The Breath: An Evolving Philosophy

As a singer and a practicer-of-yoga, I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about breath. I practice yogic breathwork to energize or to relax. I’ve embraced the idea of letting breath initiate movement and not vice-versa. I experiment with longer inhalations and exhalations, ujai breathing, alternate nostril breathing, box breathing, you name it. I've inhaled until I'm uncomfortably full and I've used all sorts of methods to release that too-full breath in controlled ways to allow for longer phrasing. All of this focus on “taking” breath makes singing less enjoyable. There’s got to be a better way. 

Recently, I have become aware of a growing inner friction around the way singers are traditionally taught to breathe, and the kind of breathing I am finding more helpful in my own singing. Perhaps you've noticed that babies and young children can yell long and loudly without any noticeable manipulation of the inhalation. A dog doesn't need a huge inhalation before barking. Many singers I admire don't create visible extra tension with the inhalation, and have wonderful phrasing and breath "control". So, what gives?

A realization has taken a few years to rise to the surface, but I am finally forced to admit to myself: my philosophy of breath is changing. This is uncomfortable, as breath “control” is a foundational aspect of singing and certainly a focal point of my training and part of my personal identity as a singer. Over the next several weeks, I will be sharing my updated philosophy of breathing for singers, and exploring how we might return to a natural breath that feels good and allows more freedom, ease, and joy while singing. 

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Clancy Cox, Soprano

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