In the rush and flurry that is often a choir rehearsal of young singers, it is tempting to want to skip the warm-ups. Sure, we’ll run our singers through some vocalises, but there’s so much to do, so many distractions, only a few rehearsals left until the next concert….and of course, so much left to do to be “concert-ready.”
Why would a director want to spend time on yoga stretches?
And which stretches are most beneficial to young singers?
Today I will share with you 3 of my favorite yoga stretches for good singing posture that singers in any-age ensemble (children to adults) can do. All of them will help singers become more aware of their bodies, promote skeletal alignment, and help singers focus their minds and attention for rehearsal.
It is not unusual, when first introducing yoga stretches to young singers, to hear murmurs of “ooh!” “ow!” and “wow!” when they are stretching. Young people today spend more time sitting than ever in previous generations. Stretching their bodies in new directions can bring sensation to their awareness that prompts these comments. I always like to remind singers that they should feel something, but nothing we do should ever be painful. Pain is a signal to back off the stretch just a bit, so that it feels good, not bad. All of these stretches listed here are ideal to do when the singers are in choir formation, seated or standing. No mats, special clothing, or equipment is required.
Let’s get started!
Side Stretch Wrist Pull
Singers can be seated easily or standing in front of their chairs. Inhale arms overhead. Grasp the right wrist with the left hand. As you exhale, lean to the left. Inhale back up, then exhale arms down. Repeat on the other side. Singers will probably feel a gentle stretch down the side body (along the ribs) on each side.
Singers are seated for this stretch with weight shifted slightly forward onto the sit-bones (not slumped back on the base of the spine). Inhale arms overhead, then drop the left hand to the right knee and place the right arm behind you, possibly grasping the chair back behind you. Glance over the right shoulder to experience the spinal twist. Gently release the twist by returning to the forward-facing position. Repeat on the other side.
I do not advocate using chair down dog poses in mixed-gender choir settings, regardless of the age group, for obvious behavioral reasons! However, when singers are in partners, they are focused on the dynamics of creating the yoga shape with their partners, and their attention is not distracted to the shapes of their other-gendered colleagues.
For this stretch, partners face each other about arms-length apart. Partners place hands together at shoulder height and walk their feet back 1 or 2 small steps, then lower their upper bodies to face the floor. It is important for each person to lightly press on their partner’s hands. Remind singers to place “ears between biceps,” which will release the neck; they should be looking at their own toes, not at their partners! To release this pose safely, partners should step back up toward each other and let go of hands.
This stretch engages the upper body with some pressure, which is a useful sensation for singers who are working to engage their core more actively to produce a fuller sound when singing. It is also a great social engagement as well, allowing singers to connect with each other while physically preparing for rehearsal.
Do you use yoga stretches in your choir rehearsals? What has been your result? Or what problems did you encounter? Share your favorites in the comments, or request a stretch that you’d like to implement in your future rehearsals. I’ll break it down for you in a future blog post. Namaste and stay tuned!