Case Study: Singing and Postural Support

Chris is an up-and-coming classical singer. His teachers could see that he was having challenges with posture, but neither he nor they could improve matters. His way of supporting himself in the upright, which was of course “normal”, automatic and habitual, involved a pattern of tension in his neck, chest and legs. This not only ruined his posture, but also restricted his freedom of movement generally, and in particular it restricted the freedom in his breathing. The neck and chest tension also had a negative effect on his jaw and tongue.

After working with Chris in his first lesson, I asked him to sing, paying attention to not disturbing the ease and balance he had achieved through the lesson. The improvement in general bearing and breathing were very apparent. What was also interesting was the effect that this had upon his tone. It was richer, more resonant, and the voice was clearer and more flexible.

Then the hard work started. In order to make these changes his own, Chris had to begin to observe himself in a new way. He also had to learn to “direct”, that is, to send himself messages for the new relationships between the different parts of his body, and to send these messages in a non-doing way. First Chris spent time catching himself when he tightened his neck and pulled back his head. He learned to associate releasing this tension with also releasing undue tension in his back, and with finding a better balance through his legs to his feet. All this resulted in his posture (the original perceived problem) gradually improving. He was practicing his ability to free the muscles of his neck, such that his head was more freely balanced on his spine, and such that his spine was able to decompress out of the shape he had habitually squashed it into.

He also started to build a more extensive picture of his breathing, in particular gaining a new appreciation and experience of his whole torso as a three-dimensional “tube” which can be elastic in every dimension. With greater freedom for his head and neck, and with an orientation towards de-compressing rather than squashing down, his breathing became more responsive to his singing needs and reinforced the freedom which made this possible. His movement generally became easier and lighter and less constrained by his old postural habits. And of course his posture was transformed.

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