Breathing Basics

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  • The Breathing Cycle
  • How to Inhale and Exhale
  • The Inhale
  • The Top of the Breath
  • The Exhale
  • Bottom of the Breath

The Breathing Cycle

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How to Inhale and Exhale

Air moves in and out of your upper body in a continuous, smooth and easy flow.  The lungs fill and the chest expands. The lungs empty and the chest gently deflates. 

Do NOT pucker your lips to blow out or breathe in.

It is beyond the scope of this introductory program to delve into the powerful diaphragm breathing at this time.The success of the full body breathing/diaphragm breathing depends upon the fluid and tension-free habits of the vocal core and aligned posture.

Release tension in the Vocal Core, and you will discover that your lower body and full body breathing begins to engage on its own.

The Inhale

Air moves into your upper body in a continuous, smooth and easy flow.  The lungs fill and the chest expands.

-  Do NOT pucker your lips to blow out or breathe in. 

-  Don't move the head out of home position when you inhale.  

-  Breath flow is fluid, without jerks.

- Feel as though you are gradually swelling the upper body like a balloon. 

We use the words,“Add Air” and “Air In” interchangeably with “Inhale." People often associate too much effort with the word, “Inhale”.  To avoid the common mistake overworking the inhale, it’s more productive to imagine that your chest inflates like a balloon; in one, smooth and steady movement of air/breath.


Discover - Inhale  

Preparation:

- All points of the vocal core are in open and released position.

- Look into a mirror.

- Maintain focus upon the movement of the breath into the chest, mouth and head.

- Mouth closed.

Exercise: 

- Inflate the chest like a heart shaped balloon.

- Breathe in slowly through the nose.

- Smooth and even flow of air in and out of vocal core.

- No sudden, stopping or jerking movements.

- Gulps? Slow the rate of your breathing and the jerks, twitches and gulps will become fluid.

- The breath is silent. (Silence means there is no resistance or tension in the larynx.)

- Lips are closed, relaxed and not puckered.

- No effort. Do not suck air inward or push air outward or pull the shoulders, head or chest upward.

The Exhale

The diaphragm pushes upwards against the lungs to push the air out of the body.

The upper body contracts and creates a vacuum that draws the inhale.

One of the most common errors in breathing, is to waste effort on the exhale.

 Often we will push the air outwards, collapse the chest and shoulders. When this part of the vocal body collapses, there is no place for the air pressure to build, nor to resonate the sound waves.

Your exhale should be even and steady, without disturbing the resting position..

If you collapse the upper body or push the air out on the exhale, then, in the small amount of time between vocal phrases, you will have to both raise the chest AND inhale. There simply is not enough time to do both.

Think of slowly deflating a balloon with no fast, jerking motions.

Don't push the air out OR pucker your lips as though you're the great north wind.

Simply allow yourself to slowly deflate.


Discover - Exhale

Preparation:

- All points of the vocal core are in open and released position.

- Look into a mirror.

- Maintain focus upon the movement of the breath into the chest, mouth and head.

- Mouth closed.

Exercise:

- Deflate upper body like a balloon.

- Do NOT push the air out.- Head, neck, shoulders and chest are moved passively by the movement of the breath.

- Head remains at rest. Watch for head entanglements through out.


- Mouth remains passive. Resist temptation to ‘blow’ the air out.


Exercise - How to Inhale and Exhale

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12:22 - How to inhale and exhale


Observe

As you exhale, there is likely to be a few places where you will be tempted to engage effort in the head and chest. 
When you notice movements of head, neck and chest towards effort, simply slow the movement of the exhale and release those actions. Then resume the breathing exercise. 


Head

The head does not move from its rested, horizontal position when you inhale or exhale. There is often a tendency to cock the head up and back during the inhale. But this pulls the vocal core out of alignment. Instead, you will rest the head in its proper position as the air pressure builds and allow the air to pass into the proper resonant spaces.

Lips and Mouth

Lips and muscles around the mouth remain at rest. 

Do NOT purse the lips as though to suck the air in or blow outwards.

Larynx

Pay special attention to your larynx. Are you pressing inward? 

The breath is silent.

No sniffing, gasping, or snorting. If you make a sound when you breathe, there is tension and resistance in the larynx.

If you make sound in your larynx while breathing, simply slow your breathing pace. When you slow the speed of the inhale, you will discover a perfect rate at which the larynx will release and allow the breath to silently pass. And you will be left with an easy, effortless and silent inhale.  

Top of the Breath

At the end of the inhale, the Top of the Breath, you will make important breathing and voice decisions.  Here you determine how much air to take in and how to leave the throat completely relaxed. We will isolate this critical stage of the breath cycle in the next units. 

Throat remains open and the larynx is relaxed at the top of the breath.

The top of the breath is the most common place in the breathing cycle where we engage vocal tension.

Remember, your larynx doesn’t control the flow of your air. Your vocal folds must stretch and contract to vibrate the air into sound waves. But, they can’t move if they’re being pressed inward to control the breath!

However, this place passes so quickly that we may not even notice we are doing so.

You don’t need to make any special effort in the larynx at the top of the breath. Your larynx remains in its rested, neutral position. 


Exercise - Top of the Breath

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Preparation: “Home” position

All exercises begin only after all points of the vocal core are at rest in the "Home" position.

Exercise:

  • Define the sensation at the top of your inhale.
  • Observe the easy inflation and deflation of the chest. How the chest silently rises and falls with the motion of the breath cycle.
  • Slow your breathing pace so that you can detect the moment at the end of your inhale.
  • Notice if you are closing your throat at the end of your inhale.
  • Release this unnecessary tension.
  •  Explore how you can leave your larynx at rest at the top of the breath, the end of the inhale.

Bottom of the Breath

The bottom of the breath is the end of the exhale. It is important to remain CONSCIOUS of this very important stage of the breathing cycle. 

However, this stage of the breath moves by so quickly that it's tempting to ignore its prime importance to the breathing and voicing. At the bottom of the breath you will release tension from the previous phrases and "Set" the breath.

We will explore the Bottom of the Breath in Lesson Four of Vocal Fundamentals 101.

Summary

  • INHALE - Inflate and deflate the upper body naturally, with no extra effort. There is a natural, easy flow of air in and out of the upper body.- Do not suck or draw the air in.- If you use effort in lips, face or shoulders in order to breathe: Slow the flow of the breath until the cycle of the breath becomes a fluid, smooth circle air in and out.- All vocal release points are open and remain at rest.
  • EXHALE - Allow the air to easily exit the upper body, as though deflating a balloon.  Without extra effort. - Do not push the air out. - Do not collapse the upper body. It deflates naturally, on its own. No extra effort is needed. - All vocal release points are open and remain at rest.
  • MINDFUL- Remain conscious of when the first locks and old habits begin to reassert themselves. - If a lock closes, slow the cycle of the breath and slowly work from just above and below the breath level where the old pattern re-engaged. Release the lock and then slowly inflate up and through the old pattern until the lock can remain open.
  •  INHALE AND EXHALE MOVEMENT ARE FLUID. Twitches indicate that there are mis-alignments, "Entanglements," that will later translate to leaks in the breath pressure. (This causes an uneven vocal tone.)

Vocabulary

  • BOTTOM OF THE BREATH - The end of the exhale.
  • DISENTANGLE - To unwind unnecessary connections between parts of the vocal core.
  • ENTANGLEMENT - An unnecessary connection between parts of the vocal core. For instance, you may move your head in order to inhale. This is an entanglement between your head and the breath.
  • TOP OF THE BREATH - The end of the inhale. 
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