7 Habits For Healthy Singers (Part III)
4. Breathe properly
As humans, we are supposed to be nasal breathers. Breathing in through the nose warms and humidifies air (which vocal cords greatly appreciate), as well as catching and filtering allergens, viruses and pollution. As a bonus, nasal breathing regulates your airflow so that you don’t hyperventilate or breathe too quickly. If you have any tendency toward asthma and allergies, this instruction is a big key.
The important thing to know about the diaphragm is that it works on inhalation. In other words, all day long as breath is entering your body, your diaphragm is engaging. When you exhale (or when you speak or sing), the diaphragm is actually relaxing and stretching. This stretching movement can provide many benefits to your audition. Here are the steps to stretch your diaphragm:
1. If possible, lie down on your back, with the knees up, feet on the floor, and pelvis tucked (lower back should be on the floor). If you can’t lie down, doing this seated or standing is also fine.
2. Blow all the air out of your body—and I mean all the air. You should feel like you have none left in your lungs. The throat and the mouth should stay open as you do this. You will hear the sound of air rushing out of your body, and eventually it will turn into a soft sound, like a wheeze.
3. Once you have no air left, release your abdominal muscles and allow the air to flow into your body. You will notice a fuller, deeper inhalation of air with a greater range of motion in your torso.
Do 3 reps of the above. To progress this exercise, do the same thing with your hands over your head. If you are lying down, rest your hands on the floor above your head. When you get up from the floor, take your time; you can get a head rush from the increase of oxygen you just found.
For more info, watch my “Breathe Better” series here.
5. Keep your tongue in the right place
When you are at rest, your tongue is supposed to be touching the roof of your mouth; this position promotes proper nasal breathing and correct jaw function. The tip of your tongue should be in an “n” consonant position, about a half-inch behind your upper front teeth. The rest of your tongue should “suction” up to the roof of your mouth. To test your tongue strength, put your tongue in this position and do three consecutive swallows. Were you able to do it? If so, you have good tongue strength. If not, practice keeping your tongue on the roof of your mouth throughout the day.