If you’ve ever had any singing lessons before, or done any research at all, you’ll know that breathing is important. Singing is literally controlling the exhalation of our lungs through the vocal cords on a pitch – so it makes sense that inhalation and exhalation, aka breathing, is pretty important.

 

You may also have heard any number of these terms;

Breathe from the diaphragm.

Breathe into the diaphragm, or worse,

Sing from the diaphragm (Ugh!)

 

Now these instructions are almost always well intentioned, so don’t go contacting your old teacher to tell them how wrong they are. And whilst the whole ‘diaphragmatic breathing’ thing isn’t necessarily BAD teaching or BAD technique, it is completely unnecessary. Let me explain.

The diaphragm is a very clever sheet of muscle which sits in a dome shape underneath your lungs, just at the base of your ribcage. It contracts downward and goes into a flatter shape to create a suction which helps to pull the air into your lungs (that’s right, you don’t ‘take in’ the air, the lungs expand with the help of the diaphragm and ribs and the air floods in because of it). After the inhalation, the diaphragm relaxes back up into it’s original dome shape which helps to collapse the lungs and push the air back out of the body.

So here’s the thing. Your body does this every minute of every day without you thinking about it. Breathing is something we can manipulate, sure, but we can never control it. That’s why you can’t commit suicide by holding your breath.

 

Your diaphragm works with the rest of the breathing mechanism so cleverly designed in your body – WITHOUT YOU DOING ANYTHING. You don’t have to will it to work. You don’t have to think about it. It’s doing it’s thing whether you want it to or not.

 

So why put all our mental energy there?

 

When we think about breathing ‘into the diaphragm’, 2 things can happen:

 

  1. We get what I call Analysis Paralysis. Worrying about what your body is doing during the inhale and exhale, whether you’re breathing in the right place (because we can’t actually feel the diaphragm, right?), whether your diaphragm is ‘working’ – all of this mental energy can actually cause the brain to get stressed and confused and not work at its best. We can end up doing more harm than good.
  2. We breathe well, thinking about the diaphragm, and sing with okay breath support.

 

That second point doesn’t seem so bad though, does it? No, it’s not BAD, but it’s not GOOD ENOUGH. Your body has the ability to do so much more for you if you’d let it.

 

When we sing, we use our entire body. The whole of your essence gets involved – and that’s mental, spiritual, physical; singing is a holistic activity! I want you to stop giving yourself half measures by focusing on the diaphragm – if you have to focus at all, think about your abdomen and pelvis. You’ll find this way that your lungs will fill nice and low, your abdominal muscles will start to engage for the exhale and the diaphragm will magically work without you willing it to.

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