Guest Post: How breathing can impact your voice

We at Production Physiotherapy are fortunate to work with some extremely talented people, and more importantly good people who really aim to deliver World Class levels of performance in their sectors. One of those people is Lucinda Allen, a highly sought after Voice and Singing Consultant who has been kind enough to provide us with this post. We've found the input from Vocal Coaches incredibly useful when treating performers with voice related concerns, highlighting the interdisciplinary approach required for optimal outcomes in the performing sector.

We hope you enjoy Lucinda's post as much as we have.

Having had the unique opportunity to work alongside so many talented physios over the past decade, I have noticed a clear correlation between muscle tension and effective breathing methods. Muscle tension can manifest in a variety of ways, such as loss of range, sustainability, and clarity. Whether it’s being locked in the legs, tightness of the shoulder girdle or tension in the neck or jaw, this can significantly affect vocal quality.

I have always been an advocate of vocal massage and its proficiency in releasing tension. However, this is not always the final step, as I noticed that issues frequently returned following the procedure. After several weeks of performing, many clients experienced recurring symptoms such as high or lifted larynx position, tension in the jaw and/or tongue.

The clients that I coach, range from West End performers, actors and commercial singers to pastors, radio broadcasters and puppeteers; all working at a professional or high level. Despite these various specialisms, these performers have one important factor in common: navigating air pressure.

Many voice users recognise the sensation of a tightening in the throat. This is often a muscular response to a build-up of air pressure underneath the vocal cords. Ideally, air pressure is evenly distributed throughout the body. However, when specific areas are rigid (e.g.neck, ribs, back), air pressure cannot always disperse evenly. This results in restriction around the vocal tract until the air is expelled from the mouth or nose. Imagine shaking a bottle of fizzy drink; the pressure builds up and is trapped until bursting through the tightly wound cap. Over time, unevenly distributed air pressure can cause muscular fatigue, which results in common vocal issues.

To experience this sensation, take in a large breath through your mouth and hold it. Carefully observe where you feel a build-up of pressure - this could potentially be where you are holding tension (don’t forget to exhale!). The areas where you feel pressure might also be where there is a lack of flexibility. Massage is an excellent method for regaining elasticity, thus allowing the body to respond to movement of air pressure.

When working with clients, my priority is to gain a clear picture of their ‘body map’, (areas of tension, pressure build-up etc), and to help them manage this. I believe that air pressure management is fundamental in maintaining muscle tension release and voice sustainability.

MDHBC Breathing Coordination (Robin De Haas & Lynn Martin) is a physical practice focusing on assessing and optimising breathing patterns. My work with MDHBC has been fundamental in identifying tension, maintaining release, and managing air pressure, in order to support prolonged performance and vocal use.

Alongside massage, I would encourage anyone whose voice is integral to their work, to integrate air pressure management into a personalised practice. This combination encourages a consistently free and flexible instrument and facilitates maximising the potential of the voice.

Many thanks

Lucinda

If you'd like to know more about Lucinda you can visit www.voiceunlocked.com or follow on Instagram @voiceunlocked.com