Do you want to take your singing to the next level? Are you struggling to connect your body with your voice? Have you tried Yoga? I have been practicing yoga on and off for years and the main reason I always return to yoga is because it improves and enhances my singing.
Yoga is like cross-training for singers. Yes, we need to keep our voices in shape by singing every day. Through my Vocal Wednesdays series, I’ve encouraged you to explore warm-ups to help keep you vocally in shape and technically sound. However, many of the muscles involved in singing are outside of the larynx (voice box). As such, it is equally important that we keep our bodies active, flexible and strong. What are the benefits of yoga for singing? Yoga will improve your breathing, alignment, reduce tension, and improve your focus and concentration. I’ve compiled a few poses in each area that will help you improve your singing.
Breathing – Yoga connects breath with movement. This patterned way of breathing slows the breath process and encourages managed air. It strengthens the muscles of breathing for singing by strengthening and stretching the external and internal intercostal muscles and the abdominal muscles (internal and external obliques). Here are poses that will improve your breathing:
- CHAIR POSE (Utkatasana) – strengthens legs, external intercostal muscles (important for keeping the ribcage lifted while singing) and abdominal muscles. This is a great exercise to do while singing a high note. Try it to hear and feel the magic of this pose!
2. FISH POSE (Matsyasana) – stretches the intercostal muscles (the external intercostal muscle helps pull the rib cage up and back–very important during exhalation), the upper back, neck and stimulates the throat.
3. PLANK – strengthens the abdominal muscles (used in exhalation for singing).
4. TADASANA LATERAL BEND – This one feels soooo good and it is my FAVORITE exercise to stretch the rib muscles (intercostal muscles). You may also feel a stretch in the hips. This pose can also be done lying on the floor.
ALIGNMENT- Yoga strengthens the postural muscles. Alignment is the home base for both yoga and singing. When we are aligned for singing the muscles can work more efficiently.
5. MOUNTAIN POSE (Tadasana) – strengthens feet and legs and trains proper alignment for singing.
6. LIZARD (Utthana Prisana) – opens the chest, stretches the upper back muscles that keep the chest lifted during singing.
7. COBRA (Bhujangasana) – stretches and strengthens the muscles of the upper back.
8. LOCUST (Ardha Salabhasana) – strengthens the muscles along the spine, the gluteus and the abdominals.
REDUCE TENSION – muscle tension is one of the most common symptoms of emotional or physical stress. When you are under stress your fight-flight system kicks into high gear causing your muscles to bunch up. Yoga can release those bunched up muscles and calm your nervous system. The yoga style of breathing in and out of each pose helps calm the nervous system. Try adding the following poses to your daily routine to help release tension.
9. REVOLVED TRIANGLE – relieves tightness in the shoulders and increases flexibility in the spine.
10. CAT POSE (Marjaryasana) – releases tension in the back and neck.
11. COW POSE (Bitilasana) – stretches the chest and neck.
12. LION (Simhasana) – releases tension in the face, neck and tongue. Just seeing if you are paying attention! Isn’t he cute? I couldn’t resist! Instructions for pose here.
IMPROVE FOCUS AND CONCENTRATION – the following poses are all balance poses. They help increase focus and physical and mental confidence. My favorite is the tree pose!
13. TREE POSE (Vrksasana)
14. WARRIOR THREE (Virabhadra)
15. ONE-FOOTED STANDING BIG TOE HOLDING POSTURE (Utthita Eka Padangusthasana)
WHERE DO I BEGIN?
If you are new to Yoga you may feel overwhelmed trying to figure out where to start. No worries! I’ve compiled a list of places to find a yoga instructor or class. Just a note: When you are looking for classes you will find there are many different kinds of yoga. Just focus on taking a beginner level class and as you become more advanced you can learn all the different kinds of yoga and experiment to find which one you like best.
- Local class – check out your local Park & Rec Department, YMCA, or yoga studio. Ask a friend!
- yogadownload.com– this is my absolute favorite place to get my yoga class. They have a wide variety and easy search engine where you can sort the sessions by instructor, time, style of yoga, level of difficulty and the focus (abs, buns, back, etc.). They have a combination of both video and audio with a downloadable file that has pictures of each pose in the sequence it is performed. They also have an app for ios and android, but it only has 20 minute classes on it.
- Youtube has a wealth of yoga videos. Look at these channels for great yoga classes
- Apps– the best yoga apps of 2015 according to healthline
Are you ready to to take the steps to improve your singing? These yoga poses can strengthen and stretch the muscles used in singing. In my own personal yoga practice, I have noticed the biggest changes in breathing and reduced tension. I want that for you! I want you to feel open and relaxed and free in your singing! If 15 or 20 minutes a day could change that for you wouldn’t it be worth it?
I challenge you to try yoga every day for 30 days. Start today–don’t wait! Follow me on Facebook and I’ll let you know what yoga I’m doing each day. Share your start date in the comments below and then we’ll meet up again in 30 days and share our experiences. Are you with me? Let’s do it!