As I mentioned in a recent blogpost, Grit and Creating a Practice, I committed to doing 30 consecutive days of yoga at the beginning of this year, using videos by Adriene Mischler of Yoga with Adriene. And, surprisingly, I’ve kept it up!
While I’ve written before about how cross-training relates to singing (mainly based on a poster I saw outside a Pilates studio), it wasn’t until I actually started doing yoga that I thought about how they really can and should work together.
One of my fellow Speakeasy Cooperative colleagues, Marisa Atha, is also a yoga teacher, and she wrote a blogpost awhile back about 7 Attributes of a Personal Yoga Practice and I was thinking that these all are attributes of a personal singing practice as well.
- Grit – I could link this to my previous article, but I did that in the first paragraph. Show up and do the work!
- Patience – that’s a hard one for us as singers, especially early on when our technique isn’t solid yet. Especially when we hear recordings of people which may or may not be enhanced by their sound engineer’s skill at autotune or cutting and pasting multiple tracks or just adding more echo to the sound to boost it.
- Flexibility – Ms. Atha speaks of this relating to both the body and the mind, and we can relate that to singing. Our voices become more flexible as we work on our technique, in terms of range and ability to move rapidly within that range, and our minds become more flexible as to the possibilities we have ahead of us.
- Awareness – This is crucial for us as singers. Too many singers go through the motions without being aware of things they’re doing – like that weird Baltimore approach to /u/ (which comes out as some variation of “ew,” which sounds particularly bad in Latin or Italian). Don’t go on autopilot!
- Space – As Ms. Atha says, “We create space between muscles and joints, but also an openness of mind, heart, and spirit.” As singers, we create space between our back molars, by the elevation of our soft palates (the degree to which is based on the style we’re singing and which needs to happen on the inhalation, not through any weird and artificial kind of manipulations), by opening our mouths the requisite amount needed for the pitch and vowel we’re singing, and by our alignment and freedom in our bodies and how they relate to the space we’re in on stage or in our practice rooms. We also need to create space for ourselves to be open in our “mind, heart, and spirit,” which is necessary to facilitate flexibility and awareness as well.
- Balance – if you take lessons from me, you know that I talk about balance a lot. We’re balancing our breath pressure through appoggio/resistance; we’re balancing in terms of alignment, in resonance, in negotiating registration breaks and determining how best to use registration for the style in which we’re singing, and in initiating and ending sound (phonation). There’s also emotional balance. As in yoga, balance is not just about remaining upright, but the energy involved in doing so and in taking yourself through the rest of your life as well.
And lastly –
- Grace – Not only looking and sounding graceful/elegant in your performing, but feeling an internal grace and acceptance of where you are in the process. For singing, this also applies to develop a gracefulness of transitioning through your registration, of being comfortable in your body and able to use it as a tool in your interpretation (Will I move here? How will I gesture in a manner that looks intentional and without artifice?)
All of these elements of a yoga practice can – and should – apply to a vocal practice. I invite you to try adopting this mindset the next time you go into a practice room. Find the grace and grit to allow yourself to seek balance, awareness, flexibility, and space. And above all, have patience with yourself.
If that scares you, try this:
And with that in mind, I’m heading downstairs. According to this month’s challenge, called “Blossom,” I’m on tap to do “Yoga Kiss” today, whatever that is.
Thanks to Marisa Atha for her wonderful article and inspiration
for this post (and to give yoga another try).
If you’re in Northern California and looking for a voice teacher
to enhance your own vocal practice,
check out Marisa’s studio, Three Sparrows Studio.
And if you want to try an online practice, check out her
new yoga studio for women, Mama Yoga!