For those of you who don’t know me, I am a classical singer. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education and Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance. I enjoy singing professionally from time to time, but mostly I sing because it is what I love and have been called to do. It is a big part of who I am. My symptoms of cfs showed up very abruptly during my senior year of college. I was a voice major and a large part of my graduation requirements involved a lot of singing. Classical singing requires a tremendous amount of energy and is a delicate balance between relaxation and energy. For the non-singer it is very difficult to understand how someone could possibly study breath for years, but trust me it is the foundation of all good singing and I spent ten years studying it!
Last week I shared with you in Deep Breathing, Part 1 how deep, slow abdominal breathing has helped me control my cfs and fibro symptoms. This week I want to share with you how I made that discovery. During my last semester of college, the one where I was sooooooo sick, I was required to participate in a college wide competition for classical voice. I had been sick for about 4 months and was barley able to make it to my classes, but I pressed on because I just wanted to make it to graduation. I made it through the first rounds of competition and moved on to the finals which was a concert that was open to the public. I can remember that day so vividly. I was so sick. I had nothing to give. I went to the college practice room to “warm-up” and I laid down on the floor and just cried. I did not have one ounce of energy to give to this competition. For me, it was not even about winning, I just wanted to go back to bed. I was so exhausted and ill. I forced my body to go through the motions of “warming up” which included several breathing exercises. Between crying, laying on the floor, and squeaking out a few vocal warm-ups, I managed to sing my aria. All I wanted to do was get it over with. I went back stage and ran into the Dean of Communicative Arts. He took one look at me and said, “What’s wrong?” All I could muster was an “I don’t fell well” and a bunch of tears. I was miserable physically. I just wanted to go home.
Over the years as I have become physically better, and as more opportunities became available to sing, I started to discover a phenomenon kind of by accident. As I would practice voice, which included many breathing exercises, I would come away from rehearsals feeling better. I couldn’t quite figure it out because singing takes so much of my energy, I expected to walk out of rehearsals exhausted, but instead I felt energized. I guess you could argue that I was doing something I love so that created some adrenaline and positive energy, but the phenomenon kept happening. If I committed to a singing engagement, then I committed to rehearsal regardless of how I felt physically and many times I felt AWFUL, but pushed past it to rehearse. And when I did, I almost always felt better. One day, I sat down and analyzed it. My conclusion was that the deep abdominal breathing over and over through the course of a rehearsal was what was fueling my energy. What a great discovery! So, I put it to the test and started deep abdominal or diaphragmatic (what we call it in singing) breathing exercises in times of distress without the actual singing and it worked!
I have been using diaphragmatic breathing for years. It helps relieve stress, both physical and emotional. It helps me through anxiety and vertigo issues. When I am at my breaking point in the day, I use it to refocus my energy – it’s great when used in combination with prayer and meditation! As I said in my last post, it will not cure you or fix your pain, but it is another tool to add to the arsenal when you battle your daily symptoms. Here is the link again for a video on how to accomplish deep breathing form a yoga perspective. I hope you find it to be a useful tool for you too!
And by the way…I WON that competition! 🙂
*Trying these exercises for too long or without proper technique could result in hyperventiilation. Please proceed cautiously! And read my policy page!