“Breathing should be as easy for you as it is for a baby, so get back to the basics and stop sweating it so much” – Joy Sikorski
Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale….zzzzz….inhale, exhale….
Breathing is as natural as sleeping. Or is it?
I love this picture because you can just feel how calm this baby’s breathing is. No big effort, just breathe! Should be simple for adults too, right? After all, we were all babies once.
So why is it sometimes so hard when it comes to breathing for singing?
When we’re babies, we don’t think about how to breathe. We just breathe. As children, we’re not puzzled by how our lungs fill up with air or how our diaphragm (die-uh-fram) works with intercostal muscles to regulate that air. We’re not anymore aware of these natural functions than we’re aware of the air we inhale.
Ah, but just wait until we grow up! It’s amazing how messed up the breathing process (respiration) can become.
Time to Get Back to Basics, Like a Baby
In my role as a teacher/coach/trainer, I’ve worked with all age groups and one thing I’ve observed is that about 50% of adults breathe backwards without realizing it.
Huh? What does that mean?
Breathing backwards means that the diaphragm is going in the wrong direction when you inhale or exhale. It’s supposed expand down and outwards when you breathe in and then contract in and upwards when you breathe out.
The diaphragm is located inside the bottom of the ribcage, which protects the lungs and heart. The lungs are located directly above it and when air is taken into them via the nasal passage, pharynx (fair-inks) and trachea (tray-key-uh) or windpipe, they expand. In order to make room for the air, the diaphragm has to compress down and outwards.
All too often, and usually because of unhealthy tension in the body or mind, people will suck in the belly at the same time they suck in the air. Then they let out the belly tension and push out the diaphragm when they breathe out. This doesn’t work and here’s why.
When you suck in the belly, the diaphragm goes up, which crowds the area where the lungs need to be when they expand. When you push down the diaphragm when exhaling, it’s hard to expel the air from the lungs, which is vital for good breath support.
You can easily check whether or not your diaphragm is working to your best advantage by lying on your back and resting your hands just below your ribcage and above your belly button. Now simply breathe in and out without thinking about what you’re doing. You’ll notice that your hands go up when you breathe in and down when you breathe out.
And that’s how a baby breathes!
If that doesn’t happen for you, then you have some serious tension that needs to be addressed. You can start here to help yourself.
Controlled Breathing – everything depends on how you breathe, how you control your breathing and how you use your diaphragm, intercostal and abdominal muscles. The most important thing has to do with slowly letting out a steady but small stream of air. The most important muscle used in breathing is the diaphragm. If you learn where your diaphragm is, how it works and how to control it, you will be able to control your breathing. – Joy Sikorski