#1 Best Breathing Tip - The Soft Belly
©2015 Beth Lawrence
We all breathe in and out, all day every day without giving it one thought. Over time, and into adulthood, our breathing generally becomes fast, shallow, and constricted due to stress, habitual postural patterns, and lack of attention to the act of breathing.
Usually, when adults come to me for voicework, they have already 'forgotten' how to breathe, and essentially have to learn to breathe correctly all over again. With a full breath comes more oxygenated blood, a clearer mind, and of course, a well supported voice.
If you want volume; if you want to stay on pitch; if you want to sustain notes and phrases with energy and control, you've got to start with the breath, and proper breathing habits. I call this 'Conscious Breathing'.
The tip below may seem elementary, but you'll be surprised to find that when you start to incorporate this habit into your daily routine, what a difference it will make in your voice and sense of well-being. You'll see how crucial it is to revisit this tip often to make sure that you are breathing freely and openly.
#1 - Relax the Belly!
Okay, this is SO important. Pretend you're a toddler, and let the belly just relax. You may even have a hard time doing this because it's our Western inclination to suck in our bellies and have 'tight' abs. But you can't do this if you want to breathe fully. Why? The diaphragm, which rests below your lungs, just can't expand and 'descend' when your stomach is tight. To get the most lung capacity, you've got to relax the belly, period. Besides, it's uncomfortable, and not natural to keep the belly constricted. Liberate the belly!!
So allow your belly to soften and expand as you take a breath. Actually, aside from the body image anxiety around a relaxed belly, (and there's plenty of it!) you'll find that it feels really good.
Here's the process:
Once you've mastered the relaxed belly, make it a habit to:
- breathe in, low and slow, expanding and relaxing the belly as you bring in air
- allow the lungs to expand and fill
- open the chest if there's constriction in shoulders and 'pecs' (the muscles that criss cross your chest, and sometimes pull the shoulders forward)
- Now ever so slightly, squeeze the bottom of the belly near the pubic bone in an upward direction, as though you're gently lifting up the belly
- As you gently squeeze up, the diaphragm will engage from the top, creating a dynamic 'shelf' of air that will support your voice
REMEMBER - there should be no tension in the belly or chest area. You're just engaging the breath with a gentle squeeze from the bottom. Think of it as the feeling of holding a balloon, and gently squeezing the air inside the balloon.
In fact, you can visualize this idea when you breathe -- think of breathing in, and as you do, visualize and feel the air that you are 'filling up with' as resting between the bottom of your belly up to the diaphragm as you gently squeeze up.
Consciously do this until it becomes natural and habitual as you begin speaking or singing. You're going to notice an incredible change in your ability to both control, and release your voice!
Breathing is a dynamic process, not just a static inhale in, exhale out! Use the breath as the energy that powers your voice.
Until next time -- celebrate the soft belly!!
Cheers, Beth Lawrence
If you want more information and exercises on breath as energy; breath support, and conscious breathing techniques, take a look at my two online singing courses, "Reboot Your Singing Voice - Level 1 & 2". One is a basic overview of the concepts of my Lawrence Vocal System, and Level 2 goes beyond the basics to apply the Lawrence Vocal System to singing a song. There's a discount link below.
Reboot Your Singing Voice - Level 1 (Basic)