“Breath is welcome here”

“Breath is welcome here”

A few months ago, I was talking to one of my students, Erin McManus, about allowing the abdominal muscles to release on inhalation to receive the breath, and I believe that I used the term “welcome the breath.” Erin then smiled beatifically, as she is wont to do, and indicated her abdominal area with a gentle motion and said, “Breath is welcome here.”

Of course, you don’t breathe into the belly. The diaphragm is the dividing line between the respiratory and the digestive system, or, as the late Jean Westerman Gregg said, “between the vitals and the vittles.” (I have used that line ever since I first heard it in 1997, at my very first NATS workshop.) You breathe into your lungs, and as a result of the descent of the diaphragm, your viscera (i.e., guts) are pushed down and your stomach expands outward somewhat. More importantly, your ribs expand. If you are freakishly long-waisted, as am I, you may not find that there’s a great deal of outward expansion. If you are short-waisted, you may find that there’s a LOT of outward expansion.

But you can’t just push out your belly and expect the air to come in. You have to allow the air to enter your body by inhaling quietly, through your nose or mouth, depending on the circumstances, by aligning yourself efficiently so that you aren’t compressing your innards, and by allowing your abdominal muscles, particularly the abdominal floor, to release. Whether it is a sip of air or a deep intake of air, the key element is that of release. A noisy inhalation is inherently high and tense and is distracting. It’s not efficient.

An exercise I do frequently with beginning students is to have them blow out all the air and wait until their bodies need air. And when that moment comes, inhale – but just allow it to happen voluntarily, rather than consciously suck in air. What happens? Is there sound? Where do you feel expansion? Where do you feel release? Is it weird? (Someone said it was weird once, so now I ask.)

Enjoy this video of Nathan Gunn and William Burden singing the famous duet from Pearlfishers and notice how they receive the breath. (It helps that they’re shirtless. In so many ways.)

“Welcome the breath.” Indeed.

Cross-training – physically and vocally

Club Pilates recently opened a place near my house and man, they’ve been courting me! I’ve taken 3 free classes so far – one 30 minute introductory class, one 60 minute regular Pilates class, and one 60 minute Cardio Sculpt class (which was a birthday offer – the birthday isn’t over till the coupons are gone!). As I left today, this sign spoke to me:gyR9YKpQR6WsifROtXUipQ.jpgThese are the Pilates principles – but what other discipline does this apply to? (If you haven’t figured out that I mean singing, you don’t know me at all.)

  • Centering – this could apply to alignment or it could apply to resonance
  • Precision – learning your music thoroughly
  • Concentration – practicing!
  • Control – working through registration/range exercises
  • Flow – legato
  • Breathwork – do we really have to spell this one out?

I’m not sure if I’m going to become a member yet – we’ll see how many free classes they offer me after I come back from vacation! 😉