“…Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat.”
– from “They’re Made Out of Meat” by Terry Bisson
Breathing is a problem of mine.
Mind you, I don’t randomly black out or anything. But in the past few years of voice training, I’ve discovered a few things.
I hold my breath a lot. When I’m concentrating, when I’m working out, when my back hurts. “Relax and take a breath” may sound simple, but it isn’t.
Here’s what it feels like. If you’ve ever worn latex, or a compression garment, or a wetsuit, or even a weight belt, you know the sensation of your midsection being gently squeezed, so that when you take a breath, something resists. For me, that something is tension, and it takes a mental effort to turn it off.
Part of the problem is my bad back, which causes all of the support muscles around my middle to contract when I’m standing to protect my funky back. It’s a mystery where this back pain comes from, but my latest theory is stress. And what is one of the most effective ways to defuse stress? Breathing!
Another part of the problem is awareness. I took me a long time to figure out how often I hold my breath, simply because it happens so far below my conscious mind.
To tackle this tangled problem, I’m going to try meditation. More specifically, awareness meditation, where I focus on the breath, on my thoughts, identifying the things that come up when I try to quiet my mind (a monumental task for me!), naming them and letting them slip away. And most of all, focusing on the breath, letting the tension that’s trying to strangle me go so I can get back to breathing — and singing!
The most basic component of singing is breathing. One of the biggest things that’s holding me back from the full, open, unified voice that I want is an old pattern of pushing rather than taking deep, supporting breaths. The other thing is fear, but that’s another topic entirely.
For now, I focus on the breath, breathing through fear and stress and pain until I get to the freedom and release and joy. And trusting the process along the way.