Michael White knows what you’re thinking.
A breathing coach? Really? No, thanks. I’ve been doing it all my life. I think I know how.
But the truth, he said, is that most don’t. And enough asthmatics, stutterers, entertainers and athletes have sought his help to convince him of that.
In holistic circles, White is known as the Optimal Breathing Coach. He lives off Sunhaven Court in University City, but he travels the world, from Singapore to Hawaii, helping people master their breathing.
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The professional harmonica player who wants more lung capacity. The opera singer who has lost her ability to hold high notes. The upper-level executive who crumbles when speaking in front of large crowds.
The list goes on and on. They all credit White with helping them successfully overcome their individual issues, from such health concerns as COPD (chronic blockages in the lungs), emphysema and asthma to emotional issues such as depression, phobias and anger.
A large percentage of his clients use the performance enhancement techniques he’s developed to improve everything from singing to concentration to peaking their energy levels.
In a YouTube video, Jerry Nelson – a Muppeteer most popular for voicing The Count on “Sesame Street” – praised White for helping him breathe well enough to get through the long recording sessions required by his job. Before meeting White, Nelson, who suffers from COPD, couldn’t even carry on a conversation.
“There just wasn’t enough air in there,” he said. Since his sessions with White, the puppeteer barely needs to use his inhaler. “I’ve been able to cut back on my aerosol for breathing, not just in half, but only one time a day, whereas I normally would use it four times a day.”
White knows some may be skeptical. After all, everybody has plenty of practice breathing, since we really have no choice if we want to keep living.
But are we doing it correctly? And if we aren’t, how does it affect us?
“There’s an ancient adage that breath is life,” said White. “Sounds kind of ‘woo-woo,’ right? But it’s true. There’s nothing that breath doesn’t somehow get involved in.”
Most people are shallow breathers, said White, and it affects their health in some manner. “A lot of people have bad breathing. And that is really the issue.”
White didn’t begin studying breathing to help others. It was born out of his own personal desire to sing again.
“When I was 11, I sang a cappella for the school and loved it. We sang every day for 45 minutes in fifth grade,” he said.
But a traumatic event in his childhood, said White, seemed to choke out that singing voice. “I couldn’t sing anymore. There was something about that trauma,” he said. “I just sort of went on with my life.”
As an adult he visited a singing coach who told him his problem came from a locked-up breathing pattern.
White began studying books on better breathing. He started consulting with choir leaders and athletic coaches.
After years of studying the breathing theorists, he began improving on their techniques and eventually became the person others sought for advice.
Today, he’s happy to share the knowledge he spent years tracking down. It’s the foundation to a better life, he said:
“Breath reflects and affects everything that you do.”