David’s Baseball Lesson No. 3:
An Unknown But Powerful Technique When Batting: Breathing
Did you read the 2nd Lesson that I sent to you a week ago. If not, please take the time now. Even if you did read it, it may be a good idea to read it again because the concept of seeing the ball is so critically important.
In this lesson you will learn something that I know you won’t hear anywhere else. It is a very powerful technique but you absolutely have to work on it. Just about all my students say it is the most difficult things to do when you are playing, but it can be the most incredible one you will do. You may be wondering what this powerful techniques is. It involves a breathing pattern when you bat, throw, or catch.
Here is a story about this breathing. When I was one of the assistant coaches for my son’s Little League Team, I was working with the pitchers as my son was one of them. One of the biggest issue I have with all pitchers is that they hold their breath when they throw. I was talking with the kids about exhaling when they pitched and what I didn’t know was that the head coach was listening. He was a really good player and was a pitcher on his League Team. About three weeks after he was listening to me tell the kids to breathe while throwing, he told me that he tried breathing when he pitched and found that he was much more consistent and more accurate.
This is just not an extreme case,and you may also see improvement in your throwing immediately if you will do what I talk about in this lesson. The same can be said about every aspect in your play so please read this lesson on how to breathe and apply it.
This is just another one of a number of concepts and techniques that will really help you play.
In the next Lesson, I will show you another greatly undervalued but also powerful technique. This will come in 7 days so, in the meantime, you can practice this lesson.
An Unknown But Powerful Technique When Batting: Breathing
After seeing the ball as described in a previous lesson , the second most important thing to focus on is your breathing. This is because focusing on your breathing keeps the upper body more relaxed, thereby allowing your body to hit the ball better.
If any of you have taken a yoga class, you will know that breathing is a big part of getting the full benefit from it. Baseball is no different except that you will be using the breathing to stay in the here and now, as well as using it to help you learn how to keep your “conscious mind” out of the way. And, like yoga, working with your breathing, helps you relax properly.
The breathing is the most important part of the relaxation package (I discuss the full relaxation package in my book Playing Zen-Sational Baseball) and you will need to work on it as much as seeing the ball.
Here is how the breathing should work.
The first thing to do is to check to see if you are holding your breath when you swing at the ball. Without this ability to consciously pay attention to yourself breathing, it will be difficult to work on changing your breathing pattern in the way I describe next.
Once you have the ability to pay attention to your breathing, you can start working on the quality and rhythm of it. Here is what I consider to be the most effective and natural breathing pattern while swinging.
Start your exhale as the ball leaves the pitcher‟s hand. This exhale should be a sigh that is long, slow, and relaxed and should continue well through contact with the ball. At the same time, of course, you are consciously seeing the ball all the way to the blur of your bat. You don’t have to concern yourself with your inhales as I guarantee that you will do it.
Exhaling as you hit is a very natural way to breathe, so all you have to do is start your exhale as the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, make it smooth and relaxed, and make it longer than usual. It doesn’t get any easier than that.
Again, while you are working with your breathing, you still need to be focusing on the ball all the way to the blur of the bat keeping your focus on the contact point for a short time. However, you may want to forget about seeing the ball for a while and just work on the breathing part.
After you have spent some time with the breathing, you must then see if you can do both at the same time. Achieving both the correct breathing and seeing the ball, and without judgment and trying, is the ultimate focus and leads to hitting the ball really well.
One of the ways I help myself pay attention to my breathing is to make a little sound (always a relaxed sigh) as I exhale. It is not a grunt, and no one else can hear me (well, maybe the catcher and/or the umpire), but it is loud enough so that I can hear it inside my head.
The important points to remember are that no matter what, the exhale should always be very relaxed (like a sigh) and that you start it as the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand and continue it long past contact. Because you don’t know if you are going to actually swing at the ball, you will still start your exhale.
Doing both, seeing the ball and breathing, while you swing is not easy. It takes a lot of work and a lot of letting go. Please don’t let that keep you from working on your breathing.
The obvious way to work on it is to just hit balls and see if you can pay attention to your breathing, forgetting, for the moment, about seeing the ball. However, if you are playing a real game that is important to you and can’t yet focus on both the ball and your breathing, I would rather have you just focus on the ball. I guess what I am trying to say is that when playing an important game, it is not the time to practice the way you breathe, but it is the time to have your breathing be as relaxed as possible, even if you can’t consciously focus on it.
Another way to work on breathing, even in a practice game, is to just pay attention to yourself exhaling for two pitches. This means from the time the first ball is pitched to when the second ball is pitched and includes the time in between pitches. And, of course, any thought of trying to see the ball or trying to hit the ball needs to be eliminated. If you happen to see the ball well at the same time, that would be wonderful and an added bonus, but your main purpose is to work on your breathing.
Use the next two pitches just seeing the ball. Again, make sure that you are focusing on the ball from the time the ball leaves the pitchers hand to the time the second ball is pitched. Likewise, if you happen to feel yourself breathing at the same time, that is even better.
Then see if you can pay attention to both exhaling and seeing the ball for two pitches. The ultimate goal here is to program the other than conscious mind to have the breathing be very relaxed. Just as when you are seeing the ball and you are playing a real game, you need to get the conscious mind out of the way and again let your “other than conscious mind” keep your breathing relaxed.
Now go play the mental game.