Breathing. Our lives began with a first breath, and we will all have a final breath in this world someday. Breathing is something that we do all day and all night without even thinking about it. If you think about it now, you took at least a couple of breaths so far while reading this, right? Breathing is important for all of us!
Focused breathing is different from normal breathing. It might be called mindful, or focused, or other terms, but it is when you are consciously thinking about your breathing as you do it. Focused breathing is often used in yoga, childbirth, counseling, hypnosis, meditation, and more. But would it be useful for singing?
There are many benefits to singing! Deeper and better breathing is just one of them. Breath and air are the foundation of what we need when we are singing. When I am warming up and when I am teaching voice students, we spend time with breathing exercises. Now you might be thinking - why exercise? I breathe all the time anyway – I don't need to exercise! But really, how deeply are you breathing?
Have you ever watched an infant sleep? You don't see their shoulders move. It looks like their abdomen is moving! What you are seeing is their diaphragm moving. The diaphragm is an upside-down, bowl-shaped muscle that helps us take deeper breaths. Try this little experiment – stand in front of a mirror, put one hand on your abdomen, and one on your back. Now take a breath where your shoulders move up. Breathe out. Now take another breath, this one deeper (where your shoulders don't move), and feel your hands move as your diaphragm expands outward. Which breath felt like you took in more air? Which breath felt like you were more ready to sing? And finally, which breath was more relaxing to you? It was the second one, of course!
When singing, diaphragmatic breathing is the best! It is a deeper breath that can help give you a little confidence, help you prepare to sing, provides support for the notes you must sustain and hold longer, takes the pressure off your vocal cords (if you are singing correctly), and gives you more control as you sing. Plus diaphragmatic breathing is healthy for you!
How is breathing from your diaphragm better for your health? This article from the American Heart Association states that singing “seems to have a particularly strong impact on lung function.” In other words, using your diaphragm helps your lungs take in more air, and use that air efficiently.
Another article talks about how singing can help those suffering from the effects of COVID and other respiratory issues. Singing, when you are using your diaphragm and taking deep breaths, you are working the diaphragm muscle. What happens when you are using your muscles training for a sport or weightlifting? They get stronger! So, using your diaphragm will make IT stronger, too! Finally, an article from Harvard Health tells of more general benefits to our health from diaphragmatic breathing.
So, better and more efficient breathing is just one benefit of singing and is great for your overall health!
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