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Breathe with Ease! Demystifying breathing with Body Mapping

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1 Breathe with Ease! Demystifying breathing with Body Mapping
Professor Heather J. Buchanan Director of Choral Activities, Montclair State University Certified Andover Educator

2 The Structures & Movement of Breathing: A primer for choirs & choruses
Text Reference Page number references on slides refer to the following book: The Structures & Movement of Breathing: A primer for choirs & choruses Barbara Conable GIA Publications: Chicago, IL

3 Activity… How clearly and accurately can you
describe the breathing process?

4 What is Breathing? A wave-like movement from top to bottom on inhalation & exhalation. Tension-free breathing: Sequential & coordinated Feels like a single movement top to bottom

5 Inhalation Sequence Ribs swing up & out and the Diaphragm descends
Abdominal & pelvis viscera moved outward & downward by powerful descending diaphragm Pelvic floor pushed downward by pressure of displaced viscera

6 Exhalation Sequence Ribs swing down & in Diaphragm ascends
Abdominal & pelvic viscera flow inward & upward as diaphragm ascends & cylinder of abdominal musculature springs back inward as pressure from viscera is gradually reduced Pelvic floor muscles likewise spring back to rest

7 Breathing Muscles Inhalation: Exhalation:
External intercostals elevate ribs (thus increasing width of thoracic cavity) Interchondral part of internal intercostals also elevate ribs Diaphragm descends Exhalation: Internal intercostals (except interchondral part) Abdominals (depress lower ribs, compress abdominal contents, thus pushing up diaphragm) [Source: Netter]

8 Balance and Breathing (p.15)
Effective performance utilizes the whole body which is supported and organized around the spine Balance around weight-bearing, weight-delivering spine & legs (or sit bones) the best alignment condition

9 Lungs (p.26-27) Lungs & heart occupy thoracic cavity Front:
Tops of lung above collarbones Bottom near lower tip of sternum Back: Lie under upper ribs – shoulder blades over these ribs


11 Ribs (back view) (p.28) All 24 ribs attach onto transverse processes of 12 thoracic vertebrae

12 Ribs (front view) (p.29) 20 ribs join onto cartilage that attaches to sternum 4 floating ribs (2 lowest each side) do not attach at front



15 Rib Excursion Inhalation – swing up & out Exhalation – swing down & in

16 Rib Excursion “Excursion” of ribs – NOT expansion
We breathe at the joints – ribs primarily move by action of intercostal muscles Excursion correlates with volume of air inhaled Misaligned collarbones & shoulder blades interfere with breathing – they should suspend over ribs

17 Diaphragm (p.31-32) Thin, dome-shaped muscle spanning entire rib area
Basically horizontal structure Divides thoracic cavity above & abdominal and pelvic cavity below Base of dome anchors along lower ribs

18 Diaphragm (con’t) Principal muscle of inspiration 75% diaphragm
25% external intercostals & interchondral part of internal intercostals Excursion - from highly domed position to less domed Never completely flattens out Movement of diaphragm felt indirectly – by sensing its effects in the movement of other structures




22 Abdominal Wall Tensing abdominal wall more destructive to exhalation than inhalation – tensed muscles can’t spring back! 4 sets of abdominal muscles External obliques (outermost layer) {\\\ ///} Internal obliques (2nd top layer) {/// \\\} Rectus abdominus (3rd layer) { III } Transverse abdominus (deepest layer) { }

23 Pelvic Muscles (p.36-37) Interior muscles of pelvis continuous with base of diaphragm Powerfully experienced in tension-free singing as: movement, engagement, activity, dynamic support, potent responsiveness, energy, vigor, aliveness, fire…

24 Abdominal & Pelvic Viscera (p.33)
Inhalation: as a result of excursion of diaphragm Abdominal & pelvic viscera are moved outward and downward Pelvic floor is pushed downward by pressure of displaced viscera Exhalation: Abdominal & pelvic viscera flow inward & upward Pelvic floor muscles spring back to rest



27 Pelvic Floor (p.38) Muscle group that lies between pubis & sacrum front to back & between sitting bones side to side Pelvic floor is passive – it must not work itself during breathing. It’s movement results from pressure on viscera



30 Practical Demonstration
Eight-handed Breathing


32 Gathering & Lengthening (p.41)
Spine’s natural movement – buoyancy Spine gathers on inhalation & lengthens on exhalation ‘Interfering’ results in labored breathing Provides support for movement of limbs Involuntary movements – cooperate with them! Swiss ball demonstration


34 Breath Support in Singing
Breath support in singing happens on the exhalation. The pressure of the air from the lungs sets the closed vocal folds into vibration. How to regulate the air pressure is a fascinating subject with varying opinions.

35 Breath Support Two definitions:
“Support” is the dynamic equilibrium between the muscles of expiration and inspiration “Support” is the balanced regulation of subglottic pressure

36 Breath Support… the Facts!
Assuming correct body alignment, support in singing is the act of maintaining dynamic equilibrium between the expiratory breath flow, which originates with elastic recoil in the abdominals and pelvic floor, and the resistance to that breath flow from the diaphragm, external intercostals, and vocal folds.

37 What is Dynamic Equilibrium ?
“Opposing muscles working in tandem, i.e. one releases as the other contracts.” e.g. Exhalation - abdominal muscles & internal intercostals vs. diaphragm & external intercostals.

38 “More Support?” Ask yourself… “Do I need more air flow?” OR
“Do I need more resistance to the air flow?”

39 You feel #2 – #6 at your body core!
Sources of Support The floor (or seat) Skeleton – body structure aligned & free Spine – gathering & lengthening Rib excursion Abdominal walls springing back Pelvic floor springing back You feel #2 – #6 at your body core!

40 Break END

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