Let's talk Stretches for Singing Warm-Ups
When John and I were living in New York City we took singing lessons. It was literally a highlight of the week for each of us. We loved our teacher - Maria - and I can honestly say, we both learned how to sing! For those of you out there who are not singers, you might not realize that there is a biomechanical skill at play when it comes to singing. The way Maria used to explain it to us was you need to create a hollow opening for the sound to come out of. The trick to this is good biomechanics. Maria focused on the chest, throat, neck and face. Getting all of the muscles in this area to relax is key to creating that hollow tube for the sound to come out of. And of course learning to breath correctly so that you have enough breath to sustain the sound is key too.
So when we would go to our singing lessons before we even started singing Maria would take us through various physical warm up exercises - massaging our neck and cheeks - specific muscles that would be chronically tense in these areas. It made a huge difference when we would then start to sing. She would also ask us to repeat these exercises at home on a regular basis when we were practicing our singing.
Warm up is a big deal when it comes to singing, and I would say Maria was more focused on it and used a wider range of warm ups than most singing instructors in general.
But at Bendable Body we are going to take it even a step further.
Whenever you are performing any physical activity and certainly demanding one like singing, the best body wins. What do we mean by that? It is the general idea out there that if you practice hard you will succeed and be the best at your endeavor. This can be true, but what you will more often find is that the individuals with the best body, the best movement, those who are most well balanced in their physical biomechanics... can out perform others with much less practice. Singing is no different.
I remember Maria (who had been a career opera singer) wanted to take us to an opera at the Met. We saw La Boheme. It was of course incredible. But during the whole performance, John, Maria and I were analyzing the cast. What we noticed is that the 2nd female performer (not the lead) seemed to effortlessly perform. It was as though she had more to give and still gave 100% without taxing herself. Whereas the lead was straining to give her 100%. And when we analyzed their bodies - head to toe - it was clear that the second female was moving better, better aligned, and overall had a better body. We told Maria what we were seeing and she agreed.
Which brings me to Bendable Body and how stretching for the whole body can make your singing better and what we recommend for a singing warm up.
When it comes to physical exercises and warm up for singers and choir, yes of course you need to focus on the throat, cheeks, forehead, neck stretches for singing and facial stretches for singers. But why not extend your exercises a bit lower and create a powerful foundation to belt it out from!
How do I stretch for singing?
So if you want to get a great body for singing, of course you would want to address the body as a whole and do stretches for all 16 muscle groups. Furthermore, whatever area of your particular body that is struggling, weak, or injured, you will want to fix it through resistance stretching. Remember: the best body wins.
However, there are 2 stretches in particular that are essential for all singers. The quadriceps associated with the stomach meridian and the lateral hamstring associated with the bladder meridian. The stomach meridian runs right over the voicebox and is most important for singing. You can test the theory and we strongly encourage you to do just that! Practice you singing and see how it feels. Maybe even have an audience to give you some feedback. Then do 3 sets of quad (stomach) stretches using the Bendable Body Method of resistance and sing again and notice what changes. I think the results will blow your mind. In addition to stomach stretches, bladder stretches for the lateral hamstrings regulate the placement of the diaphragm which is essential for singing. So add bladder stretches to your test too!