Last year I asked a personal trainer friend at the gym to recommend exercises to strengthen the deep muscles of the abdomen and pelvic floor. These are the muscles most involved with breathing for singing.
His eyes lit up as he referred me to a different personal trainer, Maira. She was fully certified to teach an exciting, new form of posture and breath training, branded as “Low Pressure Fitness (LPF)”. He was already a student of hers and raved about the training and results. He’s a dancer, not a singer.
As he described what was involved I knew instinctively that this could be the perfect (and missing) training to develop the true Bel Canto Appoggio method of breathing for singing. And this is the best form of breathing for all types of singing, not just opera.
Only two weeks into the training, even before I began the most important part, the hypopressive exercise, I was seeing surprising results. Two months into the full training, my mind was blown.
Not only had my singing improved faster than ever before, it was improving in ways I hadn’t dreamed possible. Lifelong issues with lower throat strain that I could never fully fix with traditional vocal training, were beginning to vanish.
As helpful as it was to my singing, I had a crazy realization at the two-month mark. I realized that even if I stopped singing forever that very day, I wouldn’t stop with this training.
My posture was improving and, with it, my circulation and well-being. I had more energy and felt an increase in will power. I began making other changes in my life related to nutrition and exercise. I procrastinated less and had more discipline toward everyday projects.
Now, six months later, I’ve lost 35 pounds of fat and have reached my high school basketball weight. Low Pressure Fitness will reduce your waist size, but it’s not a direct cause of weight loss. Yet, for me, the health and enery benefits from improved posture and the deep, coordinated, costal-diaphragmatic breathing served to catalyze the other improvements, as a consequence.
Also at the six month mark, my singing has improved much more in all regards (see list of benefits below) and the rate of improvement keeps accelerating. I’m not a finished product. I can feel for certain that more improvement is on the way, and that it will come quickly.
Over the years, in pursuit of my own singing improvement, I have had coaches who have vilified the knowledge of proper breathing. “Just breathe naturally!“, they say, “ignore the technical stuff, it’s confusing and only gets in the way”.
I have also been coached to breathe incorrectly,— to “inflate” the belly, to breathe “down and out”, to “push down on the diaphragm”, or simply “more diaphragm!!”, and other such nonsense.
The down and out belly breathing, also considered “diaphragmatic-only” breathing, served only to worsen my singing problems associated with excess vocal strain and pressing/pushing. And though voice coaches will argue for eternity over which breathing technique is best, there is no argument outside of the singing community. Belly breathing is not the healthy way to breathe.
What I’ve learned from recent studies is that we are meant to breath using a combination of our breathing diaphragm and the breathing muscles woven into our ribcage. Using our ribcage is called thoracic breathing, or costal breathing. Together, correct breathing is called costal-diaphragmatic breathing. This, and only this, is the true Bel Canto Appoggio technique of breathing for singing.
You’re invited to watch any videos included with this post. I’ll also list several of the non-singing benefits you’ll enjoy from this training.
Most everything improves. Seriously. In my case, here’s a list of some of the singing improvements that have been pouring in:
You will breathe deeper and slower, with excellent ribcage expansion and contraction, as you were meant to breathe.
Restore your natural, healthy posture. You’ll look and feel more confident.
Corrects lifelong accumulation of bad breathing habits.
Restores synergistic coordination of all core muscles, including those of the pelvic floor and those used in breathing.
Muscles of the pelvic floor re-learn how to operate in harmony with the muscles of the breathing system.
Gives you a slimmer waistline and flat belly. Get rid of that low belly pooch!
Improves several types of sexual dysfunction.
A strong and coordinated core, improved breathing capacity, improve athletic performance while reducing risk of injury.
Eliminate lower back pain while reducing the risk of back problems.
Your overall well-being improves as you improve the circulation of blood, lymph, spinal fluid, and cranial-sacral fluid.
Creates greater space for the organs of the lower gut to occupy. Reduces serious health risks related to vital organ congestion.
Helps those with urinary incontinence (uncontrollable leakage) and other forms of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction.
Retrain your core muscles after having a baby and heal a Diastasis Recti (abdominal muscle separation).
Hypropressive training can help to reverse or to reduce the risk of one of the most painful and embarassing cronic conditions a woman can face.
Hypopressive (low pressure) training is unique because it is the only way to train the muscle fibers of your deep core system under reduced intra-abdominal pressure (IAP). It is also training your deep core and respiratory system to work in unison using the correct coordinated patterns we need for optimal breathing, and therefore optimal core function and strength.
We do this using a specific breathing sequence and an apnea (false inhale; abdominal vacuum) which causes pressure to decrease in the pelvic and abdominal cavities. When the pressure decreases, our abdominal tissues contract reflexively or subconsciously and are mostly activated using slow twitch muscle type fibers which make up approximately 70% of our deep transversus abdominis and pelvic floor musculature.
Hypopressives retrain you to use optimal breathing mechanics. Your breathing becomes more effortless each day. Your lung function improves and therefore your heart rate will be more controlled, your blood gasses will be more balanced and your nervous system more calm. Keeping your nervous system calm is vital, as there is a clear link between stress, anxiety and erratic breathing. The two systems strongly influence one another.
Hypopressives provide an awesome myofascial release (think a stretch) of the diaphragm muscle, increasing it’s strength and mobility.
A strong muscle is one that can both contract and relax, and therefore needs to be mobile.
We strengthen the diaphragm through lengthening while practicing Hypopressive Apneas.
A tight diaphragm not only inhibits correct breathing patterns, movement patterns and weakens the deep core, it encourages a highly stressed environment for your mind and body.
The respiratory diaphragm and the pelvic diaphragm must work in sync as one unit. When we breathe in, our diaphragm contracts downward to draw air into our lungs. This downward pressure reduces space in our abdominal cavity and it needs to go somewhere. The optimal solution is for the pelvic floor to relax and mimic the downward movement of the respiratory diaphragm. When our diaphragm relaxes to exhale, our pelvic diaphragm will contract and move up, again working in sync to balance the intra-abdominal pressure.
If the diaphragm, pelvic floor, or both, are tight and immobile we can not achieve optimal breathing patterns, core function or balanced inter-abdominal pressure (IAP). Hypopressive solves these problems.
Good singing requires coordination between the diaphgrams of breathing and the pelvic floor. Singers also develop greater lung capacity and improved mastery of the air flow requirements of their craft.
Singing tone, pitch, range, and expressive articulation are all improved.
Low Pressure Fitness (LPF) is a branded methodology providing training to re-educate and strengthen the postural and respiratory systems. It is a gentle and low-impact form of exercise. It combines postures with costal-diaphragmatic breathing and hypopressive exercises to achieve its results.
Contrary to most forms of exercise, it lowers the pressure in the abdominal and pelvic cavities, the pressure that our daily routines put on our core like sitting, bad posture, and the strain caused by some exercises.
What catches your attention on this technique is the abdominal vacuum, considered like the landmark of this training.
In essence, it is a complete body workout that gives impressive results, waistline reduction, flat belly, relief of lower back pain, better posture and breathing patterns in a short time.
Though it was not created for singers, it is the best possible training for the true Bel Canto appoggio method of breathing for singing.
I hope you got some value from this post. There’s a lot more to share over the coming weeks and months.
Stay alert for future email announcements. Feel free to research the subjects of “hypopressive training”, “abdominal vacuum”, “stomach vacuum”, “thoracic breathing” if you care to learn more.
Be well,Joe Naab, Vocal Nebula