I have been taking voice lessons for almost three years now. We do a lot of work on posture, breathing, forming open vowel sounds and articulating words. We also work on dynamics and “the flow” of a line. I am thinking that some of this can be applied to other areas of life as well.
Breathing is foundational to singing. It makes the difference between a hard, shallow, often flat sound and music that is full, rich and beautiful. I once had a choir director tell us, “Think of your body as being like a flute: It needs air through the whole thing.” By the way, don’t lockc your knees when singing properly; it can cause you to faint. I don’t really know why, but some rather big dudes have fallen off the backs of risers because they did that.
Posture is breathing’s conjoined twin: Slump or round your shoulders and it will be impossible to get a full supply of air; stand tall and you get all you need.
Learning to breathe is revolutionary in terms of health. Yes, learning. This basic function is something we take for granted; yet most of us have no idea about how to keep our posture and breathe from our lower abdomen. It does take practice and awareness. If you master it, however, mental, physical and spiritual health improve. An adequate supply of oxygen causes us to relax. It feeds our brain and muscles; it helps to relieve pain, anxiety and other discomforts.
Stretching, moving and practicing good posture is as important, mostly because we move as we were designed to. Slouching, bending toward computer screens and shuffling our feet all work against us. Back to breathing: It is impossible to fill your lungs if you are tense or slumped. Tall and relaxed is the position that optimizes your lung capacity.
Relationally, learning to speak clearly and well are crucial. If you want to be heard, open your mouth; pronounce words, especially consonants, and talk in a tone that is inviting. Use communication for connection. Who wants to listen to someone yell or whine! Isn’t it more enjoyable to have a conversation with someone who has a pleasant demeanor and voice?
I am intrigued by the fact that both music and psychology talk about dynamics. How interesting is that! In music, it has to do with the volume at which a piece is played or sung. Some parts might be louder; others softer. A line might have a crescendo in it to make it flow more expressively; or might decrescendo to finish.
In psychology, dynamics have to do with the balance in a social system. In a way, that could be described as “volume:” Who seems to take the most space and be heard more vs the one who seems to disappear or be unheard. In a healthy system, there is room for every person; each gets heard; all listen.
Just as a song does, life has a flow to it. There are more active periods, seasons of rest, times to build, plan, regroup, heal, find solitude and be with people. We do so much better when we respect this process and cooperate with the call of the moment.
What is the symphony of your life like these days? Are you standing tall, breathing and singing along? Do you need to tune up a bit?