As I reflect on my journey as a teacher, singer and parent I often will stop on the word inspire. This small word, in my life, has such a weight of meaning. There are many definitions of inspire.
b: to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence
d: to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural
If we take a journey further the word inspire in Latin is the in breath and spirit. Come with me on a rabbit trail and look into an origin of the word inhale in Latin. It is more than the one way a simple single word but how we inhale matters for what word we use:
1. breathe in : respirare in
2. inspire/spirit: inspirare or inspiratus
3. draw in : in trahere
4. suck in : gerentibus aut lactantibus in
5. take in : accipere
6. sniff in : in naribus umiferum duxere
7. drink in : in bibendum
When we consider what our breath does for us we can be overwhelmed by the process, necessity or even with gratitude for the life that our inspiration has given us.
As singers we need to first come into contact with a sensation, name it and then recreate it. If we take a Latin word I would recommend us singers to look to inspirare unless our character requires a different form.
The voice needs breath to power its sound. The diaphragm, the principal muscle for breathing IN, will contract more efficiently if your abdominal wall is released on the in-breath (inhale). This will allow breath to be drawn deeper into the lungs with very little effort. Let's try to find this:
Put your thumb on your navel and the rest of your hand lower down. Make a strong ‘psh!’ As you make the sound, move your navel in. This ‘feeds’ the air in and upwards towards your vocal folds.
When you run out of air and can do nothing else but inhale, allow your navel to release outwards. This moves the abdominal contents down and out slightly, allowing the bottom of the lungs to move down helping air rush in.
What did that feel like? Repeat the process until you notice your abdomen, rib cage, shoulders, neck and face.
Second we need to create a habit to allow for ease! (The last thing we want to do while singing is think about the act of inhaling). MAKE IT EASY, BE A LITTLE LAZY.
What is a habit?
What are the habits of breathing while singing?
Imagination and Attention (Intention)
Consider inspiring or drinking in and not taking, drawing, sucking, or sniffing as this is too much either tension or air itself - “A deep, full breath, with the lungs filled to capacity, produces a feeling of fullness and stiffness which is not suitable for singing.” Thomas Hemsley “Singing and Imagination
Why would a habit of breathing be helpful for singing?
If we only use our good habit of breathing-in while we sing can we maintain it while trying on the character, emotions and moods of our singing?
"Smell is life's oldest sense. Standing here alone, nostrils flaring, it occurs to me that breathing is so much more than just getting air into our bodies. It's the most intimate connection to our surroundings." Breath by James Nestor
and remember to keep breathing...