As a vocal empowerment coach and professional singer, breath is a part of my everyday work and study. In addition to breathing each moment (albeit sometimes more deeply than others), I teach people how to harness the power of their breath and how it supports their speaking and singing voices.
When consciously breathing, I feel my diaphragm muscle rise and fall, and both my rib cage and belly expand and contract. As I watch my clients do breathing exercises, I help them adjust their minds and bodies to release mental and physical tension, so they can allow their breath to flow.
What I’ve learned from a lifetime of breathing, and 15 years of using breath professionally, is this: When we relax our mind and body just enough, our body knows exactly what to do! When relaxed, we don’t need to focus upon our learned technique, because it is in our innate wisdom and cellular memory to breathe, sing and expressively share our voices. Our breath naturally supports our voice, as it brings life-giving oxygen to our cells.
But how many of us in our fast-paced, over-stimulated world can just walk into a full room, feel relaxed, and sing an aria or speak freely without feeling even a tinge of nervousness?
Learning to relax enough to healthfully engage the breath for singing and speaking — in our world — is becoming a new learned practice. Remember: we can sing freely and clearly when truly relaxed. It’s why many of us have no inhibitions in the car or in the shower, but being in front of a group — even tipsy at Karaoke — can subconsciously trigger people to tighten up, shorten their breath, and thus, feel strained when trying to sing.
The process of relaxing enough to sing or speak with full breath support entails noticing our fear of judgment, realizing how we are concerned about our voices cracking, and how we may have been told we couldn’t sing, or freely express ourselves, as a child.
When we bring our awareness to the body for long enough, and allow ourselves to breathe into these places that feel scared, stuck or hurt, our mind can relax. Singing and speaking in front of others is one of our collective’s biggest fears. However, with more relaxation, which comes from more conscious breathing, we not only breathe more deeply, but we also feel the inner calm that helps us express our whole selves.