Fitness Friday Week 34: Beginning a Handstand Practice

Recently, one of the followers on my yoga for singers page asked me how to begin a handstand practice. In this video, I go through a few steps to get you into a handstand practice. Please take your time and move through the steps slowly without pushing yourself. It sometimes takes months or even years to build up the strength and balance to get into a full handstand. However, you can build a lot of strength simply by doing this prep work.

To begin: start in downward facing dog. Ground through your hands pressing into your finger pads, spreading your fingers, and suctioning through the center of your palms. Then raise one leg in the air while bending the other and start to kick up with the bent leg. Play around with kicking up both legs. Do several sets of these leg kicks and then rest. You might simply practice this for a few months.

Eventually, start kicking up near a wall and try to kick your straight leg up to that wall, bringing your other leg up as well. You can play with strengthening your arms in this wall-supported handstand.

If you want to branch out to playing in an unsupported handstand, bring one leg off the wall reaching straight up through the ball of your foot and stacking the ankle directly over the hip. Then, bend through the other leg placing the toes of the bent leg against the wall and play with floating those toes away from the wall for a few seconds before returning them.

Soon, you’ll be lifting both feet away from the wall.

Happy handstanding!

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Fitness Friday Week 24: Core/Breath Connection

Connecting your breath with core awareness is of upmost importance for us singers. This simple sequence which is accessible to most fitness levels helps to better integrate that connection.

Start on your hands and knees and tuck your toes under. As you inhale, lift your tailbone, sink the belly down, and lift your chest and gaze up. As you exhale, tuck your tailbone under, arching through your back and, pressing into your toes, float your knees off the ground while engaging your core and pulling your navel back towards your spine. As you inhale, gently release your knees back to the floor and repeat the process again on the next exhale. Complete several rounds until your core feels awake and engaged. Then finish with a downward facing dog and/or child’s pose.

Embrace Your Core!

As singers, we’re taught that physical fitness is the key to our success when tackling the demands of stage acting while singing extremely demanding repertoire. We are told that a strong and flexible core can help create positive change in vocal strength, color, and overall quality. But, how do we create that abdominal strength without hindering our ability to fully relax the abdominal wall during inhalation? 

Through yoga core work, of course. 

Some of my greatest vocal breakthroughs have occurred after I’ve attempted a new yoga pose: building strength but also maintaining my flexibility. The short core series I complete in the video below is one of my latest challenges. Don’t be deceived; this is hard work! Eventually, you want to have your feel hovering off the ground, but I’m not there yet. 

To start series you’ll need a yoga block for each hand. If you don’t have a block, use a phone book or dictionary. If you have carpet floors I’d suggest you invest in furniture sliders for your feet. They add quite a bit of challenge to many physical postures and they are also quite handy to have around. If you have wood floors, a blanket, towel, or paper plates will work just fine. 

Begin by grounding the shoulders, pressing into your blocks, and lifting your bum off the ground. Maybe that’s what you work on for awhile. Once you are able to get yourself off the ground without tensing the shoulders, start to hug the belly in, rounding the back, and pull your straight legs back, gliding them across the floor. Complete a set of 5: inhaling to slide your legs forward while relaxing the abdominal wall and exhaling to slide your legs backward, engaging strongly. Complete as many sets as your strength will allow and then stretch it out with a soft backbend. 

(It also helps to have a little rain falling in the background.) 😉

Happy yoga-ing! 

Wake Up! 

“Opera is a phenomenally difficult sport.” -Regina Resnik

Singing requires complete focus and intensive energy. You have to be completely on your game for every rehearsal, practice session, and performance. Sometimes, though, my body just doesn’t support my voice. On those days when I’m feeling lethargic, broken down, and weak, I pull out my furniture gliders, step up on them, and start to float into plank.  

 
Any basic furniture gliders will work, but I like the larger, longer version so that my feet don’t slide off. My favorite thing about this core work is that it activates the complete 360degrees around the midsection. This will definitely wake up the body and get it to support my voice once again. 

So, work it out and wake it up! It’s time to get your body behind your voice.

 #springtideopenwide challenge day 9: #elephantpose “Man, sometimes it takes you a long time to sound like yourself.” -Miles Davis

As I slowly return to full-strength vocally and physically, I find myself encountering the same fears, doubts, and frustrations. My practice time becomes cluttered by negative self-talk telling me I should be achieving more, applying for more, and performing more. But, what would happen if I let all that go and just enjoy the fact that I am finding my voice? Perhaps I would recognize that, for the first time, I am sounding like myself. And that is worth more than all the money and fame in the world. (Although money and fame would still be nice.) 😉