In this continuing video series, I’d like to share with you some breathing exercises to help you develop something called kinesthetic awareness, which is a sense of where your body is in space and how the different parts of your body are interacting with each other. Check out my first video in the series for a more in depth explanation.
It’s no secret that good breathing technique is the foundation for a balanced voice. The more you fine tune your breath awareness, the more you will become aware of other aspects of your instrument. These exercises will help you start to integrate your breath with your singing to keep you in your body, and help develop a more fully present sound.
The diaphragm can operate as a limited voluntary muscle or an involuntary muscle, which allows us to slow down it’s upward movement. This creates a small stream of air or feeling of singing on held air necessary for maintaining that balance of air pressure under the vocal folds.
In addition to the diaphragm, there are 36 accessory muscles used in breathing. If we have a kinesthetic awareness of the general areas of those muscles, like the chest, back and abdominal areas, breath management will become more natural and automatic.
I love using exercise balls in my studio - they are wonderful tools to facilitate physical stability, awareness and release tension.
The ball drape exercise goes like this - lie on exercise ball to compress chest wall - it allows for awareness of a released ribcage and opens the chest wall. Feel your back and belly expanding as you breathe. Then get off the ball and stay on your knees and notice how open and free your chest and breathing feel.
The next is the rubber band breath, which helps to give awareness of dropping the breath deep into the body. This exercise simulates the action of the diaphragm. To prepare for this exercise, tighten up your lower body, your abs and pelvic floor muscles and try to take a breath - you probably feel lots of pressure in your throat.
Now release those muscles and try it again and notice the difference - you just became kinesthetically aware of a free breath!
The bicep curl breath gives awareness of the lower abdominal and pelvic floor muscles needed for breath support. It facilitates awareness of the gentle engagement of these muscles.
This next one I borrowed from a master class with Thomas Hampson, a world class baritone. I call it anchor but float. So stomp your feet into floor, and float the ribcage up while you hiss out. As long as the body maintains this feeling of lift, you should be able to move the breath freely with a connected feeling.