If you’re an American parent, there’s a good chance you and/or your spouse relied on the Lamaze technique during childbirth. A medical intervention developed by French obstetrician Dr. Fernand Lamaze in the 1940s, it helps a mother cope with the physical pain of bringing a baby into the world. It may also be effective in managing the anxiety of performing in front of others.
A recent interview with comedian Bill Hader reveals that Lamaze helped him cope with a different sort of pain, stage right, during his time as a regular cast member on the NBC television program Saturday Night Live.
As Hader tells it:
My wife would have to come down and actually do breathing techniques that she learned in Lamaze class with me,” he recalled. “Like, ‘Horse breath — look at me — horse breath, relax.’ And we would go through my sketches. . . . But then you keep going, and was a lot of fun.
Hader, who was a central part of the Saturday Night Live cast from 2005 to 2013, is well-known for a number of the recurring characters he portrayed. They included the flamboyant New York night-life correspondent Stefon.
Is using Lamaze for stage fright as wacky as some of Hader’s characters? Not really if you think about it.
Lamaze breathing techniques utilize several breathing patterns in order to encourage relaxation. . . . Examples of breathing patterns include inhaling for five seconds, then breathing out for five seconds. . . . When utilized properly, Lamaze breathing techniques are designed to keep you focused on breathing—not on pain experienced during childbirth.
That sounds very much like the sort of breathing technique found in mindfulness exercises like those at the heart of Goodbye Butterflies, and it has the same goal. It brings you detachment. In the case of childbirth, it’s detachment from physical pain. With performance anxiety, it’s detachment from your worried thinking.