Confessions of a Singing Yogini
One frigid January evening when I was not even 20, I stumbled into a hot yoga studio and took my first yoga class.
I hadn’t the slightest clue about body alignment in postures, no grasp of Sanskrit and its place in in the yoga class, and definitely no concept of just how much water I would have to drink afterward to rehydrate.
Here’s what I did know for sure: I was hooked. Something about the dance-like nature of the yoga postures, the focus and stamina that came from slowing down the breath, how I felt so much taller, lighter, and open upon leaving the studio.
This is exactly what my singing teachers and coaches at school encourage every single day.
Expand your rib cage. Breathe slower, and all the way into the back. Stand tall, rooting down through the feet and reaching with crown of head. Allow your body to be relaxed, but also active. Express yourself.
The themes were so interchangeable, I had to smile at this beautiful connection.
The next day, I was rehearsing Brahms’ Zigeunerlieder with my voice coach in preparation for an upcoming recital. We began the first movement together, she at the piano and me singing. Half way through the first movement, she completely stopped playing.
“This is the first time you’ve made it through that long phrase without having to take a cheat breath in the middle!”
Wow. She was right.
“What did you do differently that time?” she asked.
“Hmm, not sure. I did take my first yoga class ever last night, and I learned a breathing exercise at class. Maybe that helped!”
That first class swept me into my second, third, and so many more after that. Yoga has been my constant companion and complement to music making. Right away, here are the best things I learned and was able to apply immediately to my vocal technique:
1. Release of tension
The emphasis on noticing where you are holding tension in your body and actively working to release it catapulted my vocal technique from moderate at best to rock solid. Jaw tension? Take your tongue away from the roof of your mouth, gently part your lips, and begin to breathe softly through the nose. Neck and shoulder tension? Tuck your chin in just slightly to your chest and let your shoulders drop away from your ears. Awareness is the key: check in with yourself every few breaths to ensure you are relaxed, but still active in the body.
As I got into grad school and was either in practice or performance mode, developing endurance and physical strength for performing was a priority. The stronger I became physically, the more magnetic I felt as a performer. I continue to cultivate the strength
As I illustrated above, the breath is the best gift that yoga gave to my singing. Training the body to breathe deeper and wider gave me the confidence to allow my phrases to really soar. Long phrases begin to come naturally instead of having to be thought out and calculated so much in advance. So much freedom and flexibility is yours with a full breath.
Come along with me and release tension, strengthen, and breathe deeply in the next segment: a beginners yoga sequence for singers I created just for you!