The health benefits of healthy singing have been known for thousands of years. That’s why active singing has always been an essential part of the life of indigenous people and the ancient healing systems of Yoga and Ayurveda. Clearly, singing plays a key role in every type of culture and religion. Sadly, we don’t sing as much as our ancestors, in spite of the fact that many people listen to songs and music all day long…
However, in recent years there has been a revival of choir singing and community singing in the UK to help the nation feel better and healthier. Singing is especially great for those who are not keen to join exercise classes or take a swim every morning. Healthy singing is about engaging the whole body in the process while breathing actively with the diaphragm. It’s a mindful process in which you can express an emotion openly as well as your own personal meaning of the song. All these aspects of singing bring out multiple health benefits. Find out how you can enrich your life and health with active singing.
Natural breathing is something we are born with. It’s another name for the relaxed diaphragmatic breathing you can observe in babies. It doesn’t require any forceful action as it’s a part of our natural state of being. Sadly, the modern way of living and unhealthy role models around us are at the root of why so many people lost the ability to breathe naturally. Prolonged stress, lack of exercise and other factors cause people to switch permanently into a shallow way of breathing. Unfortunately, long-term shallow breathing can seriously affect our health. Shallow breathing might cause panic attacks and bring out symptoms such as dry mouth and fatigue. Read more about the devastating health consequences of shallow breathing here.
Benefits Of Diaphragmatic Breathing
Writing about all the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing would take several pages. Here are just the most important points:
- It helps our respiratory system work at the optimal level
- It stimulates relaxation
- It relieves pain
- It gently stretches and tones core muscles, including the Pelvic
- It improves posture
As a result, diaphragmatic breathing can lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, relax muscles, decrease stress, and increase energy levels.
Healthy singing is based on diaphragmatic breathing and a rich resonance that happens by directing your voice through what I call “chambers of treasure”. These chambers are 1) Pharynx, 2) Oral cavity 3) Nasal cavity. You can learn how to use various resonances by adjusting the shape and size of the chambers through which the sound flows. Keep in mind, that your voice has a unique resonance which can be shown with help of electrograph or through a CymasCope. Every “voice-print” is unique, similar to a fingerprint.
The Hidden Health Benefits Of Vocal Resonance
When you know how to direct the sound through the resonating chambers you will experience the pleasant sensations of vocal resonance. If you are just starting off you can experience the same by singing or “humming” through the letter M or N. Later on when you learn how to sing with an open throat with confidence, you will experience the wonderful, energising and uplifting feelings during and after singing. This experience can be even more intensive when singing together in a group. It’s because you literally bathe in the vibrations of your fellow singers as well as your own. I believe it’s the vibrations and resonance of singing that triggers the happy hormones oxytocins and endorphins during singing. As if our body suddenly remembers the vibrations we first experienced in our mother’s womb when she was talking or singing.
Also, the vibration of our singing voice is having an effect on every cell in our body. Only future scientific studies will reveal what exactly resonance in singing does to our body at a cellular level.
In a nutshell, singing is truly the making of music within your own body and through your body. The health benefits of different types of music are well known. So I am sure there must be even more benefits when you are the source of the soundwave!
The Flow Of Voice
When you can keep your voice flowing effortlessly within you, through you and out into space with good acoustic, you will undoubtedly experience multiple health benefits of singing. Sustained, extended tones within your natural range give the optimum “flow experience” as well as physical and psychological benefits. You will experience very pleasant effects of singing when:
1) your breathing from the diaphragm is working well
2) you “chambers of treasures” resonate fully
3) you enable a free flow of the sound with a healthy technique (effortless singing without force)
The Flow Of Energy
The energy centres of your body are called chakras. Though invisible, they can now be measured as well as made visible with a special technology. Each tone from C1 (=middle C) has a certain frequency that stimulates a certain chakra. As it happens it’s according to the basic scale: C, D, E, F, G, A, B. You can find more about it in Singing and Yoga.
When all your chakras are in harmony, your body and mind are in harmony too.
The Flow Experience: Science of Happiness
Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Chick–sent–meehayee) is a famous American-Hungarian Psychologist. He defines eight components of what he calls “the flow-experience”. The first three are basic requirements: 1) clarity of goals and immediate feedback 2) a highly focused mental state (immersing yourself in an activity) 3) balance between skills and challenge.
The other five requirements address the subjective experience during activity in the flow: 4) control without controlling (the absence of worry) 5) effortlessness 6) time ceases to exist (timelessness) 7) the feeling of unity 8) the goal and the process are both rewarding
The flow experience is what I aim for and what my students often tell me they went through after a workshop. As the old saying goes: “The main thing is to be happy.”
Mindful singing is the key to happy and healthy singing. Without an awareness of what’s happening in your body and mind while you are singing, you cannot harvest the maximum of health benefits of singing, neither you can get into the experience of the flow as I described above. Also mindfulness – or relaxed concentration – is very important for effective learning and communication. It’s because our brain switches into the alfa waves and is ready to create new neural connections.
Mindfulness is popular as it’s probably the most powerful way to keep stress at bay. Dealing with stress is one of the most important things for our overall health. Read more about singing and mindfulness here.
The word imagination here is related to our ability to visualise and to “imagine how it feels”. This is important for learning in general, for arts as well as mental health and resistance to stress. Being able to imagine with awareness can help people to avoid stressful situations and motivate them to approach life with positive expectancy. An active visualisation is an important tool that is used in sports to help people improve their performance. The same techniques have been used for thousands of years in Yoga as part of relaxation and meditation. I use imagination in my coaching all the time to help people improve body awareness and allow a free vocal flow. Imagination is an important part of the art of healthy singing.
Singing helps to 1) express emotions 2) regulate emotions. With a little help from the coach, you can learn how to release emotional energy in a very creative and healthy way. When you learn to express emotions in a constructive way with help of singing it’ll also help you to express them in words.
If you have a tendency to become too emotional at times, singing can help you to regulate your emotions. It’s the physical aspect of singing that helps to release and let off the “emotional steam”. As a result singing is uplifting and helps to improve mood.
Over the years, research studies confirm that “singing influences subjective emotional states positively (Unwin et al., 2002) and enhances the immune defence (Becket al., 1999)”. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, Vol. 27, No. 6, December 2004.
The ultimate goal of singing for health is to increase happiness through self-expression. To be happy means to find your voice and express what you feel and think. It’s about your ability to create healthy relationships and to create a life that is unique according to your heart’s desires. Living your own life and not repeating patterns of lives of your ancestors even if their lives were very successful. You are meant to live a unique life to be able to find true happiness. Self-expression is about our ability to express our genuine needs for growth and fulfilment. It’s about our ability to create happy lives. Naturally, being happy is closely related to being healthy.