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Training to hold the breath?

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Estef
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Hello everyone,

I remember a while ago I read somewhere (don't remember where) that it's good to train holding the breath for as long as you can and to exhale the air all the way out and hold that as well. I thought of incorporating that today to my warm up (I do breathing exercises before any vocalizes) and found that my throat constricted so bad that I couldn't go on with any actual singing. All I did was breathe in and hold the breath for as long as possible and then breathe out and hold that feeling and voila, instant constriction. No sound was produced, but my throat felt like crap by doing that a couple of minutes. I feel better now, but that was after a couple of hours of rest. Could it be that I'm doing something wrong or is it entirely useless to train this? I thought that maybe it will strengthen the support muscles... Any thoughts? Thanks!

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Yes, there is some benefit to training breath capacity, but it seems that you uncovered a much larger problem that should be addressed first, constriction when breathing out. Most of the time this happens because you are using your stomach muscles to literally squeeze the air out of you and you also fire the muscles higher up in the larynx to squeeze, too. You may have also just breathed in so hard that your lungs were bulging out and you had to hold your neck muscles tight to hold the air in. The thing is, pure exhaling should take no effort because the relaxed state of your body is exhaled, and your diagphram contracts when breathing in. Try acting out a sigh of relief, at the peak of the inhale notice the slight effort to bring the last bit of air in, then let everything go limp like if you just let your arm free fall from being held out letting it just hit your side. The air should just rush out with no effort. Getting this kind of release is huge for singing. Focus on the breath holding stuff after you get this down.

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Here's something I experienced: on the exhale most of the air and hold that feeling exercise I felt like my throat was being pulled in. Dunno if that's what you're feeling but I realized I wasn't supporting. So I tried to keep my ribs expanded even though there was no air with a slight push from the stomach.

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Hello everyone,

I remember a while ago I read somewhere (don't remember where) that it's good to train holding the breath for as long as you can and to exhale the air all the way out and hold that as well. I thought of incorporating that today to my warm up (I do breathing exercises before any vocalizes) and found that my throat constricted so bad that I couldn't go on with any actual singing. All I did was breathe in and hold the breath for as long as possible and then breathe out and hold that feeling and voila, instant constriction. No sound was produced, but my throat felt like crap by doing that a couple of minutes. I feel better now, but that was after a couple of hours of rest. Could it be that I'm doing something wrong or is it entirely useless to train this? I thought that maybe it will strengthen the support muscles... Any thoughts? Thanks!

a great response by truth1ness.

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Hi truth1ness, thanks for the response. I don't really constrict when exhaling. I used to, but not anymore, after a lot of practicing how to not lock my stomach muscles and keep the ribs expanded, I stopped constricting. I did use to inhale too much and I feel that's one of the reasons while my support was not good at first, but exhaling feels very natural to me, even when exhaling very little air... Any other ideas?

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I guess we could use some more clarification, then, if you know you're definitely not constricting on the exhale, as simply holding the breath in/out shouldn't be causing pain. These details might help me or someone figure out what's going on. Did your actual vocal cords feel painful and swollen (like strained/hoarse cords) or was it pain in the neck muscles (like when you strain your neck trying to muscle out high notes). Is it only when you add the hold-breath-out part (ie is just holding breath in fine)?

I would also add that static breath holding exercises like these are probably counterproductive as a Warm Up since your primary goal in warming up is to get air Moving smoothly, not trapped in or out. I do Jaime Vendera's ultimate breathing exercises once in a while which include breath holding, but I usually do these away from my normal workout or if my vocal cords are not feeling well and I still want to work on something related to singing.

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Hi truth1ness, thanks for the advice of not using this as a warmup, I never thought of that but your reasoning makes a lot of sense! So answering your question, what I feel is like the "lump" you feel in the throat when you are lifting something heavy, so like the muscles trying to protect your vocal cords from strain. The problem is that it seems to keep my voice constricted, the feeling doesn't go away for a while and I need to not sing until it goes away. Then the voice is fine. I am using Morid's suggestion to keep supporting with the ribs extended, and I also didn't breath to my full capacity and it seemed to ease some of the constriction, but not totally. Do you guys think I should forget about training like this, and keep on doing other support exercises (like sss, zzz, etc.)? Or should I get to the point when holding the breath like that doesn't feel strained? Also, this doesn't happen at once, it happens when there is less than half of air left, or so...

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hello, i have a little trick that helps me sustain and support my air, not sure if this is alright to do, so if it isn't someone please let me know. i like to rip off a tiny piece of paper and hold it against the wall with my breath alone. this forces you not to blow as hard as you can, but to just find the right amount of air to keep it in place for as long as you can. try to support your breath as much as you can and let it out evenly and steadily. hope that helps!

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Hey Blackstar, it sounds to me like after you breath in you are really squeezing that air, especially since you compared it to heavy lifting. Sometimes this pressure isn't that noticeable, you don't realize how much you are squeezing that air until after.

I came up with this little exercise for myself that I do often to re-calibrate my support muscles, Holding the breath with cords Open. Inhale most of the way and then stop, and whatever you do keep your vocal cords wide open. Normally when you hold your breath you close your cords like you would tie a balloon to keep the air in (breath in and hold like normal and feel them shut if you don't know what I'm talking about). With the cords open, however, you are forced to keep air in your lungs using Only your support muscles, as if you had hundreds of little clamps pulling the balloon outwards to its expanded state so you can leave the nozzle open and the air would just stay inside (or think of a paper mache balloon). You know you're doing it right if you're holding your breath yet you can do itty bitty micro pants in and out because the airway is open. After you've got it, let some air out then stop it using only your stomach, no cords.

This is such a great exercise because 1) It shows you how nuanced your support muscles can be to hold a total equilibrium 2) Helps you control them independently of vocal cord influence 3) Is quite a good workout to hold equilibrium without the help of the cords 4) It really makes clear your support muscles' role in keeping pressure Off the cords as opposed to the pushing air part we usually focus on.

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Hey Blackstar, it sounds to me like after you breath in you are really squeezing that air, especially since you compared it to heavy lifting. Sometimes this pressure isn't that noticeable, you don't realize how much you are squeezing that air until after.

I came up with this little exercise for myself that I do often to re-calibrate my support muscles, Holding the breath with cords Open. Inhale most of the way and then stop, and whatever you do keep your vocal cords wide open. Normally when you hold your breath you close your cords like you would tie a balloon to keep the air in (breath in and hold like normal and feel them shut if you don't know what I'm talking about). With the cords open, however, you are forced to keep air in your lungs using Only your support muscles, as if you had hundreds of little clamps pulling the balloon outwards to its expanded state so you can leave the nozzle open and the air would just stay inside (or think of a paper mache balloon). You know you're doing it right if you're holding your breath yet you can do itty bitty micro pants in and out because the airway is open. After you've got it, let some air out then stop it using only your stomach, no cords.

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I set Outlook reminders to work on this twice a day, and it practically hurts.. It's all I can do to get to 50 sec after 3 tries..how long can you go?

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Hey Carol, yes, it really makes you isolate your support muscles and they work a bit harder because they can't slack off and lazily 'lean' on the cords. I think my record time was probably 1:20ish, 50 is really good for just starting! In addition to aiming for pure time, also try the 'nuanced' part of the exercise where you let little bits of air out and stop (notice I said 'let out' not squeeze out, the air should fly out on its own as your diagphram goes back to its upward relaxed state), see what the tiniest puff of air you can let escape before pausing at a new equilibrium. It's tempting to stop the air with the cords at first but it's freeing to realize you don't need them to stop the air. You will notice that by taking this burden off the cord and assigning it to the support muscles, you'll have an easier time improving you cord and larynx configurations and movements.

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Hey Carol, yes, it really makes you isolate your support muscles and they work a bit harder because they can't slack off and lazily 'lean' on the cords. I think my record time was probably 1:20ish, 50 is really good for just starting! In addition to aiming for pure time, also try the 'nuanced' part of the exercise where you let little bits of air out and stop (notice I said 'let out' not squeeze out, the air should fly out on its own as your diagphram goes back to its upward relaxed state), see what the tiniest puff of air you can let escape before pausing at a new equilibrium.

Yes this is the way I do it, based on an exercise in a Roger Love book. But I'm not making much progress. When I'm tired the breath is the first to go. Like today I can't get past 40. 1:20 is great!

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carol, i'm big on support. there are so many benefits to having it your singing will improve with improvement and development in this one area alone!!.

may i offer a quick one as old as the hills?

lay down on your back on the floor. put a telephone book or decent size book on your belly. inhale through your mouth or nose without raising your shoulders or your chest. make the belly raise the book. with your folds and mouth open as described before, keep the book up by supporting the air inside your lungs with your supporting muscles. hold for as long as you can. work up to a minute, minute and a half. do a set of 10 reps.

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Thanks for all the great advice guys! Holding the breath in with just the support muscles is very difficult, but it seems to be taking all the strain off my throat, yeah!!!! But some air does escape... Is it possible to hold it all the way in, or will very little air still escape?

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Thanks for all the great advice guys! Holding the breath in with just the support muscles is very difficult, but it seems to be taking all the strain off my throat, yeah!!!! But some air does escape... Is it possible to hold it all the way in, or will very little air still escape?

it's likely you have inhaled too much, thus over pressurizing and expanding a little too much. hard to tell from here.

ah but another variation on this exercise is to do exactly that....inhale with the book on the belly, make a "sss" sound like a tire losing air, and while consentrating on keeping the book up slowly and consistently let the air escape between your front teeth. your abs and support muscles will want to collapse inward but resist that happening....follow?

also can be done standing up after a week or so.

support development can be tricky to understand. you don't always need a lot of air or air pressure to support well.

at times you can be singing this powerful high note and you feel like your breath is suspended...like you can go on for another 30 seconds if you had to.

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A good way to learn to control breathing out, imo, is sirening at the quietest legato you can find. Singing that quietly and trying to keep the tone steady seems to force my abdomen to work at an appropriate level.

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Cool, I will try that book thing, I do tend to push inwards with my stomach, and though I've reduced that somewhat, I still think I could work on it more :D

hi blackstar..i just delved into that "singing and the actor" book last night.

really good stuff ....more advanced learning. thanks! bob

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Cool, I'm glad you like it! It is a great book! You should consider getting CVT as well, it is my favorite book by far! Though I know you don't want to get confused, but it's actually very enlightening... Singing and the actor is my 2nd fave hehe...

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Hey, I just ordered Singing And The Actor and the audio guide, too, can't wait to dig into it. The authors also have some very interesting DVD's that tie into the book for sale on their site (a bit pricey, though). I have CVT and looking forward to seeing how things differ since SATA is based more on Estill from what I've read.

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Cool, I'm glad you like it! It is a great book! You should consider getting CVT as well, it is my favorite book by far! Though I know you don't want to get confused, but it's actually very enlightening... Singing and the actor is my 2nd fave hehe...

in the first few pages...first book i've read that covers laryngal tilting...good stuff. the title made me think it wouldn't be as comprehensive as it is.

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Exactly, that is one of the reasons I've shied away from this book; it makes it sound like a lot is about acting and not mostly about singing. But I've done the same thing with movie titles. Was put off by the title only to find the movie was totally different than my preconceived notions.

Good to know it's more comprehensive.

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Yea, they should have given it a drier title like Really Complete Vocal Technique, hehe.

Fyi, for some reason the audio guide part of the book is not sold in the US amazon.com but only the british amazon.co.uk or at their site vocalprocess.co.uk

I know, I was so mad because I bought it on the US amazon and then found out about the audio guide being sold only in the UK... Anyways I guess they wouldn't have been able to ship it from the UK...

I would call it Almost Complete Vocal Technique hahaha. CVT is a lot more complete and covers more things in my opinion, though from an entirely different point of view...

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