Take A Deep Breath

For many, singing is a passion, and for many more, it is a dream. In my younger days, I played in a few garage bands. I didn’t know how to sing (or play any instruments), but who is going to let that stop them? If I had known what I was doing, though, I may not have had as much to yelp about in the first place: The proper breathing technique for singing is the same as it is for therapeutic deep breathing, which has been proven to have numerous mental health benefits including stress relief, improved mood, and increased memory. In both, the goal is to take deep breaths through the diaphragm (the muscle that sits just under your rib cage, but above your stomach).

Try this: put your hand over your chest, as if you are saying the pledge of allegiance, and take a deep breath. Did your chest move? If so, you were breathing through your body’s emergency breathing pathway (it’s like the emergency engine on a jet). Breathing through your chest gets air into your body extremely quickly, and is advisable when you are running a race, being chased by a bear, or having other emergencies more likely to have occurred 10,000 years ago than today. But it isn’t the best way to breath for daily living.

Now try placing your hand over your chest again, and see if you can take a deep breath without feeling your chest move. You should find that while your chest is still, your stomach is expanding and deflating. This is called diaphragmatic breathing (or, stomach
breathing), and it can be difficult to the get the hang of it.

I have been taught diaphragmatic breathing in mental health seminars, mindfulness trainings, yoga classes, and more, but the best and most comprehensive instructions I have found are in free singing/vocal lessons available on youtube. Who would have thought?

At the bottom of this article is a short introductory video on diaphragmatic breathing by vocal instructor Eric Arceneaux. In his profession, proper breathing technique is the first and most important thing taught to students, and perhaps this is why I find that they tend to explain it more clearly than we mental health professionals do. I am a strong believer in a creative strengths-based approach to therapy and life. Everyone has strengths, interests, and passions. By incorporating moments of deep, relaxed breathing into your daily routine, you will experience a lessening of distress, improved mood, and a renewed ability to focus on your strengths .This is just one example that I hope you will find helpful.

Voice Lesson: How to Breath from the Diaphragm

John Mathews,LCSW has recently joined Family Guidance Centers and brings experience, energy and compassion to his work with children, adolescents, and adults.