When I work with a group of singers, one of the first things I note is posture. I can ask a group to stand, and I know immediately who is ready to sing and who will need a lot of warm-up time. I can even discern the kind of warm-up necessary.
There is a kind of casual stance that says, “I am here, but I am thinking of other things.” That stance has little tension, but very little intention. This singer needs a difficult technical warm up to distract the brain and focus the body.
There is a slow, encumbered movement to people who are tired and depressed. Their posture says, “The air is too heavy. Standing up is hard.” The posture is collapsed and ready to fail. This singer needs simple exercises that feel good and waken a sleepy system.
Then there are the people who stand quickly and rigidly, with a straight back and lifted shoulders. Those are the people who are really stressed out, and whose lives are full of responsibilities. I always look to their knees, because they are the singers who are so firmly planted, they cannot respond to changes. These are the people that get a back rub and instructions to loosen their hips and throw their voices.
All three postures, if left uncorrected, lead to faint, tense, stilted, and unbeautiful singing.
A singer has to be poised to move in any given direction. She never knows when the conductor may throw choreography her way. A singer has to be erect, so that air can move unimpeded through the throat and pharynx. A singer needs to balance tension and relaxation to support the breath without restricting its flow. Therefore, the singer’s posture has to be both loose at joints, but lifted and upright across the upper back and chest. A singer needs no restriction through the throat and mouth, so his shoulders need to be down; his cheeks and jaw need to be loose, and his voice box must be low, as when a person yawns.
If this is true for singing, then posture must also impact our breathing day-to-day. If we are to live sustained lines in our lives, we have to learn how to adjust our posture to make our breathing confident, elastic, expressive and beautiful. We need to notice when our jaws are clenched. We need to notice when a friends’ shoulders are rounded question marks. We need to ask ourselves if we approach problems with caved-in, apologetic chests, or with bodies stiff as two-by-fours, oriented solely on one particular outcome.
Then we need to adjust our posture. We need to realign ourselves to support the music of life. We need to practice warm-ups that help. Do we need something technical and difficult to focus our minds? Do we need something simple and pleasurable to lift our spirits? Do we need a back rub to let someone else feel the hardness growing in our souls?
Take a week and look around. What do you see in the bodies around you? How would you correct their postures? How would you correct your own?