First things first. We ought to breathe in the lower part of our lungs (Diaphragmatic or Abdominal Breathing), because that’s where our lungs are wider, therefore we logically have more capacity to house air. As singers, it wouldn’t make sense to breathe in the upper part of our lungs (also called Superior Breathing or Asthmatic Breathing) because the space there is so small that we wouldn’t be able to sustain notes for a long time.
Our objective is to breathe in the lower part of our lungs, and from there upwards to fill in the whole of them starting from the bottom. We only get to do that efficiently when we are most relaxed. Here some exercises:
Lie down on a comfortable flat surface (use a mat preferably). Make sure you minimize the gap between your waist and the floor, and between the back of your neck and the floor (feel your spine lengthening). Allow yourself to relax as if you were going to fall asleep. Abandon the weight of your body to gravity and feel it merging with the floor, no tensions whatsoever. Close your eyes. Relax.
- Inhale slowly through your nose and imagine the flow of air traveling from your head to your lower abdomen (below the belly button), expanding it. Focus only on that area. Then breathe out imagining the flow of air traveling back to your head, exhaling through an open mouth. Repeat a few times until you locate the air in your lower abdomen, making sure you’re not moving your chest/shoulders, the only movement happens from your stomach downwards.
- Inhale in 5 counts until you’re completely full of air, exhale in 5 counts until you’re completely empty. Repeat 3 times. You can place your hands below your belly button to help you feel the expansion of the abdomen. You can also place a flat heavy object (like a book) to help you feel the resistance, if you prefer to leave your hands/arms resting on the floor.
- Inhale in 5 counts, pause for 3 counts, exhale for 5 counts, pause for 3 counts. Repeat 5 times.
- Increase the counts to 10, 15, 20 and 30 for inhalation/expiration and keep the pauses at 3 counts. It should feel natural and comfortable. Trust your breathing, let it guide you through the process.
By the end of this exercise you should feel ‘bigger’ than usual, finding a new space inside you allowing you to expand your inner self. Embrace this new sensation, it’s just the beginning of your journey.