What does a singer practice when she can’t practice singing at that moment? How about Yoga? There are many different style of Yoga out there, and I prefer the Hatha style: emphasis on the breath and meditation, and a focus on creating balance between strength and flexibility through maintaining asanas (postures).
The practice of bringing awareness to your body is important to your vocal practice as well. The purpose of the following five minute session is to bring your awareness to the structure of your instrument and to ground your technique in the strength of your breath and the calmness of your mind. I must credit the master teacher Jean Ronald LaFond for inspiring these applications of body/energy awareness.
Before beginning, set an intention for the next five minutes.
1.) Kindle the fire. Sit comfortably cross-legged on the floor with your chin slightly down and neck straight. Lightly close your eyes and create space between your teeth. Place your hands just below your belly button. Inhale and exhale with very long breaths, imagining that each inhale feeds a little fire in your belly, where your hands are resting. Remind yourself of your intention. Continue for 5 breaths, and continue to breathe into your hands for the duration of the practice.
2.)Skylight. As you inhale, imagine that the top of your scalp has a retractable roof and slowly open the roof to the sky above you, like a convertible car’s roof retracting. Imagine the exhale sweeping out or “brightening” the inner lining of your skull. Continue for 5 long breaths.
3.) Inhale a smile. As you inhale, gently and subtly lift the cheeks with the zygomatic muscles – those that wrap around the sides of the mouth and lift the corners of the mouth during smiling. Exhale and imagine a “brightening” on the front of your face. Continue for 5 long breaths.
4.) Release the jaw. As you inhale through your nose, release your jaw ever so slightly forward and down until you have reached the top of your inhalation and the most open jaw position possible without any tension or force. As you exhale let the jaw naturally close to start. Continue for 5 breaths.
5.) Shush and lean. Inhale deeply, feeding the little fire in your belly. Exhale on the sound shhhh and continue until you have used every molecule of air. Lean into the shhh…never let the shhh sound be flabby or unenergized, it should not sound like you are conserving air. Go as long as you possibly can on the shhh sound, working toward 20, 30 seconds or more. Continue for 5 breaths.
6.) Breathe easy. Release all control of the breath, the mind, and the body and be grateful for your instrument. Flex your fingers and toes and reach your arms above your head. Breathe easy.
You’re done! This is also a nice way to incorporate body awareness before a practice session, audition, performance, or in the midst of a long rehearsal day. Enjoy!