, my instructors addressed many forms of healing, spiritual, and physical practices like QiGong, and energy work.
One philosophy that I’ve always treasured was that of keeping your Hara open in your daily life. The Hara has many meanings among different cultures and beliefs but basically, it is a Japanese word meaning “belly,” the center of our energy force, in balance with our mind energy.
Hara is a physical place with a spiritual layer. If we keep the Hara open, we expand that energy outward, toward others, toward our work and intentions.
As an audiobook narrator, I like to think of this as shining my essence onto my work, expressing through my core, to tell a story. I like to think of my Hara being a ray of light shining forward. If we slump and slouch, the physical Hara is cut off; our light is closed off. We lose a bit of the giving of ourselves in our artistry.
Let your lights shine!
Look at your elbows. Are they bent?
When we flex the elbows, the connection they have through the upper arm causes the shoulders to rotate slightly forward, which causes the Collarbone and chest to drop, the head to move forward, and a forward flexion of the spine occurs. The result is that deep and full breaths are replaced with more shallow breaths…not good for us narrators if we want to achieve breath control to get through long passages without gasping.
Try this: when you’re not bending your elbows to type or scroll, let your arms hang loosely at your sides. Feel how there is an openness and the chest and throat feel more unlocked.
Practice this in your daily life and enjoy the ease that comes with relaxed elbows
I’m not your mama, but I’m here to remind you to sit and stand up straight! Your older self will be glad you did.
Here’s an easy way to do some posture re-education.
Posture taping with Kinesiology Tape can be a strong tool to remind you to lift your head, lower your shoulders, tuck your chin and un-slump. Best if you get a professional to show you how to tape properly and then have someone follow those instructions.
Remove the backing from a 9-inch piece of Kinesiology Tape and stretch it a little bit at the center of the piece. Have your buddy place the center of the tape between your shoulder blades while stretching it at the center, while you stand straight with your shoulders slightly back. Have them smooth both the ends of the tape in a diagonal direction and repeat on the other side, forming an X. Have them rub the tape vigorously and it should stay in place for about three days.
The slight retraction you feel will gently remind you to use good posture and the pulling sensation you feel, if you hunch forward, will alert you that you’re slouching!
Summer cold? Allergies? Feeling stuffy?
Lymphatic drainage massage is a safe way to give your Lymphatic System a boost, increasing the flow of Lymph through the Lymphatic vessels, nodes, and organs. Your body will increase its production of germ fighting white blood cells and antibodies.
Enjoy the sinus drainage that this little self-massage produces.
I promise it won’t add lines to your face as shown!
Today’s featured muscle is the Platysma, located at the front of the neck, just under the skin.
Large but very thin, it starts at the Collar Bone and goes upwards to the jaw and blends with the facial muscles into the cheek area. Its main action is making a grimacing facial expression
When you spend many hours looking down, the Platysma can become tight and inhibit the muscles underneath it, which are responsible for breathing, head movement, swallowing and chewing.
Give it a light and easy stretch before you tackle those pick-ups.
1. Place your fingers under your Collar Bone and press lightly in and down toward your feet.
2. Tilt your head down and SMILE.
3. Slowly tilt your head back keeping the tension on the area where your fingers are pressing.
4. Feel the deep stretch.
5. You can do one side at a time and feel the stretch way up into your face.
Wanna hang out together?
Hanging from a stable bar overhead has tremendous health benefits. After long periods of sitting or standing, hunching over our phones, or computers, hanging can:
-Decompress the spine
-Open the shoulders
I-mprove upper body mobility
-Open the ribcage, which leads to more efficient and fuller breaths
All of these are just what we need in our booth life.
Doorway pull up bars are available on Amazon and sporting goods stores everywhere.
Hang in there, guys!
Friends! Did you know that sitting for long periods can cause your butt muscles to “turn off?”
The muscles in the front of your hips can overpower the ones in the back (Gluteus Maximus and Medius) and can make them less responsive and “sleepy.” This can lead to back and hip pain, knee pain and weakness.
Here’s a self-massage technique for your lower back, hips and glutes to help wake them up.
1. Place a foam roller under your back of your Pelvis (the Sacrum)
2. Lift your knees and rock from side to side, going as far to each side as you comfortably can go. Grasp the ends of the foam roller for balance.
3. Do this for about a minute. Linger at tender spots to work them out.
What are you sitting on today? If it’s your foot, check this out.
Many people have the habit of perching on one foot while sitting, but that can cause trouble later.
Sitting on your foot can lead to pain in the knee, hip, ankle, back, ligament strain, Sciatic impingement, and even neck pain, as the wedge of your foot throws your alignment out of balance. It compresses nerves and blood vessels causing signal interruptions and twisting of tendons that can affect your gait.
If you are a foot sitter, try getting both feet flat on the floor.
Raise your knees to the level of your hips, by adjusting the height of your seat. You might try a foot stool to accomplish this.
If you do this to keep your foot warm, I recommend woolly socks.
I offer individualized sessions with posture and booth assessments for narrators here: https://mkbenson.com/coaching
We all know there are negative consequences to sitting all day, but what about those evenings, or when you’re through with work? Netflix is calling, or you want to read. How can we avoid more sitting during our relaxation time? Leg elevation is a good counterbalance to sitting or standing all day and holds health benefits such as:
-Helps blood to return to the heart using good old gravity.
-Helps Lymphatic Fluid to circulate, and reduces potential swelling.
-Helps prevent or ease vein conditions, such as varicose veins.
Use a pillow or two to raise your legs above the level of your heart and be sure your back is supported. Check with your doctor if you have a specific health condition, such as an injury.
Did you know that your “funny bone” is a nerve? Yep.
The Ulnar nerve starts at your neck, passes through your elbow, and travels to your ring & pinky fingers. Keeping your elbows bent a lot, or leaning on your elbows on a hard surface, like a desktop, can cause Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. The most common symptoms of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome are numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand or ring and little finger, especially when the elbow is bent.
So be sure you’re not using those elbows to prop yourself up while you’re reading, editing, narrating, emailing etc. “Elbows off the table!” Love, “Mom”
Have you ever felt like your shoulders have inched their way up to your earlobes after a day of narrating, deadlines, concentration, or bookkeeping?
Here’s an easy way to release that tension and bring back a feeling of “ahhhh” to your upper body.
Grasp one wrist behind your back and pull it down towards the floor.
Simultaneously, tilt your head in the opposite direction as if you’re trying to touch your ear to your shoulder.
Hold it, and feel how you can pull that wrist down further as the seconds tick by. Breathe.
You can nod your head a little bit to direct the stretch to different muscles of the neck.
Hold for 20-30 seconds on each side.
Remember that shoulders don’t make good earrings.
How did you sleep last night? If you’ve been improving your posture while working and relaxing, getting regular massages, getting some movement or exercise into your days, and you are still waking up with back pain or stiffness, it may be time to replace your mattress.
The Sleep Foundation says:
Generally speaking, you should replace your mattress if one or more of the following apply:
• It’s 6-8+ years old
• It’s negatively affecting your sleep
• It’s noticeably saggy or damaged in certain areas
• It’s making more noise than usual (noisy springs are common in old innerspring mattresses)
• You find that you sleep better at hotels or friends’ houses
• You notice an increase in allergies and/or asthma
• You regularly wake up with muscle or joint stiffness
Remember, it can take a couple of weeks to adjust to the new feel and support.
Joint cracking is not a sound we want in our audio files, right? But it happens, often with the slightest gesture or ankle shift.
They do agree that it is harmless, unless accompanied by pain, redness or swelling. They also agree that cracking your joints on purpose does not cause arthritis. They also agree that more movement in your daily life may reduce the cracking.
Do your joints snap, crackle and pop?
Have you seen your abdominal muscles lately? Maybe they’re hiding behind the holiday goodies we ate, but they are there, I promise.
Abs are part of your core and, when weak, contribute to slouching. NO SLOUCHING in the booth, guys!
Planks are one of the best core strengthening movements, and are done with no equipment.
It’s time for thankful Americans (and others) to warm up their Masseter muscles with self-massage. Keeping the strongest muscle (by weight) in your body loose and free will increase your ability to change your oral shapes, so you can improve your cool accents, gender and character voices.
If you’ve been putting in the work and it has made your wallet fat, good for you. Just remember that you may want to carry that wallet someplace other than your back pocket.
Sitting on your wallet throws your pelvis out of alignment, compressing one side of your back and overstretching the other side. It can cause an impingement of your Piriformis muscle, which can put too much pressure on your Sciatic nerve, causing back, hip, knee, and leg problems.
Try switching to the front pocket, carry a bag, or remove your wallet if you’re going to be sitting more than a few minutes.
How about a nice alligator purse?
Did you know that if you’re a side sleeper, you may be developing low back or hip pain while you sleep? Side sleepers often rotate their hips, causing torsion or twisting of the lumbar spine and undue tension across the hip that is in the upper position. Try sleeping with a knee pillow to keep your hips aligned all night long.
Sweet dreams, friends!
When I think of the most useful little self-care tool I’ve ever used, I think of the RICE SOCK. We have kept one in our household, always, for years.
It provides MOIST heat because the raw rice has a bit of moisture, which is emitted when it’s heated.It molds to any shape so it can be used on any body part.
Please don’t overheat it to a temperature that could burn your skin.
Replace the rice occasionally to refresh, but it will last for months.
You can get fancy and add dried herbs or flowers, but we like the smell of the rice alone.
Have you ever felt a little shrimpy after a long day of work?
Treat yourself to an unwinding stretch after a long period of sitting. You’ll be opening up the superficial front line of myofascial tissue of the body and uncurling that flexed forward posture.
Here, I’m using a foam roller, placed vertically along my spine and all I’m doing is laying on it with my arms spread open, feeling the release!
Thanks to Andy Garcia-Ruse for the truthful shrimp image.