Friday, April 18, 2014
Yoga and Balance are synonymous. But how can yoga and balance related activities help your singing!
As an avid yogi, I often discuss the benefits of yoga for the singing voice to my students. It calms your breath and nerves, opens up the body to breathe better, elongates your spine for better posture and therefore breath support. A myriad of benefits. Lets look at the science as to why!
In Make Your Unstable Life Work for You, Claudia Friedlander describes the science of how the balance of yoga can really help your singing! I was fascinated with how she described what I use often in my studio. I highly recommend what she has to say! Let me try to explain it with a few references to her words (in italics):
Stand up and find your balance on one foot, bringing your other foot up to your calf or above your knee, and raise your hands above your head (tree pose). Feel how you find balance and how your leg, hip, ankle adjust to keep the balance. It is a series of continuous, incremental adjustments. Find a sustained phrase from your repertoire that is challenging and sing it while in this pose. You may find that this passage is now much easier to sing. WHY? Finding this balance has put your neuromuscular system on high alert making all motor activity that you engage in benefit. It cannot lock up like your knees might or stop and start as the breath might because everything is going in to you keeping your balance. This makes total sense.
As Friedlander states, Singing, like balancing, is a continuous activity. The more you think about locking up a part of your body to balance, the more possible it is for you to fall over. The more you think about holding pitches rather than continuing the breath through them, the more difficult they are to sustain. Find activities that promote stability through continuous movement such as tree pose, walking the phrase, or pretending to throw a baseball with a slow follow through.
Balance and stabilization can:
- Enhance body awareness (improve your mind/body connection to your voice)
- Promotes good posture (free larynx, improve resonance, coordinate better breathing)
- Make you more comfortable and graceful moving on stage
- Stabilize your joints so that you can safely exercise and maximize your stamina (cardio and strength training)
- Teaches your neuromuscular system to create stability through continuous movement that impacts all of your physical activities
Singers should have a workout regimen that includes stabilization training to balance their muscles. Challenging your ability to keep your balance and maintain good posture throughout a series of movements prepares your body and your nervous system to perform movements requiring greater strength and fine motor coordination. (Fine motor coordination that is essential to quality singing).
How do you do this?
A variety of activities but specifically Yoga, stability ball activities, and functional strength activities (keeping your balance on one foot while manipulating small dumbbells in bicep curls) are a few ways to get started. As you exercise in these ways, you are challenging your body and brain to stabilize through movement. This works on the neuromuscular control necessary to develop stability both physically and in your singing.
Secure vocal technique is characterized by stable, consistent tone production. This requires superb coordination and balance of everything that contributes to singing. Until you find this, you are tempted to lock up and stiffen things. Like physical stability, vocal stability is the result of continuous directed movement. The way to get it is to expose the instabilities in your technique so that you can improve overall balance in the voice rather than gripping.
In other words, use balance related activities and workout regimens to help you truly balance your vocal technique and release tension. Give it a try, it's pure genius!