Yoga for singers works on the elements of body, breath and voice in a group setting, using techniques from hatha yoga and principles from voice pedagogy.
We work on the body through strengthening and stretching exercises, which aim to improve posture and alignment and reduce unnecessary tension in the body (and mind). These exercises are drawn from hatha yoga. Various asana (postures/poses) are chosen specifically to target key areas of the singer’s body, such as exercises that focus on “opening” through the chest and strengthening the upper body and exercises that focus on strengthening the body for long periods of standing. In general, strengthening the whole body is the desired outcome of the physical exercises – since for singers, our whole body is our instrument.
Breath is the central element of both yoga and singing. Yoga without breath focus is simply not yoga. By bringing our awareness to our breath we improve our breathing in general. Using specific breathing exercises, we strengthen the muscles, and our command over those muscles which are involved in efficient breathing. The breath is also the key to the nervous system, by slowing down the breath we can activate the body’s relaxation response – the antidote to nervousness, panic and anxiety. Breath really is the key element of yoga for singers.
Focus exercises, relaxation and general mindfulness of the body and voice provide a way of calming and focusing the mind. Through the practice of various exercises, including candle gazing, progressive muscle relaxation, balance and mindful walking and singing, we learn to bring more focus to our practice and performance as singers.
And of course, in yoga for singers we have a vocal element. By freeing the body of excess tension, we can free up the voice. An absence of unnecessary muscle tension means that our resonance and tone quality can improve. The voice relies on the vibration of air as it passes through the vocal folds – the less unnecessary tension we have in our musculature, the more efficient the vibration process. Getting rid of unnecessary tension in the body, helps singing to become effortless, decreasing the chances of vocal fatigue and strain. In class, we exercise the voice with vocal exercises that are combined with physical postures, focus and balance.
A hidden aspect of the yoga for singers’ classes is community. Practicing and performing can often be a very solitary pursuit - in yoga for singers’ classes we are united with other singers and can practice and share our journey as part of a supportive and like-minded community. Spontaneous harmonisation, improvisation and call and response work add an extra element of ensemble to the class.
To attend a yoga for singers’ class you don’t have to be super fit or be a seasoned yogi. Options are provided for making the various exercises easier or more difficult, depending on what you can do on a particular day. Guidance is given for adjusting poses and finding ways to practice that suit your body. The goal of Yoga for singer’s isn’t to be the perfect pretzel, the goal is to gain gentle awareness of the connection of your body, mind, voice and breath.