Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Yoga and singing

As spring is literally sprung upon me with all of the preparations for recitals, concerts, summer programming, baseball seasons, and pre-prep for the 2017-2018 school year, I find myself in need of regrouping and taking time to focus my mind and body to get everything done in a relatively calm manner.  I am reminded of how much my yoga practice has helped me with this in the past and how it helps my singing and my students.  Yoga and singing are a wonderful combination.

 Yoga calms your breath and nerves, opens up the body to breathe better, elongates your spine for better posture and therefore breath support.  It helps your brain to focus and reminds you that with careful planning and relaxing you can get it all done.

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.

Instead, 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

Experiment and find some basic yoga poses which help to center YOU for singing practice, performance, and to get it all done!  My favorites are Warrior I, Warrior II, Reverse Warrior, Child's Pose,  and Tree Pose.  Give them a try before you practice and see how it affects your singing.  Pause and try one or two when you feel overwhelmed with all that life brings to your plate.  How does it help you?

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