Aaand breathe

I went running in the beautiful sunshine this morning. I was (obviously) breathing and I was struck by the sense of serenity as a result of the world taking a breath. So, what better topic for today’s blog.

Breathing is such an enormous topic and I have done a lot of work on breath over the years so there’s a lot I want to say. I’m breaking it down into bitesize tips and tricks and shall keep returning to it over the course of my blogs. Today I start with breathing out.

Before I start any rehearsal, concert or show, I do some yoga. It ranges from a full sun salutation to a few forward folds or down dogs. But if I’m really short on time, I’ll do a simple cat to awaken the tummy muscles.

Start in a tabletop position (on all fours) and make sure you’re grounded by pushing your hands, shins and tops of the feet into the floor. Then, arch your back upwards as you breathe out, focussing on the feeling of pulling your belly button through to the spine. In a normal yoga cat-cow, the breath is relaxed and slow but for the specific purpose of preparing to sing, I modify the pose to include an explosive breath out at the same time as arching the back.

Once you’re confident with the sensation of pulling the belly button through to the spine, the next step is to try and emulate it while standing. Of course, now you lose the resistance of the floor beneath your hands and shins, and you can’t rightly arch your back in the middle of a performance(!) so the only thing we can retain is the focus on pulling the belly button through to the spine. When practising, it might help to imagine a thread attached to your belly button, that goes through your tummy and out of your back. If you imagine someone pulling this as you breathe out, your lower abdomen should move in the correct way.

There’s so much more to say. I want to talk about the muscles involved and those that definitely shouldn’t be! I also need to deal with breathing in and then, how singers control the out breath to handle long phrases and to change pitch and dynamics. But that’s for another day and hopefully you’ll have made a good start if you try the cat and belly button thread while you’re singing at home.

We all need to remember to breathe in these times and I hope this gives you a foundation from which to continue your own journey of discovery.

Stay cheered and healthy, lots of love xx

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