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By Selena, 21/11/2017, Category:Breathing and Posture
So, onto exploding myths... You've heard of the diaphragm presumably? Yes, it's the muscle that stretches across our torso horizontally, at the base of the lungs and above all the abdominal organs. When it contracts, it flattens and pulls downwards, expanding the lungs so they fill up with air. When it relaxes, it domes upwards, sending air out of the lungs. Unfortunately, there is a plethora of mis-information and mis-guidance in books, on the internet, and in singing workshops and even private tuition. Take this for example: 'Use Your Diaphragm Your diaphragm is the muscle beneath your rib cage. Exhale hard and you will feel it contract. Take a deep breath and you will feel it expand. The lungs and diaphragm are a singer's best tools, especially when it comes to volume. Fill your lungs with air before you sing a series of loud notes, and use your diaphragm to project those notes to the audience.' Apart from the obvious errors in this extract from an internet source, (compare the info with what I said above), what I want to expose here is that it says ' you will feel it expand' and 'use your diaphragm..'. You will hear this stuff a lot, aswell as phrases such as 'sing from your diaphragm' or 'breathe with your diaphragm'. (And these are the only phrases I remember from my teenage classical singing lessons)... This is the myth. These directions are wrong...in a different way to what you might expect: Basically there are no nerve endings in the diaphragm, so we cannot feel it, and thus we cannot actually follow instructions such as these. However, of course you breathe with your diaphragm! (See the diagram above, it's correct) You always have breathed with your diaphragm, (in concert with other muscles) every day of your life! So there's no point in anyone telling you to do so, or to 'use' it in a certain way, because it happens automatically! Sure, when you exhale you feel your tummy go in, and when you inhale you feel your tummy go out, and your chest expand slightly, this is because your whole torso has to make room for the expanded lungs. So, what do you need to know or do about the diaphragm and breathing? I just need to concede that, not everyone does breathe as well as they could with their diaphragm. Many people breathe shallowly, which means the diaphragm is less fully employed and they are doing more with their chest. So, we actually need to know that it's not just the diaphragm, but a whole inter-related set of muscles in and around the torso and abdomen that need to be engaged, and importantly, can be engaged through conscious exercises, in order to achieve optimal breathing for singing. We need to fill our lungs up quickly and effectively, and be able to release the air in them at just the right pace and strength for the phrase we are singing. This, for most people, involves letting go of some ingrained muscular habits and replacing them with better ones. The good news is that this is easy to learn for most people and it makes you feel really good! A quick tip: I'm not going to go into a whole exercise in depth here today, but a nice way to start to grasp this better way of breathing is this: Inwardly watch your natural breathing rhythm. On every outbreath, let yourself relax more, and let go of any holding tension in the tummy, abdomen, back and sides. When you feel the breath is about to come back in, let a smile appear in your throat. This helps to open up the vocal folds so that air can replenished easily instead of with an unhealthy, active sucking motion. The way we breathe affects every sound we make and influences the way we feel and communicate, and the power of our singing. All in all, optimal singing for breathing is actually a real art, as it requires the fine co-ordination of several bodyparts; aswell as requiring the un-doing, for many, of years of unhelpful habits! In fact, it's a skillset that warrants a several hours of training. And if you've read this far I take it you're interested in improving your breathing-for-singing. So I'm very pleased to tell you that I offer a Mini-course, called Breathe Right For Singing, for individuals or small groups. In it, we cover all the aspects I've mentioned here, and more; in fact everything that's important to enable you to breathe with ease when you're singing, creating smoothness, flow, power and confidence. The Mini-Course tackles all the key singers breathing challenges, and transforms your bad habits into good ones. Not only that, but it's fun, energising , and good for your health! So check out Breathe Right For Singing which can take place either in person at my Singing Space in Dartington Totnes, Devon, or online through a Video Call. I'd be delighted to work with you! Or if you just want some valuable but closely guarded FREE STUFF to help with your breathing, then register for my free video - 3 Little-Known Ways To Get More Breath For Your Singing - It can make an instant impact for you!
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