by Lineo Oren: If you’re wondering how to improve your singing, did you know that there are yoga poses for singers? Yoga for singers is a real thing…
Why? Because yoga is working on ALL the good stuff you need to master as a singer. Especially when you are still learning (even the best singers are always learning) yoga can help you get the vocal essentials.
Here Are the Vocal Essentials for Singers:
- Full, deep breathing
- Good posture
- Strength in the bottom part of the body
- Freedom in the upper part of the body
- Strong core and pelvic floor muscles
- Vocal cord function
How to Improve Singing With Yoga: From a Professional Singer
When my voice has a bad day, or when I feel under the weather, tense or simply unmotivated – I do yoga or some kind of bodywork. This may or may not end with me singing . . .
The point is that it’s better to work on the body and not sing than to sing with a stuck body.
The latter would be like banging your head against the wall, hoping it will crack so you can walk into the other room. The first is simply opening the door . . .
I am a (opera trained) singer and voice teacher in Amsterdam. Whereas teaching has always come naturally to me, singing has absolutely not. In music academy, I struggled with all sorts of physical and mental issues.
There is nothing like singing after doing yoga, or better still – while doing yoga.
In my early twenties, after a few years of being in denial about the extent to which muscle tension was screwing my voice over – I finally started doing yoga.
It was a revelation and I have never looked back. These days, I incorporate yoga poses in my work with singing students too.
I am about to share what I found out the hard way. Read on to learn the yoga poses for singers you should be doing if you want to improve your singing.
There is nothing like singing after doing yoga, or better still – while doing yoga. I am passionate about using yoga as a way to improve singing, and there are many reasons why yoga is good for singing.
The Importance of the Breath In Singing and Yoga
The breath is crucial to singing, because singing relies on airflow. Singing can be defined as the vocal cords coming together and the air going in between them, making them vibrate.
The breath is crucial to singing, because singing relies on airflow.
So we want to keep the body open as we exhale and have nothing in the way of our airflow. That’s how we establish the foundation of good singing.
Here’s my formula of how to use yoga to improve your singing:
1. After you are familiar with the below poses, you can start replacing the exhale with sounds
2. Start with one sound: A vocal consonant (like L, N, M, Z) or one vowel
3. Then you can experiment with warm-up exercises
4. Now you’re ready to start singing whole phrases from a song
Yoga for Singers: Here Are 7 Yoga Poses to Help You Improve Your Singing:
Do not stay in a pose if it is painful (a bit of a stretch is ok) or if you are dealing with any injuries or health issues.
1. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
Technically Pranayama is a breathing practice, not a yoga pose. Pranayama means conscious control of the breath. View this breathing exercise as the starting point for the following yoga poses for singers.
Alternate Nostril Breathing, or Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, is a great way to regulate your breathing, blocking one nostril at a time, inhaling through one nostril and then exhaling through the other.
Personally, I like the version where you lay your middle finger between your eyebrows and use the little finger and thumb to block the nostrils. It relaxes the facial muscles, turns on the awareness to your breath and helps you focus.
Pro Tip: Give the exhale as much importance as the inhale, if not more. Many people tend to inhale too much and get dizzy.
2. Cat Pose to Start Your Sound Smoothly
Cat Pose helps a lot with runs and riffs (fast melodies) and for singers who tend to make too much of an effort right on the first note (which is a more common problem than you may think).
Move back and forth between Cat Pose (when your spine rounds) and a neutral spine. Inhale for a neutral spine in Table Top position, relaxing the shoulders and allowing the air to enter and expand the lungs more.
Exhale into Cat Pose, relaxing the neck muscles and then stretching them, thereby neutralizing them so they are not involved in sound making. The beginning of the sound will be a lot smoother and easier.
These movements nourish and hydrate the spinal column, great for your general posture.
Pro Tip: Inhale through your mouth to feel the pharynx (the back of the throat, the main resonator of your instrument) a lot more clearly.
3. Elbow Hold Uttanasana: Feel Your Breath as a Column
This originated as a brilliant idea of a yoga teacher who studies voice with me. I asked him which yoga pose is best to release the neck (because he was tensing it up, and his airflow would be compromised).
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold) was his immediate recommendation.
The variation of holding opposite elbows while in your Forward Fold will help relax your shoulders. When the shoulders and neck can relax, the air fills you all the way from the nose level to the bottom ribs.
That’s the column of air. It’s incredibly helpful and easy to sing when you have all the air in the world and nothing stopping it. If you’re wondering how to improve your singing, this practice is another great way to do so.
4. Supported Halfway Lift to Release Shoulder Tension
Ardha Uttanasana, or Halfway Lift, creates a flat back. When we take a supported variation by placing our hands on a table, counter top, or wall that’s shoulder-level, we also release tension in the shoulders.
This yoga pose also neutralizes the trapezius muscle, which is tense for most people. Without my first voice teacher showing me this yoga pose for singers, I would still look like a football player, with my shoulder blades tensed up. This is not sustainable if you want to improve your singing.
A Halfway Lift helps melt away shoulder tension around the base of the neck. A mobile neck free of tension means a free larynx, and now you’re ready to sing!
Pro Tip: A similar effect, and even slightly more intense, can be achieved with Downward Facing Dog Pose, which is a great full-body stretch.
5. Lion Pose for the Freest Sound Available to You
Warning: this might feel weird, but it’s sooo worth it, so just do it. You will thank me later. 🙂
The tongue is a huge muscle in our mouth, and it really looooves messing with our vocal tract. So to get it out of the way we need to stretch it and loosen it.
That’s what Lion Pose, or Simhasana, does. It is very effective for strengthening the larynx and the vocal cords. In other words, practicing Lion Pose is the ultimate yoga for singers.
Pro Tip: Remind yourself every now and then to stretch the tongue out again and roll the eyes up again. That opposite stretch is the point of the pose, and for most it will not come naturally.
Also, be careful not to exhale too much – the larynx is free and extra delicate in this exercise, a lot of air could ‘weigh on it.’
6. Pigeon Pose to Help You Sing Higher and Louder
As intense as this yoga pose is – so is the result. The deep opening of the hip joint is a fantastic way to feel all the inside of your body.
Whenever I struggle with high notes I go into the Pigeon Pose and kiss my struggle goodbye. The reason Pigeon is a great yoga pose for singers is that it’s a wonderful way to feel your column of air.
Pro Tip: Release the jaw on the inhale and feel your pharynx. Then focus on the connection between that and your back ribs. This will give you a huge instrument and a lot of power.
7. Mountain Pose: Let’s Stand Up and Sing!
All of these practices and yoga for singers are so helpful, but at the end of the day, we still need to be able to stand up and sing!
. . . But there’s a right way to do it. Tadasana, or Mountain Pose, is an active standing position, making you elongate, ground and release what is necessary for your body to be as open and calm as possible. Sounds like an ideal yoga pose for singers to me!
There are two main principles to keep in mind while standing in Tadasana. First, keep your feet firmly grounded by pressing down through all four corners. Second, keep your spine elongated (stand up tall and proud!) and ears over your shoulders.
Pro Tip: On challenging notes, especially long ones, feel free to extend your arms out.
If You’re Wondering How to Improve Your Singing, Use These Yoga Poses for Singers!
Yoga is like magic for singing, which I am sure you will find soon enough. It gets you to create the richest sounds with minimum effort, and isn’t that every singer’s dream?