Sing your way to physical and spiritual health
by Francis O’Neill
Update: When I first put this article together I had access to two wonderful videos of voice teacher, Celia Webb, teaching at a college in Wales. Beautiful singing. Unfortunately these videos were taken down. The article still carries a lot of great information, with contributions from experts – with links. [ Sing your way to physical and spiritual health ]
Do you want a healthier body, a healthier immune system, a healthier soul? Well read this sing your way to physical and spiritual health article!
So often I have wondered about the benefits of singing for improving one’s health – that it may be good for promoting a healthy body and mind.
My good ol’ singing days
These days I don’t sing as much as I did some years back. No I wasn’t in a choir, I’m thinking of when I used to regularly visit a pub in the wilds of Leicestershire, and where every Friday and Saturday evenings the pub would fill up with regulars who turned up with the sole intention of having a good old sing song. Well okay there was another added attraction but that’s what pubs are for anyhow.
There would be the pianist and one or two turning in with guitars or even a flute for one session – and bagpipes for another. I’d occasionally give a blast on my mouthorgan too. [ Sing your way to physical and spiritual health ]
I have fond memories of those moments and I recall how it really did help to release any tension; and help me to feel great and relaxed – lifted even. So I buy into the value of singing – and singing with others helps too.
Dr Kim’s recipe
So then I came across a Dr Ben Kim’s website and his comments on singing for health, which he really believes in. He suggests though that it is ‘not any old singing will do.’ The kind of singing that will provide you with significant health benefits has to come from deep inside your chest, even from your abdomen.
This, he continues is about using your diaphragm – the large muscle that separates your chest and abdominal cavities – to push air out through your vocal cords – which, according to Dr Kim is, ‘a good way to promote a healthy lymphatic system, which in turn promotes a healthy immune system.’ I hope those of you who may be relying on antibiotics for cures are taking note of this good news.
Sing with others
Dr Kim suggests you sing with others for the greatest benefit. If you want to learn how to sing in harmony with others but don’t know how, you can play a CD or tune into a video. [ Sing your way to physical and spiritual health ]
He also says that, ‘Whether you get your feet wet with singing in harmony with others or not, do your health a favor and belt out a few tunes on a regular basis.’ and adds, ‘But remember: it has to come from deep within, not just from your throat.’
Another Doctor agrees
And he is so right. This is as much about release of stress and relaxation as anything. Another doctor Dr James Le Fanu, writing in The Telegraph had this to say, ‘Singing involves virtually every muscle group, vibrating the whole system like a tonic massage.
It increases lung capacity, improves posture, clears the sinuses and boosts mental alertness by increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood. And for good measure it exercises the facial muscles – helping to maintain youthful good looks.’ And I was thinking it was the beer that was responsbile for the latter. [ Sing your way to physical and spiritual health ]
Finding your Inner Voice
Partly what sparked my deciding to write about this, was a lady called Roni Shepherd who sent in some thought provoking comments on finding one’s inner voice.
Roni drew on a quote from Martha Graham, the American dancer and choreographer to start the point she was making:
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action.
She said how after the process she took to recover her voice, following a bronchial infection, started her thinking about ‘the parallels between finding my singing or speaking voice and finding my inner metaphysical voice‘.
She continued, ‘The physical voice flows from a connection between breath and vocal chords. The metaphysical voice is a unique relationship between one’s values and vision and how they are expressed in action.‘ She says, ‘When I find my [inner] voice, I’m in touch with my sense of purpose. I know what I’m about and express myself with much more ease.‘
Steps to finding your inner voice
She goes on to say that when she loses her inner voice, ‘I can find it again in ways similar to the process I use to regain my singing voice‘, that is by:
Not pushing, ‘I don’t push. Obstacles are a signal to lessen the pressure, dig deeper, and reconnect with what is important.‘
Breathing deeply, ‘I breathe deeply and speak from my centre. When I speak from my centre, both my literal and figurative voices are strong, clear, and more easily heard.’
Apply practice, ‘I practice. Losing my voice is signal for me to stop, look, and practice finding it again. Gradually I get clear on what “my voice” sounds and feels like, and I’m able to regain it more easily.‘
And she closed her comments by saying, ‘As Martha Graham suggests, find the vitality, the life force, and the energy that is your voice. With practice, it will become powerful and effortless.‘
Make of that what you will. Strikes me there are some important clues here to maintaining a healthy mind, body and soul in the mix. [ Sing your way to physical and spiritual health ]
A couple of links for singing workshops UK
You will most probably find singing workshops going on in your local area but here’s a couple of links to get you started on finding out more.
Celia has trained with some of the world’s leading vocal experts in the field of physical theatre, voice release and traditional song. As a self-employed voice teacher, she works in the private and voluntary sectors, running creative voice projects, workshops, one to one sessions and team building events.
Chris describes himself as having had ’30 years’ experience as a patient, charismatic teacher with a relaxed style laced with plenty of humour.’
He is based in the UK where he leads community choirs and regular singing workshops. He teaches harmony songs (without instruments or backing tracks) from a wide range of singing traditions (e.g. gospel, Eastern European, African).
Find out more about Chris on chrisrowbury.com.
If you are looking for further help on singing you might find this book of interest: The “Everything” Singing Book: From Mastering Breathing Techniques to Performing Live – All You Need to Hit the Right Notes