Day 16 Alexander Technique & Singing Tip: Part 1 of a three day series on the diaphragm

In singing, there’s a lot of sometimes seemingly conflicting information about breathing, especially concerning the diaphragm. We hope to clear up a few of those ideas in the next three posts.

For today, we’re concentrating on getting a better, static, picture anatomically of some of the major players in the breathing process: the trachea, the lungs (bronchioles highlighted in red inside the lungs here), and the diaphragm, all highlighted in red in the accompanying picture.

A few helpful things to point out:

1) Notice how deeply the trachea goes into your chest (or thoracic cavity). Every body is a little different, but your trachea or wind pipe probably goes lower than your armpits before it starts to branch out into bronchioles, and into smaller and small tubes that make up the mesh of the lungs.

  • Try breathing with this understanding of how deep your trachea is. Sometimes singing teachers might refer to this as your column of air. Might this have something to do with the idea of appoggio or Italian for “to lean” or “to support”, often times felt at the mid-chest area?

2) Notice how high the light gray shaded area of the lungs goes up into your chest. The lungs begin, even thought it’s just a little narrow bit of their total size, up underneath the clavicles, and continue to get larger as they descend in the chest cavity towards the diaphragm.

3) Notice the shape of the diaphragm. See how it separates your lungs (upper chest cavity) from your guts (lower chest cavity) and attaches at the bottom of the sternum, along the costal cartilages of the lower ribs, and at the back has attachments all the way down to your lower back! (L1, and L2).

  • Remember that like your heart muscle, we don’t have direct conscious control over our diaphragms. You can’t contract it or release it at will.

  • We CAN however allow for the places that the diaphragm attaches to be available for movement so that the diaphragm is free to move and help us breathe.

  • Realize based on your now more accurate map of the breathing anatomy that if we want the diaphragm to be free to move and help us with our breath, then we need to be free along our rib cage, as well as in our lower back! Breathe paying special attention to allowing the points of attachment of the diaphragm (at your lower back and along the inside of the bottom of your ribcage to move as much as they want. What do you notice?

That’s it for today! Check back in tomorrow for more about the breathing process and how the diaphragm works!