One way to strengthen the entire breathing apparatus of the body is to keep the lungs clean. This exercise is especially beneficial for speakers and singers. It is also one you must do if you smoke, because you need to clean your lungs on a daily basis if you're going to be so stubborn to continue wasting your money and your will power on such foolishness. Yes, I'm judgmental about this. I smoked once upon a time and never believed I could quit. When I did, cold turkey, it was the easiest thing I ever did! Believe me, it's in your head. You can quit. This is one of the exercises to quit smoking, so it will be repeated in that section. If you are a smoker trying to quit, go to How To Quit Smoking.
HOW TO DO THE LUNG CLEANSING BREATH
- Sit in a chair or on a floor with your back straight. If you have not read the previous lessons on the Complete Yoga Breath, start there now (the link is in this series) . You will need to know how to do that before you can fully cleanse your lungs.
- Inhale one Complete Yoga breath and hold it for just a few seconds.
- Pucker the tip of your lips (like the whistle formation, except without puffed-out cheeks). Exhale a small amount of air through the small opening of your lips—with considerable force.
- Count 1 second for each exhalation (without inhaling). This is not a slow movement. Out, Out, Out. Stop for a moment to hold the remaining breath, then exhale again in the same way with force. Repeat this exhaling method until all the air is completely expelled. (If you have respiratory or heart problems, do not hold your breath.)
- Repeat the same exercise several times.
POWER BREATH FOR SPEAKERS AND SINGERS
Ramacharaka revisedYogis have known for centuries how to develop the voice, because they know how important sound is. If you have ever heard a Yogi sing or chant, you remember how beautiful and powerful the voice was. This breath technique softens the voice and helps it to be flexible, “imparting to it that indescribable, peculiar floating quality, combined with great power. This exercise will in time impart the above-mentioned qualities if you practice it faithfully.” This technique is only used occasionally. It is not a regular form of breathing.
- Inhale a deep breath very slowly, but steadily, through the nostrils, taking as much time as possible in the inhalation.
- Retain for a few seconds.
- Expel the air vigorously in one great breath, through the wide opened mouth.
- Rest the lungs with the Lung Cleansing Breath above.
TECHNIQUE TO FIND YOUR TRUE VOICEWhen I taught Yoga classes in adult education schools in Sweden, I led an average of 220 students per week (each with 25-50 people) for more than 12 years. These schools are similar to the high school night classes in America, except they were schools created and built for everyone, day or night. While I was teaching the following breathing and singing technique, miraculous things would sometimes take place. One story in particular is included in the My Story series, because it changed the woman's life forever. If you plan to try this singing exercise, be sure to read this story so you understand how important it is to know where and how to massage your diaphragm muscles in case of a spontaneous spasm.
- Stand straight in front of a mirror with your feet hip-width apart. Relax your body, especially your shoulders.
- Relax your jawbone, tongue, mouth, facial muscles. To get this to happen, move your jawbone back and forth, sideways, with your mouth slightly open. Be sure to completely relax your mouth after this. Place the palms of your hands on your abdomen and navel (as shown in this image). Say “DUH!” with feeling. The position of your mouth when you do this is relaxed and your jawbone has dropped. This is the best position for your mouth for this technique.
- Close your mouth and inhale a Complete Yoga breath. Open your mouth in the same DUH position, as you begin to sing “LA, LA, LA, LA” (each LA is separate with a strong L). Sing clearly and with as much power as you can muster with your voice. Imagine that you are projecting your voice across a mountaintop. Or, imagine that your voice is flying off the tip of your nose to a higher place in the distance in front of you. Project it with that image in mind.
- Continue to sing “LA, LA, LA, LA” on that one breath with your diaphragm moving up and down, until you have no breath left to sing. Repeat this inhalation and singing until the breath is gone several times.
- If your diaphragm muscle feels tight, stop immediately and massage that entire area from your navel to your solar plexus in circular motion, deep in there. Breathe slowly and wait until you are very relaxed to try this exercise again.
- If you are doing this the way it is supposed to be, your jawbone will be very loose the entire time you are singing the La sound. If your mouth and jawbone are tense, you aren't doing this right. Look at any great singer and you will discover that their mouth and entire area around it is completely relaxed. A good singing teacher will concentrate on this even before they start teaching how to use the diaphragm muscle.
- Place your relaxed hands on the area of your body where the solar plexus and navel are. This will help you to feel the diaphragm moving up and down.
- If you use your mouth and throat to sing, you will not feel this happening, and your voice will not be clear either. The only thing that you are moving intentionally is your tongue in order to get the La sound.
- If this is too difficult for you, start with the humming technique given in the next lesson.