Day 15: Tummy trouble

From the age of 14, I was big into rowing and spent my spare time messing about on the river. I carried on with sport into my 20s and whether it was running, hockey or Zumba, I had developed a habit of tensing my rectus abdominis at the start of a race, match or workout as a matter of course. It became a psychological signal that I was about to try hard at something.

When I took up singing, the muscle memory kicked in. So, the rectus abdominis engaged at the start of every performance. I couldn’t understand why this was a problem. People were telling me that a strong core was vital to good singing support and mentally, it felt like a show of my determination.

I’ve had many coaches and teachers over the last five years who’ve advocated the accent method – an holistic therapy regime that helps with breathing and voice production – but it was while at the Associated Studios that I learnt one of my most memorable lessons from Linda Hutchison.

She explained the importance of engaging the transversus abdominis to control the breath and support the voice, and at one fell swoop knocked the rectus abdominis out of play completely. Being told that any tension in this muscle group was completely useless to the singing mechanism and in fact, entirely counter productive, was a turning point.

Today’s vlog tip of placing a finger lightly on the tummy, just below the belly button, and pulling the latter away using only the muscles deep inside the abdomen and into the back, comes courtesy of Linda.

Muscle memory, especially linked to the brain and past experiences, is a fascinating concept and the power it holds over us never ceases to amaze me. I work on this particular aspect of technique every single day. I even work on it in the course of my triathlon training and during yoga. Yet, in the most important moments – at the start of big performances and auditions – habit can get the better of me and I still have a way to go to eradicate the misplaced tension entirely.

Today’s tip is fun to try no matter what level you sing at and it’s useful in the context of other sports and pursuits so give it a go and let me know what you discover.

Stay cheered, stay healthy and explore your core. Lots of love xx

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