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Viviann Napp view profile
Chilliwack, Canada

More Articles
by Viviann Napp

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Public Speaking Is Like Yoga

Recently, I was deep in thought, thinking about my last speech I needed to present to complete my first Competent Communicator manual for Toastmasters. With my legs outstretched over my head in the plow position, it suddenly dawned on me that yoga and public speaking share a lot of similarities.

Even though I don't attend yoga classes I try to practice some of the poses that help me to prepare for and recuperate from my weekly robust workouts at Crossfit.

First of all, it's a question of balance. In yoga, the goal is to not fall over while holding a pose. We strive for a balanced mind and body while cultivating a consistent connection between the two. When speaking publicly, we also aim to be balanced and open-minded in our perspectives and how we treat others.

A good speech needs to take into account other points of view as well. When it is balanced it will have a better chance of appealing to more listeners and possibly even win them over, which brings us to the second requirement of a good public speaker.

Part of the skill set members of Toastmasters acquire is the ability to be unhurried and methodical in the decision-making process. Weekly club meetings consist of constructive evaluations of members' speeches and only when the speech has been presented is any feedback given. Members work as a team to help each other reach their public speaking goals as they work their way through the various manuals that consist of such titles as Storytelling, Professional Speaking and Persuasive Speaking. Rash behavior is to be avoided in conflict resolution situations. When we evaluate, we do it in a kind manner. Thoughtful moves are encouraged.

Another essential skill to learn is breathing. We should breathe deeply and smile inwardly and outwardly. Controlled breathing helps to settle the mind and smiling bonds the listener with the speaker. Butterflies in the stomach are held at bay and nerves are calmed. The practice of yoga too requires careful, controlled breathing so that the focus is on arriving at a calm state of awareness.

Next, practice regularly. Consistent practice will help us to improve our public speaking skills. In yoga too, it takes repeated practice to master the poses. Initially, I could barely keep my balance doing the Warrior pose but now, after months of routinely going over and over the pose, I can do it pain free and over long stretches of time.

Flexibility is another important goal to strive for. Stretching our talents and abilities, just like the yogini, can bring us to incredible achievements. By focusing on the stretch, the public speaker can attain incredible victories in their career. If for example your projector for your Power Point Presentation goes on the blink, a compliant outlook will guide you to an alternative solution that could offer hidden benefits you'd never considered. You're forced to come up with an alternative way to give that presentation so your creativity takes the front row seat.

Another goal to work towards is strength. The stronger you are the easier those yoga poses will become. A strong, passionate speaker will inspire and motivate her audience. The student of yoga will be able to maintain yoga positions more easily with a firm core and strong arms. But strength also lies in how we evaluate others.


Toastmasters members are polite and brief in their evaluation of members' speeches. We don't knock you down, but build you up. Constructive feedback will empower the speakers to reach the rewards that are within reach for everyone.

And finally, we try to be mindful. As in yoga, speakers should be in the moment. If our goal is to connect with the audience, we need to be totally present and observe their responses to our message. Only then can we make the all-important contact with their thoughts and feelings. Yoga students too must learn how to master body­mind awareness so that each moment and movement are appreciated fully.

Perhaps the greatest benefit from practicing yoga and public speaking is getting to know ourselves better. We learn about our strengths, weaknesses and the potential we have for implementing them. Life starts to take on new colours and only when we look into that kaleidoscope can we really gauge what we are all capable of achieving.

They say the greatest fear most people have is that of speaking in front of the public. Imagine how empowered we can all feel if we meet that challenge head on with the right set of tools as described above.

[Image Credit: public domain]

Posted on November 15, 2016 in Success Factory by Viviann Napp

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