We all know how to breathe, right? But when we sing, we want to get the optimum amount of breath so that our vocal chords won't get taxed. I always explain to students that you can get sound out of a flute by stomping on it until all the air in the flute comes out or by blowing through it. The first way isn't as effective and ruins the flute. So this is the gentler way to breathe that protects our vocal chords.
My kind roommate (all ready for bed and in her comfy jammies) agreed to be the model for some of my breathing techniques! Thank you, dear roommate!
First off, stand up nice and straight:
Now, take a humongous breath! Yeah!
Okay, you probably looked like that, right? You pulled your shoulders way up to your ears and filled your chest up to your chin. That, unfortunately, tenses your throat and also only fills up the top portion of your lungs.
When you were a baby (and if you have access to a baby, watch them breathe!) you breathed into your belly, with your shoulders nice and relaxed, like this:
That's the way you should breathe (all the time, really) and especially when you're singing. It relaxes your diaphragm and allows you to get a huge amount of oxygen to sing.
Here you can see from the front - my fingers interlaced with all my air out:
And my belly filled up with air.
Try to think of breathing horizontally, not vertically. A good way to practice this is to lie in bed on your back, rest your hand or a pillow on your stomach and try to make it rise. If you do that, trying to inhale for 5 counts, hold for 7 counts and then exhale for 7 counts, three times every night or so, you'll strengthen your diaphragm and expand your lung capacity.
The benefits of breathing like this extend to more than just singing: it can help lower your heart rate, relax your shoulders and upper back and provide more oxygen to your system.
I realize this is a complicated concept but is fundamental to all other singing lessons so if you don't understand it, feel free to leave a question in your comment (if your email isn't linked on your blog, please leave it in the comment as well) and I'll be sure to email you the answer!