When I ask new students about their breathing, they often say something like “Well, I think you’re supposed to breathe from here” (pointing to the middle of their bodies). Of course, there are no holes of any sort in the middle of our bodies(!) so, no we don’t inhale from there!
We inhale through our mouth (it’s impractical to breathe through a closed mouth when we’re needing to sing words, just as it’s impractical for us to breathe through a closed mouth when we’re in full chatting mode!) and inflate our lungs as a result, if we’re breathing properly, that is. The majority of people who come along for lessons are either:
• Breathing in such a shallow way that it’s hard to tell if they’re breathing at all!
• Or they’re breathing in an exaggerated way which will still result in their taking in very little real breath.
Back to my point though – the students pointing to the middle of their bodies are of course actually trying to point to their diaphragms. The mechanics work as follows:
• You breathe in through an open mouth (otherwise you won’t get in the amount of breath you need to sing);
• You keep your shoulders still (you do not raise them. Most students find this bad habit very difficult to break – it takes time and of course lots of practice);
• You then have a better change of inflating your lungs fully – most people with untrained voices are simply hyperventilating;
• The pressure from the lungs being fully inflated pushes the diaphragm down, which looks like you’re pushing your upper tummy out when really you’ve actually created a sort of reservoir of extra breath;
• You then use the diaphragm to control the rate at which you breathe out. It’s a big muscle (as you will see from the video) and consequently takes time again to learn how to control it. This is what you support you voice with as the vocal cords should be supported by plenty of breath at all times.
• Controlling breath using the diaphragm takes a lot of time and just because the attached video showing the movement of the diaphragm, is from a Yoga source, don’t be fooled for a moment that yoga students can breathe properly!
Nonetheless, it’s helpful to see and there’s another one I’ll attach next showing the diaphragm working with the lungs.