Uttihita Chataranga Dandasana, Four-limbed staff pose or Plank pose, is one good way to stimulate the core.
After I gave birth to my daughter, I had a hard time coming back into singing in a stable way. Looking back on that time, I realize that my core muscles had been stretched so much during my pregnancy that I had a hard time accessing them afterwards. It felt as if they simply weren’t there anymore! This helped me realize just how important core muscles are to singing.
Often when people talk about “strengthening your core,” they mean simply the muscles of the abdominal wall, usually just the peripheral muscles. Special attention is given to the “six-pack” muscles, the rectus abdominus, since society seems to think that a toned belly is very attractive. However, when I use the word “core,” I am not referring to those muscles at all. The rectus abdominus is, in fact, the most superficial (closest to the surface) muscle in the abdominal wall, and can actually get in the way if it is overly engaged while singing. “Core” refers simply to those muscles that are deeper in our body, closest to the spine. The word can also be applied to our back body and all along the spine, even up to the neck.
When you sing, try releasing the outer muscles and feel an inner stability rising from your solid foundation: your feet pressing into the earth, and your pelvis aligned in a neutral position. Lengthen the tailbone without overly tucking, and perhaps feel a lifting of the frontal hipbones. Now activate the “pit of the abdomen” especially as you exhale, and be ready to release those muscles when needed. There is engagement yet fluidity, softness yet strength. If you’re having trouble striking this balance, there are many yoga poses you can try (like the one pictured above) that will help you access those deeper muscles. I always incorporate core strengthening, as well as stretching those muscles, into my group yoga classes. If you have specific questions and need more individual feedback, let’s schedule a private session!
Core strengthening and singing from your core takes time to develop, but eventually helps you release tension and strain in your singing, and find more ease. I eventually found my core again after giving birth – it just took a few months of regular, mindful practice. And I found that, by maintaining this regular practice and continuing to build core strength, I not only strengthened my body and deepened my breath thus further supporting my voice, but I established a deeper connection with the core of my being. This enables me to trust in my inner voice and compassionately redirect those parts of me that want to help, but are simply working too hard. When we sing from our core, our voices are all the more free!