Here are some of my favorite poses that help me physically and mentally prepare for my singing practice. Side stretches, forward folds with your chest open, twists, and backbends are all great ways to help prepare your body to be an instrument of song! Some deeper core work would be great, too… but I decided to offer just five poses for this post (and you can always check out my article on core work.) Attend one of my classes to experience more exercises and poses that will open up your breath and get you in touch with your voice!
Chandrasana, or Standing crescent moon, variation with balance.
Side stretches open up the intercostal muscles (the muscles between the ribs) and also stretch the serratus anterior and latissimus dorsi muscles. The balancing aspect of this pose also strengthens and lengthens the psoas on each side – all of which is great for deepening the breath and releasing tension!
Prasaritta Padottanossana, or Wide-legged Forward fold – variation with shoulder stretch/chest open
Be sure to keep your spine long and your chest open, and don’t feel the need to straighten your arms fully out behind you if you are tight in the shoulders – try using a strap. Draw your shoulders away from your ears and draw the shoulder blades towards one-another. A forward fold with your chest still open can “trick” the body into stimulating cell respiration, thus deepening the breath. Breathe into the back ribs as you broaden the collarbones, and release tension with each exhalation.
Parivrtta Trikonasana, or Revolved triangle pose
Any twist is great for stretching and releasing the diaphragm, as well as the muscles in the abdominal wall. Twists are also great for a number of other things, such as digestion. Twist to the right first, and make sure your legs, (the foundation of the pose) are firmly engaged. The second picture is a version for beginners, and is more of a wide legged forward extension with twist… not exactly a rotated triangle, but a good way to work towards it. This is one of my favorite poses – afterwards I feel much more open and ready to share my voice. It’s not about how far forward you can fold – keep your spine long and use a block under the hand and/or bend your knees if necessary. Follow your breath, and take your time coming in and out of the pose.
Marichyasana C, or Seated spinal twist
Here is another twist, great for the reasons listed above. This one is a little deeper and more challenging – I recommend practicing this pose under and experienced teacher’s guidance. As much as possible, keep the hips level – descend the left hip as you twist to the right. Inhale and lift the breastbone, growing upwards through the spine as you rotate. Initiate the twist in the belly, and once your twist is deep enough, try placing your elbow on the outside of the opposite thigh – but avoid collapsing in the chest to do so! Lead with the sternum (breastbone,) and not the chin – keep the throat and jaw soft. Hold for at least 3 full, deep breaths on each side.
Ustrasana, or Camel pose
Any backbend is great for opening up the chest, again to deepen the breath, and also to reinforce healthy alignment, counter-acting “computer back!” Plus, it feels great! Just be sure to go slow and keep your core engaged – imagine drawing your hip-points toward each-other, or pulling your naval in toward your spine. Press the knees and tops of the feet down as you internally rotate the thighs and lengthen the tailbone. Then inhale and draw the shoulder blades towards one-another, down the back, and toward the front of the body – imagine they are making a shelf for the heart! Take deep, slow, even breaths as you slowly coil yourself back into this pose. Feel free to use blocks for your hands and/or tuck your toes. Please do not try this pose for the first time without an experienced teacher’s guidance! I recommend trying this pose with your thighs gently pressing against a wall, in order to keep the thighs vertical. I would be happy to help you experience this pose, or another backbend that is right for you, in one of my upcoming Yoga classes!
In general, be sure to stay connected with your breath as you practice asana, especially when preparing for singing. When possible, take “bottom-up” breaths: invite the breath to enter the lower lungs first, displacing the abdominal cavity and thus releasing the belly out – then invite it to fill the chest. This is not always possible in asana practice due to core engagement, but as often as possible, direct the breath in this way. A few more general guidelines for your practice: keep the shoulders down away from the ears and throat, jaw, and the area between your eyebrows soft. Thanks for reading, and happy practicing!