Pilates Practice for Singing and what are some of the most effective exercises?
There are many pilates exercises which are beneficial to singing practice. We are engaging many of the same muscles with focus on centering, concentration, precision, control, breath and flow which are the 6 Principles of Pilates and often a source of focus in singing study. Here are a few samples of effective pilates moves for singing practice:
Planks: Strengthens core muscles and engages abdominal muscles in the same way we should engage abdominal muscles to initiate and stop airflow for singing. Planks may be done on elbows on floor or ball (as shown) or on hands.
Chest lift with rotation: Engages and strengthens core muscles for breath control.
Spine twist and Side Lift : Strengthens side abdominal muscles and stretches vertebrae for good posture and breath engagement
Corkscrew: Strengthens all abdominal muscles and focus on control and flow of movement. Slow controlled breath to initiate the movement and throughout the movement very effective for how engaged abs should be while singing a phrase.
Thread the Needle (Shoulder Stretch): Opens back and shoulders to increase expansion of ribs and ease of breathing. So important to singing!
Side Stretch (Sitting or Standing): Opens side for ease of expansion for breathing in singing and articulates length of spine from the side. As you stretch, imagine your spine growing in length by adding space in between vertebrae. On returning to center, you should feel more space in your spine and side and stand taller with more buoyancy in your stance.
Cat and Cow Stretch and Swan Prep: Work the back extensors and latissimus dorsi and strenghten while articulating the spine. Eases back pressure and add space in between vertebrae for better overall posture while singing.
Spine articulations with Spine Stretch (seated) : This works the separation of the vertebrae in the spine. While contracting abs, forward motion with arm reach stretches and separates lower spine. Upon return to upright sitting, a taller and more separated spine. This is excellent to undo the crunch we put on our lower spine with sitting.
Bridge: In bridge work, you are contracting back and abdominal muscles simultaneously. The initial bridge opens the back vertebrae and lowering bridge you can articulate each vertebrae coming down one at a time and separating to release tension. At the same time, you work the glutes and hamstrings for a tall energized stance for singing. The more agile the spine, the better for singing.
Many of these poses come from a paper on Pilates and the Classical Singer https://d3a512p2kajs89.cloudfront.net/media/paper/-pilates-and-the-classical-singer.pdf
In Pilates we work to free the muscles of the head, neck and shoulders and work on strengthening the core stabilizers (abdominal muscles). We reduce outside tensions and open the resonating chambers of the body, creating a more resonant (freer) singing voice. We establish more core awareness and stability in connection with making a resonant sound and help to build the foundation of a strong and resilient singing voice. Some basic Pilates study will help you find strength from within your own body to enhance the beautiful singing you know lies within you. Imagine the freedom you get in your singing voice when your posture is wonderful and your core muscles are truly connected to your sound! Let me know how this impacts your singing!