Bridge Pose is my go-to for helping my students strengthen their cores, create awareness of the inner thighs through adduction, and to recognize how the abdominal wall can be both strong and supple simultaneously.
You will need a yoga block or a few hardback books for this sequence.
Start off on your back with your feet planted on the ground as close to your pelvis as possible. Keep your hands alongside your hips with your palms facing down. It is important that you keep your nose pointing towards the ceiling during this entire sequence. On your inhale, press into your hands and feet and lift your hips off the ground, focusing on engaging your abdominal muscles and inner thighs for support. On your exhale, allow the pelvis to slowly return to the floor moving one vertebra at a time, ending with the tailbone. Do several rounds of this to warm up the spine. Then end with the hips up and place a block or a stack of hardcover books underneath your hips right at the crest of your buttocks (the top of the tailbone.) Pick a height that is closest to your active bridge pose. I give examples of all three block height options in the video. To add more variety to the sequence, you can take “butterfly” legs by bringing the soles of the feet together and knees apart. You can also walk the feet away from the block and extend the legs to fully lengthen the abdominal wall and the psoas (front of the hip bone). To come off the block, walk your feet back so your knees are bent, lift your hips off the block, remove it, and keep the hips lifted for several breaths—allowing the muscles surrounding the spine to regain control. Then, with an exhale, slowly release down and rest for a few breaths with the legs extended.
Try singing both before and after this sequence and witness how your breath and posture have been altered. Enjoy!
(Click on the blog title at the top of the email to watch the instructional video.)
Continuing with our theme of shoulder tension release, I offer you this short and sweet strap sequence. If you do not have a yoga strap, a simple belt or thick piece of ribbon or rope will work fine. To begin, take a strap into both hands and bring your arms up in a wide “V”. Then take your right arm alongside your head while keeping the arm straight and swing your left arm back as far as possible, keeping your shoulders down. Feel the scapula/shoulder blades pull towards one another, keeping your chest wide and open. Then repeat on the other side.
Next, return to the “V” shape and lean your torso to the left, taking several deep breaths into your side waist to expand your ribcage and open up your side body. Repeat on the right side.
Hold each pose for 5-10 deep breaths.
(To view the video, click the blog title link at the top of the email.)
This is a yummy shoulder stretch which can easily be done in a practice room or hotel room. All you need is an empty wall.
Start facing the wall and extend your left straight up towards the ceiling. Then, keeping your left arm straight, move it slowly in a counterclockwise motion as far as it can go (heading towards 9 o’clock.) For increases intensity, start to rotate your feet away from the wall towards the right hand side without moving your shoulder away from the wall. Hold for several breaths then come out of the pose by turning your body towards the wall before moving your left arm away from the wall. To repeat on the other side, bring your right arm up the wall and then move in a clockwise motion towards 3 o’clock.
Feel free to send any questions you may have!
(Click the link to the blog post at the top of the page to view the video)
This is one of my favorite stretches to release tension, holding, and inflammation of the neck muscles. As singers, we require freedom and ease through our neck and shoulder complex, but the act of singing, acting, and the stress and intensity with which we pursue our art leads to tension. By creating greater freedom through the neck and resetting the shoulders, we can free up the voice.
To do this, you’ll need a yoga block. Big box stores sell foam blocks which will work just fine; but I personally prefer these cork blocks because they create more pressure and give you something stronger to push against, allowing for a deeper release.
Start off on your back and place the occipital lobe (the base of your skull where the neck and skull connect) onto the block with the block horizontal at the middle height. Your head should end up higher than your shoulders. From there you can either keep your knees bent the entire time or extend through your legs, resting them on the floor and move your head slowly from side to side. Or you can do the twist I moved through in the video to accentuate the lengthening of the spine. To do so, lean your bent knees to the left, then slowly look to the right. Stay there for 5-10 breaths. Bring your head back to center first, then bring your knees up and switch directions. To finish up, you can extend your legs and adjust the angle of the block for maximum traction on the neck. It’s utterly delightful and I always feel so much taller and peaceful when I finish….even if it does give you a double-chin. 😉
(Click the title of the blog post to see video link)
This week we’ll be taking a break from our core work and focusing on the mental aspect of being a singer. No one said being a performer would be easy. We have to be at the top of our game at all times. We have to be 100% focused, even when someone coughs or opens up a candy wrapper during the performance. There are no do-overs in the world of performance artist and everything we do is constantly judged. Anxiety attacks abound in this line of work as we never get a break from the stressors of attempting to achieve the illusive perfection. Every one of us has become overwhelmed by it all at one point or another. It’s human nature to buckle under all of that pressure. However, as singers, problems arise when fear, anxiety, or even just excited adrenaline get in the way of your ability to perform your best.
Luckily, this meditation practice can help you to become grounded, focused, and calm. The real beauty of this practice is, once you ingrain the pattern into your memory, you can do this meditation anywhere. I always do it in the “green room” before a performance and none of the other perfomers have any idea I am meditating. When I have to sit on stage in full view of the audience and then get up and sing, I’ll also practice this with my eyes open. This focused breath helps keep me from worrying or running through my lyrics for the millionth time and getting myself into a nervous dither. I adore the simplicity and focus of this meditation and that it reminds us to breath deeply, something many of us forget to do when nervous and adrenaline rear their heads.
I hope this practice helps you. Try it the next time you feel flustered and still need to sing. As always, feel free to send me any questions you may have!
(Open on blog to see video link)
Yogic chanting is a profound and sacred act. It is a chance for me to let go of the need to perform–the need to prove myself vocally–and to just enjoy the bliss of letting loose my soul through song.
During my Junior year at USC, my artist roommate dragged me along to her yoga studio in Hollywood in the hopes of alleviating my vocal stress-induced anxiety attacks. At the end of that first candlelight evening yoga class, we were asked to join our voices in the sound of an OM. I opened my mouth, inhaled, and let out a sound that reverberated around room and shook me to my core. I honestly did not know that I could produce such a sound. It was such a change from the thin and strangled sound that I was producing in my voice lessons. Free from tension, free from the need to “try,” my voice bellowed like an uncaged beast. As all the other voices in the class faded away, my own continued on as I could not stop the amazing sensation of freedom in my voice. As my breath finally ran out, two giant tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt such gratitude for this brief glimpse into vocal and physical freedom. Though, at that time, I was unable to replicate this freedom in the practice room or in my lessons due to my uncontrollable perfectionism, I knew that freedom was possible and that yoga studio became my sanctuary from the stresses of a vocal arts degree.
Years later during my immersive yoga teacher training program at Frog Lotus Yoga, I rekindled my love affair with yogic chant. After our daily meditation sessions, we would join together to sing a chant, taught by the head instructor. It was 6AM and there we were croaking through the daily chant, many of my fellow yogis very out of tune. Even with the pitchy singing and early morning voices, there was so much joy in our chants. We felt connected, free, and easy. We sang love. I created a special kinship to this particular chant “Jai Ganesh” as it praises the remover of obstacles who often puts obstacles in our path to force us to make changes in our lives. This reminds us that every hardship is a blessing which we can learn and grow from. By reframing our major life challenges (failed auditions, memory slips, vocal troubles, and the like) as opportunities to learn and make changes, we lessen the toll such experiences have on our psyche. Everything happens for a reason, but it is up to each of us to find that reason and learn from it.
Tuneful Tuesday Week 27: Jai Ganesh
This week we’ll be doing a short core session on the floor. Oftentimes, when we think of working the core our minds instantly picture sit-ups and crunches. Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to properly do a crunch or sit-up and end up putting unnecessary stress on their shoulders and necks in the process. Luckily, this sequence focuses on keeping the head and shoulders down and the lower back lengthened while strengthening the abdominal wall, specifically the rectus abdominis: the front loaf-shaped abdominal muscle. It is important that this muscle is both strong and flexible for singers to have the breath support they need for their best sound.
While completing this series, attempt to feel the entire length of your spine from the base of your skull to your tailbone sink towards the floor. Feel yourself shortening the distance between the front of your hip bones to the bottom of your ribcage. This will help you to isolate the actions in your core and not bring tension or stress into your neck and shoulders. If you do start to feel that your shoulders are straining, don’t try to bring your knees so close to your body and when you are doing the straight leg lift, bend your knees more.
As always, if you have any questions or any requests for future videos, please let me know. If you’re on Instagram, tag me with @Yoga_For_Singers and share your progress.