Breathing is the basis of life – and of singing. Every singer knows the importance of breath and breathing at the correct intervals while singing. This is precisely why yoga and pranayamas (breathing exercises), in particular, are effective warm-up routines for singers, especially Carnatic music vocalists, and can help improve their singing voice.
Yoga and pranayamas enable singing
- Posture is extremely important for any singer. And yoga trains you in good posture. When you sing with your spine erect, you are enabling your voice to travel from your abdomen smoothly.
- Your breath decides your ability to have a steady voice, to reach high pitches, and your capacity to hold a note for any length of time. It is the secret behind having a full voice, minimising impurities that enter you when you sing, and improving your voice control and culture.
- Singers need to know:
- How many times to take breath
- When to take breath
- How to hold your breath as you stay on a note
Pranayamas help you with breath control
A. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama Estimated Time: 10-15 mins
Hold your breath to swell your song!
How to do it
Here, you will actively use the thumb and ring finger to close your right and left nostrils respectively – alternately.
- Sit on a mat or on a chair with your spine erect.
- Rest your left palm on your knee. Or you can keep it in chin mudra, i.e. with the tips of your left thumb and index finger touching each other while your palm is facing upwards.
- Fold the tips of the index and middle fingers of the right hand inward until they touch the right palm.
- With your right thumb, press your right nostril and breathe in for 4 counts from your left nostril.
- Now, close your left nostril also with your ring finger, and hold your breath for 10 counts or as many as you are comfortable with.
- Release your right thumb, and exhale from your right nostril for a count of 8.
- Now, inhale from your right nostril for 4 counts, close your right nostril and hold your breath for as long as you can, say 10 counts, then, release your ring finger and exhale from your left nostril for 8 counts.
- This completes one cycle. You can do this for 3 cycles to begin with and slowly increase it as per your comfort levels.
The inhalation, holding, and exhalation should be gentle, and not forced. Enjoy the smooth flow of air in and out of your breathing tract. This will help your passageway clear up and enable you to sing without obstruction.
This pranayama infuses your body with oxygen, purifies your energy channels, clears your breathing tract and enables a smooth vocal performance. It also calms you and helps you focus better.
B. Chant A-U-M Estimated Time: 3-4 mins
The sound ‘Om’ actually consists of the syllables A-U-M. Here, you bring out your voice from your abdomen, from where it travels to the heart muscles and then culminates at the throat.
How to do it
Sit on a mat or a chair with your spine erect, your hands in chin mudra, and sing Aaaaa… from the pit of your stomach, then produce Oooo…sound from your lungs, and then Mmmm…sound from your lips. Enjoy the vibrations and feel the clarity in your voice.
This will clear your passageway as well as make you calmer and more peaceful from within. A steady voice is more possible this way. It helps singers produce a deep tone. The vibrations that this sound evokes also help you feel relaxed. In this state, your voice is strong and steady. It’s like the sentry who clears the path for a dignitary, in this case, your voice!
C. Lion’s Breath Estimated Time: 5 mins
How to do it
- Sit on your heels with your knees bent. (You can also sit cross-legged if that is more comfortable for you.)
- Now lean forward, and come to a table-top position resting on all fours.
- Inhale deeply.
- Next, open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue, stretching it down to your chin.
- Exhale forcefully, from your abdomen, making a ‘ha’ sound; carry your breath to the tip of your tongue.
- Repeat five times.
- Strengthens your vocal cords and diaphragm
- Helps relax your facial muscles
D. Bhramari Pranayama – Humming Bee Breath Estimated Time: 5 mins
How to do it
Here, you place your thumbs just outside your ears. Place your index finger on your eyebrows and your other three fingers over your eyes. Now, with your mouth closed, take a deep breath and say ‘Om’ as you exhale. Experience the vibrations you produce.
It will fill you with calmness and relaxation, a ‘sound’ place to produce music from.
E. Hum Estimated Time: 8-10 mins
Humming is a good vocal exercise to train your vocal range. You can hum your song at different pitches – loudly, softly, and also explore the space in between. Enjoy the vibrations as you hum. Hum different octaves. This will also make you aware of your breath control so you can practise holding and letting it go effectively.
- Humming will improve the quality of your tone and deepen your voice.
- It helps you exercise your vocal cords without putting strain on it.
- Over time, it will give you a better sense and control over raga (tune) as you internalize it.
- Humming massages your throat muscles warming your insides.
Over time, pranayamas can improve your breath for singing. Remember to be regular with your practice and make it a part of your Carnatic music practice routine. Once you have prepared your voice with pranayamas, you can try out more Carnatic vocal exercises to warm yourself further. These good practices will go a long way towards building and maintaining your voice quality and strength for Carnatic music. Perfect to start your Carnatic vocal training with SaPa. Join our family to enjoy LIVE classes or you could also choose to learn at your own pace.