Chi Yi Breathing

Caryl Tipton, Director, Music Ministry

I can’t tell you how many times singers have said, “Sometimes I just don’t feel like coming to choir after a long day, but I’m always glad I did! I feel better and with more energy after singing!” Breathing is the foundation on which the singing voice is built and it’s a skill that provides energy and control for vocal support. As a singer, we do exercises and learn techniques to find our “core” from which to breathe and sing. Chi yi is a method of breathing through which you can stimulate and harness your inner energy from your core. By making sure the air you breathe is effectively inhaled, energized and exhaled, you can improve your health and bring vitality, not only to singing, but all of your physical movements and expressions. We’ve all experienced the link between our breathing and the way we feel physically and emotionally. A sigh of relief, being breathless with excitement, yawning, yelling, gasping or holding our breath in anticipation. These acts provide us with the extra oxygen we need to meet the moment at hand.

No wonder choir members feel more energy after rehearsal or you feel energized after singing hymns at a service. Singing is based on breath and connection with our core and the entire body is coordinated from this center. Of course, breathing is a natural and autonomic response of our body. The power of Chi yi breathing in singing (or instrumental playing) gives us limitless energy and ways to sustain the music we’re making in so many ways. Singing/playing long phrases; having the facility for different dynamics and emotional expression; supporting a high note or a long-held note, as well as, building confidence and increasing stamina, zest and coordination.

A deep Chi yi breath can give us a sense of well-being and make us feel uplifted. The world grows brighter and we want to open up and sing! Singing is healthy. It invites us to inhale energy through oxygen, control a flowing stream of that air and to release any pent-up emotions as we exhale.

Try it for yourself. Sing anywhere you can. Sing in the shower, in your car or as you work in the garden. Never mind if you think you’re tone deaf. Sing for yourself. Don’t worry about who may hear you. Pop, rock, folk, hymns or operatic arias – anything that you choose and touches you is fine. Sing freely and comfortably. If you forget the words, make them up. The more you sing the less shy you’ll be about hearing your own voice…and, the more you can reap the benefits of chi yi breathing.

Adapted from the book “The Art of Breathing” by Nancy Zi