Vocalist.org archive

From:  Karen Mercedes <dalila@R...>
Date:  Sun Feb 10, 2002  11:38 pm
Subject:  Re: [vocalist] Help please..Breathing problem.

I think what may help more than worrying about whether you expand the
ribcage vs. the abdomen is to focus on trying to feel the expansion all
the way around - not just in front. If you feel a stretch in your lower
back, you're breathing "into the right place". Depending on your anatomy,
your lowest ribs may actually be at your waistline, and you could wear an
elastic belt to help you feel that movement in your back more than you
might otherwise. But it's also important not to overinhale (or
hyperventilate) in an effort to expand your lungs more than you need to.

Remember that it's the LUNGS that are what expands. All movement below the
lungs comes from the displacement of the organs below the diaphragm when
the diaphragm lowers as you fill the lungs. Your lungs aren't anywhere
near as far down as your lower back or your lower abdomen - so that
expanded feeling you get in either place is a result of muscles stretching
to accommodate the compressed organs below the diaphragm and the ribs
widening at the bottom to accommodate the dropping and stretching of the
diaphragm itself.

An exercise that might help you get the feeling of "filling the back" is

Stand about two feet from the back of a chair, and hold the top of the
chair back. Now bend forward from your hips - i.e., using the joints at
your hips to bend, not your waist (if it helps, imagine you've got a board
like the "stomacher" in 16th-18th Century ladies' gowns worn by the
aristocrats in Europe running from your upper chest to your lower
abdomen, so you can't possibly bend at the waist). Anyway, bend at the
hips so you're at about a 45 degree angle from the chair back and the
floor. Now inhale, thinking about breathing "into your back". Then
vocalise - sing a scale or an arpeggio, whatever. Do this several times,
until it starts feeling "natural" to breath into your back. Then stand
straight, and inhale, again attempting to achieve that "breathing into the
back" feeling. All the while, do NOTHING about the stomach or sides of
the ribs. Don't tense them, don't "tuck" the lower abdomen, don't squeeze
in on the sides of the ribs. Just let them be completely slack and

The thing about this approach is that if you truly relax all the
muscles in the abdomen and the intercostals (between the ribs), then
focus on breathing into the back, you will naturally also breathe into
the ribs and the abdomen (or, more accurately, the displacement of the
diaphragm will cause those muscles to stretch as well). I've just always
found that the back muscles seem to be the last in the very rapid sequence
of muscles to actually stretch when I inhale deeply, so that if I
feel the stretch in my back, I realize that the stretch has also already
happened in my ribs and abdomen.

As with all technical "advice", your mileage may vary. :)

Karen Mercedes
What lies behind us, and what lies before us
are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson