Gerald Klickstein, author of the landmark book The Musician’s Way, describes a potent technique that helps vocalists dispel distraction, neutralize stress, and sing from the heart.
If there’s a more spiritually powerful art form than music, I haven’t encountered it.
Nonetheless, when it comes time for us musicians to rehearse or perform, it isn’t necessarily easy for us to connect with our spiritual nature.
Often, we deal with interference owing to how we react to various pressures, especially the pressure of performing in public.
But whatever the interference, 2-to-1 breathing helps us restore inner balance and make soulful music.
Repeated for a number of cycles, this breathing exercise triggers a calming response that also tempers the fight-or-flight activation brought on by stage jitters.
Physician John Clarke, former Chairman of the Himalayan Institute*, reports: “2-to-1 breathing helps reduce, coordinate, and stabilize the activity of the brain and the nervous system.”
Here’s how it’s done:
Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and exhale fully…
1. To a moderate mental count, inhale silently through your nose and deeply into your abdomen.
2. Exhale through gently pursed lips for double the count (twice the duration) of your inhalation.
Continue for 5-10 cycles or several minutes, but reinstate normal breathing if you become lightheaded.
If any thoughts intrude as you breathe, let them go without judgment, and refocus on your breathing and counting.
Final 2-to-1 Tips
Many practitioners of this technique recommend exhaling through the nose rather than pursed lips – I encourage you to experiment with doing so.
However, I advise newcomers to 2-to-1 breathing to exhale through pursed lips because I’ve found that they may become tense when they attempt to regulate their exhalation through the nose.
You can also practice 2-to-1 breathing in a standing position, but do it seated first to discover how you respond.
Try this exercise whenever you want to instill calmness and focus your energies. For instance, you might employ it to counter nervousness at concerts and auditions. Or you could use it to center yourself in preparation for rehearsals or recording sessions.
Of course, plenty of other techniques exist that quell anxiety and boost artistry, musicianship, and well-being. I’ve cataloged abundant examples in my book The Musician’s Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness (Oxford University Press, 2009. 360 pages). I invite you to take a look.
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© 2010 Gerald Klickstein
Gerald Klickstein is Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and is an active guitarist, author, and arts advocate.
MusiciansWay.com – Companion site to The Musician’s Way
The Musician’s Way Blog, by Gerald Klickstein
Also by Gerald Klickstein on VoiceCouncil.com: Practicing Performance
*The Himalayan Institute is a prominent holistic health center
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From the editor: How do you relieve stress? Leave a comment below before June 4th and you’ll be eligible to win a free copy of The Musician’s Way. VoiceCouncil will select the authors of two comments below to receive Gerald’s important book.
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