I always struggled with how to breathe. Not normal, life based breathing, that was fine, but long lines, especially in certain Classical songs.
When I couldn’t sing…
When I was recovering from losing my voice in 2010 I found that my classical voice was the easiest way for me to sing. So I took the opportunity to correct my lack of Grade 8 Classical singing with ABRSM and studied for and took the exam. I loved it all except for the breathing.
I was always running out. There were certain lines in certain songs that I just couldn’t get. And the more I tried the more stressed I got about it and the worse it got. I knew what I needed to do and the teacher I saw for help a couple of times reiterated it but I just couldn’t do it. It was only when I visited an opera singer who reminded me that I’m an actress and no one cares if I take an extra breath that I stopped worrying and got on with acting the song.
But I still had a problem with breathing, I knew it and I was ashamed of it. I’m a singing teacher for goodness sake! It’s my job.
I have a few exercises that, over time have helped. One in particular, by Jay Clayton, that really helps, but breathing still always feels like a challenge.
Then today I had a breakthrough and it’s so exciting that I have to tell you about it.
Wim Hof Method – Helping Me to Breathe
One of the singers I work with, Chris, has been raving about Wim Hof for ages. He lent me his copy of the Wim Hof Method book and told me to get on with doing it. Well this morning I did. I had no idea the impact it would have.*
I’m not going to share the breathing techniques as I don’t feel qualified to officially endorse it but I want to share my experience of using it.
Firstly I took a big breath in and then breathed out as much as felt ok. Then I had to time how long I could hold my breath on what Wim Hof calls “empty”. I managed 15 seconds. Which is about right. I don’t like feeling like I don’t have air to use. To me it feels a bit like the idea of drowning*.
Then I did the one round of breathing technique, which was very simple. Then I timed how long I could sustain on empty before I had the urge to breathe in. It was 50 seconds. Then I did another round and I was able to easily wait 75 seconds before needing to breathe in.
This was very exciting but the thing that inspired this blog is that singing in the car, and all day since, has never felt freer. My voice feels fabulous in a way that it hasn’t for ages. Of course there could be many reasons for that but I’m pretty sure the breathing stuff I did first thing made a big difference.
So I wrote this blog to share my joyful experience.
How About You?
What have you done recently that felt joyful?
Have you had any moments where you’ve noticed your voice feels really free?
* Side note, I know of other methods of breathing that seem to be based on a very similar approach. I have used one such method as part of the approach used by wonderful Osteopath Ann Coxhead. For more info see I’m sure there are others and this is just the one that is reaching more exposure at this time. For more info about Ann’s work https://www.anncoxhead.com/
** An interesting thing I noted from the book is that Wim Hof is that he said the exercise is harder for people with inflammatory medical conditions. I have and have had inflammatory conditions for much of my adult life so this might explain my breathing struggles. I will try to take this into account with the singers I work with, if they struggle with longer breaths and are inclined to breathe in before they need to.