I prefer to work on posture in singing from the feet up. Good posture is good alignment without tensing your abdominal or pelvic floor.
1. Feet - you should feel your feet equally and firmly connected to the floor.
Pretend that you are a tree, your legs are the tree trunk and under the floor are all your roots. You can move any which way and still feel grounded to the floor as if the floor were holding you up and not your muscles. Notice how free the breath feels when your body moves freely.
2. Knees - gently unlock or slightly bend them. Notice that when they lock back so do your abdominal muscles, but when they are slightly bent, or unlocked you can relax your abdominals. These muscles need to be relaxed for singing, unlike sports or dance.
3. Pelvis - make sure your pelvic floor muscles (think bathroom muscles) are relaxed. Take a breath and if you feel your pelvic floor gently and slightly move downward than you've done this correctly. Pretend you have a tail and ever so slightly tuck it under. See if the breath is deep and lower when you make this small pelvic adjustment.
4. Stomach- tighten your abdominals on purpose and take a small breath. You will feel locked and breathing will feel shallow. Now relax this area and breathe again. Same thing with pelvic floor muscles. To sing with freedom in the body the abdominals and pelvic floor muscles should stay relaxed as you sing and as you breathe. The body should not stiffen up.
5. Raise your hands over your head and like wings bring them slowly back down to your sides. This gently raises the sternum without arching your back. Release your abdominals again. A slightly lifted sternum will help you find an expanded ribcage for inhalation.
6. Your neck and shoulders should feel free and easy. Your jaw is also a part of your posture! Let it hang gently open from the place in front of your ears so that it completely relaxes.
7. Your face is part of your posture too. I tell my students to think of a "Marilyn Monroe" face---thick pouty lips and relaxed tongue and jaw. Notice how this posture directly relaxes your throat area. For contrast squeeze tight the muscles of facial expression including the lips. Notice how facial/lip motions tighten the throat. Try singing from a "Marilyn" face and see how much easier your voice feels.
8. Relaxing the upper body and abdominals can be achieved while still feeling alert and energized and with good posture--it just takes a bit of practice!
Basic Breathing Exercises
1. Lay down on your back on a comfortable surface with your head on a small pillow and knees bent so your feet are flat on the surface. Place a heavy book on your stomach. Relax your abdominal muscles and notice that as you breathe in the book passively rises and then lowers back down as you exhale. Now make a sustained “sss” and see if the book stays up and gradually goes back down while you make this sound.
2. Sitting in a chair with your feet touching the floor, flop over like a rag doll, with relaxation in your arms, face and neck, and breathe in this position. See if you can feel the expansion in the pelvic floor area, even into your upper legs. You should feel like you are inflating a cushion under you as you inhale.
3. Sit towards the edge of your chair, feet touching the floor and cup your chin in your hands as you place your elbows on each knee. Feel your lower body, especially your waist and back expand as you inhale. Exhale slowly on an “ss” sound, keeping that same feeling of low body expansion.
4. Sit up halfway, relax the stomach muscles and breathe in feeling the same amount of expansion low in the body. Try this sitting up completely. Relax the stomach area. See if you can have the same expansion as when you were bent over.
5. Bend over at the hips (top of your thighs), not waist, knees slightly bent, so that your spine is straight as you hang down and you feel like a rag-doll. Feel your face, tongue, arms, knees and body relax. Keep your knees unlocked. Inhale so that you feel an expansion low in your body, even into the thigh area.
6. Sit on the floor feet tucked under you, stretch out your arms and upper body. Notice how low and expanded your breath is in this “child’s pose” yoga position. Only do this if it feels comfortable. Make the hissing sound keeping the body expanded in this position.
7. Now stand up place your hands criss-crossed in front of you on opposite shoulders, knees slightly bent, and breathe in, feeling that same lower body expansion, but no movement in the shoulders. Repeat slowly, 10 times.
8. Assume a buoyant fencing position and breathe comfortably, make sure your abs feel soft and loose. Notice how your whole body gets involved. Sustain an “ss” and a “zz” sound in this position.
7. Stand with relaxed stomach (or abdominals) and relaxed shoulders with sternum (chest) high and ribs relaxed and out. Place one hand on your stomach, the other on your upper chest. Take a small but low ribcage/stomach breath and exhale slowly on an “ssss” feeling your stomach gently expand underneath your lower hand, for a silent count of ten. If this is easy try to a count of twenty, then thirty. Towards the end of the counting your stomach should gradually come back in. The hand on your chest should feel no movement.
8. Same as #7 with a sustained “zz” sound. Try to make the zz sound with no feeling of tightness in your throat. Can you sustain this as long as you did the “ss”?
9. Now do this with 5 short broken sounds on one breath “ssss” , “ssss”, “ssss”, “ssss”, “ssss”. Now try “zz” , “zz” “zz”, “zz”. Feel the lower body movement when you make this sound.
9. Yell “hey” (one hand on your belly) with an open feeling in your throat as if you were calling to someone across a large room. Notice how your lower body supports your voice. The calling out should activate the “power point” area beneath your sternum.
10. Do the “ssss” and “zzzz” sounds as before starting soft, gradually getting loud and then gradually getting soft again on one breath for each.
11. Stand up and try to exhale completely—blowing out all of your air. Let your stomach area (abdominals) get very tight as you exhale like this. Now relax your abdominal muscles and throat completely as the inhale occurs. Feel your lower body expand as the breath comes in. This should be passive. You will "inflate" like an air cushion low in the body if you're doing this correctly.
13. Inhale with hands on ribs-notice that they move in an outward direction as you inhale. Now exhale and squeeze them in tightly like a corset. Now inhale and let them expand out as far as they can go and keep this expansion in your ribcage as you slowly blow your air out. Notice how you lower stomach muscles gently pull in as you exhale.
12. Stretch hands up over your head, then out to the sides and slowly bring them down, keeping sternum high. Place hands on ribcage breathe in feeling it expand. Hold expansion and slowly blow out a “sss” sound, stay expanded in the rib cage as long as you can.
Note: Do not worry if low-abdominal breathing doesn’t feel as “deep” as clavicular- “stomach pushed-in chest high” inhalation. What you are feeling is a decrease in tension-which is good!
You are not ready to start warming up your voice until your body has found good alignment, posture and breath. Think of an artist stretchimg her canvas!
Now you are ready to start painting.
Note: These are posted for educational use only. They do not substitute for actual voice lessons. These are done by yourself at your own risk, although it is my intention that they help you.