Why do breathing exercises? Without breath there is no voice. Singing, chanting or extended speaking is a matter of learning to control the breath. In India, the yogic traditions of breathing exercises and meditations are called pranayama and date back to before 300 BC. The Indian sages have long known the power of breath control and have handed down breathing exercises through the centuries. The first known mention of the breath control techniques of yoga is in “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” written by the great sage Patanjali, some-where between 300 and 200 BC. Pranayama breathing techniques are now used in yoga studios across the United States and are some of the best exercises to prepare the body for sounding. After studying some of the yoga pranayama techniques, you may wonder if many of the traditional singing exercises were originally taken from yoga. Interestingly, Manuel Garcia II (considered the father of voice science) advocated Chi Gong breathing exercises in his 1840 voice treatise “Hints on Singing.”
Pranayama Nose Sensation Breathing
Lie down on your back and close your eyes. Put a pillow or a folded Mexican blanket under your head and a pillow or rolled Mexican blanket under your knees.
Exhale to begin. Inhale through your nose and feel the sensation of the air against your nasal passages. When we inhale, the air touches the inner surface of the bottom of the nose. It rides in like a rushing stream down the nasal channel; there is an active sensation to it. Exhale through your nose and feel the different sensation of the air against your nasal passages. When we exhale, the air touches the outer surface of the top of the nose. It floats up and out of the nose channel with a softer, lighter feeling, a more passive sensation. Continue to inhale and exhale for five minutes, while focusing on the sensation of the air entering and exiting the nose. This is a very simple but profound exercise. How many people are aware of the sensation of breath in their nasal passages?
Pranayama Lung Sensation Breathing
Remove any pillow or blanket from under your head and knees and lie flat on your back. Make sure you are warm and close your eyes. You can also put a piece of cloth over your eyes.
Begin by gently and slowly exhaling (through your nose) all of the stale air from your lungs, until they feel empty. Now inhale slowly from the bottom of the lungs, filling each lung up at the same time. Notice that the ribcage expands upwards and outwards as you take in more air. Try your best to coordinate the breath so that each lung fills with air at the same time. Notice if one lung wants to fill faster than the other. If so, don’t judge yourself; just add more air to the emptier lung and keep practicing. Exhale quietly through your nose while trying to evenly expel the air from each lung. Once again, don’t judge yourself if your coordination is not perfect. Just keep practicing. Notice how quiet your mind is when you are only concentrating on breathing. This exercise removes any hardness or congestion in the lung tissue. Practice for ten minutes.