As singers and actors, the whole body becomes an instrument. In a profession that is extremely demanding and competitive, we want to give ourselves the best possible chance by being equipped with a powerful, yet sensitive and controlled voice fit to stir people’s passions every performance, however many the producer manages to fit in one week. All singers strive to produce an unforced, natural resonance, this is best achieved by an aligned body with toned yet flexible muscles. Since our whole body’s well being can be reflected in the voice, it is also integral that we keep our physical, as well as mental health, in tip top shape. In Part one I introduced you to a few yogic breathing techniques which is always an excellent place to start, but we can go beyond breathing exercises to enhance our voice by exploring yoga postures which will finely tune and condition the vocal tools in our body. It can be amazing how small adjustments, in seemingly unrelated areas of the body, can open up new sounds and increase our stamina to sail through 8 show weeks unscathed.
Strengthening and freeing up the vocal powerhouse is a must for maximising the support for those Diva belts and sweet, soft, unwavering long notes. The first two muscles we think of engaging is the diaphragm and abdominals, which are of course essential for breathing, but there is another muscle which is often overlooked that is crucial in linking the two together, In fact it is a major muscle within the body as it links the upper part of the body with the lower. That muscle is the Psoas and it helps create support, as well as space, within the torso area. It is a wonderful deep, big, fan shaped muscle which lines the pelvis and attaches at the same point on the spine as the diaphragm. Often this muscle can become shortened with bad posture and hours spent sitting down. A tight and short psoas can greatly restrict breathing and the mobility within the pelvis and abs. It is said within Yoga that the Psoas muscle can be intrinsically linked with our emotions such as fear and stress as it is engaged when we are put in fight or flight mode. We can create further space for the breath by freeing up the muscles between the ribs, opening up the chest, lengthening the spine and grounding our base. Fragile vocal cords can also be protected by easing built up tension in the neck, throats, shoulders and chest, and building up flexible support around delicate areas.
Here’s a few yoga postures that focus on these areas. Be self aware at all times and work with where you are at. Pushing too hard in any posture with counteract the benefits, conversely, coasting through your yoga practice will do your ‘potential’ a disservice. Most of all have fun and play.
This is an essential yoga posture and I always use it as a starting point. It calms the mind whilst energising the whole body and stimulating blood circulation in preparation. It neutralises the spine and lengthens the whole of the back of the body from the ankles, through to the legs, hips and spine. It strengthens the upper body, arms, shoulders and legs, really grounding your body and mind.
UPWARD FACING DOG
This postures helps the posture greatly. It strengthens the spine while stretching out the chest, neck and abdomen.
This posture opens the hips and chest, stretches the neck and shoulders and develops balance and grounded-ness requiring concentration and strength through the legs, torso and shoulders.
CAT AND COW POSE
These postures really works to engage and free up the core muscles. It strengthens and stretches the spine neck, abdomen and hips and the smooth transition between the 2 massages and stimulates the organs of the belly. It’s also great for easing the mind and balancing emotions.
This is a great posture for grounding the body while activating the whole torso. It lifts and opens up the chests whilst strengthening the spine and is especially good for people with large breasts or chest area where the extra weight may be impending the breath as it takes that weight forwards and off the rib cage.
This is an excellent posture for increasing the space in the back of you rib cage for extra breath. It stretches the shoulders and requires a great deal of focus to keep the balance.
This Strengthens the chest, neck and spine whilst stimulating the abdominal she, lungs and thyroid. It can ease a number of health complaints such as asthma, high blood pressure, menstrual discomfort ( when supported by brands under hips) headache and mild depression.
I love this posture for lengthening the spine. It opens up the chest and shoulders, strengthens and stretches the arms, upper back and hips and helps calm and re-Center the mind.
This posture is the king of hip openers and is an excellent way of releasing the Psoas. ( for the ultimate Hip opener try KING PIDGEON where you grab the back foot and bring it towards the crown of your head )
This is a beautiful deep twist that creates space with Lin the vertabra this increasing the flexibility of the spine. It ops up the shoulders amd some say that it stimulates the internal organs.
This is a dynamic posture that invigorates the core while stretching the front of the torso from the hip flexors right through to the neck. The spine is strengthened and it leaves you feeling exhilarated.
This posture creates a wonderful stretch for the front of the neck, intercostal muscles ( between ribs) Psoas and belly. It also strengthens the muscles of the back of the neck and upper back. It is important not to push this posture too far as that will put strain on your neck undoing all the good. Beginners can keep their chest lower and put a blanket under their head.
You may feel like an idiot sticking your tongue out and roaring like a tiger( as I am suitably demonstrating), or use it as an excuse for a good giggle, but it’s definitely a posture to play with as it eases tension in the face, jaw and neck. As an added bonus it can slow down the signs of ageing in the throat.
All these postures have modifications depending on your current ability, so if a posture feels too intimidating or too easy then play around with the array of variations. If you can get to a class or talk to a local teacher who can guide you through the postures then you will get the most of them, though there are hundreds of tutorials online if you do a quick search. I’ll be hopefully uploading my own tutorials on my personal blog site and YouTube page so feel free to check in there.