We all know the lungs are involved in breathing, and if you’ve read many of my posts you know that abdominal-diaphragmatic breathing is the best (for more on this type of breathing, click here). Abdominal-diaphragmatic breathing demands that the diaphragm has room to contract downward to assist in a good, controlled inhalation.
Stooped shoulders actually put pressure on the rib cage making it more difficult to inhale properly. If the stooping is severe enough it can affect the downward contraction of the diaphragm, greatly limiting inhalation.
Should you stand like a little toy soldier with your shoulders raised? Absolutely not! You want your shoulders to be relaxed so that you don’t have tension in your neck, which can affect your pitch. Your body should be relaxed but erect.
Here are some ways to practice this posture (if you have any back or neck problems, do not do these exercises without consulting your physician):
Stand with your feet hip-width apart about six inches from a wall. Let your lower and upper back rest on the wall. Roll your shoulders forward and back. Now imagine there’s a string lifting your head and spine up. Lower your chin so it’s parallel to the floor. Gently move your head straight back and try to rest it on the wall (or as close to it as is comfortable). Keep your chin in the correct position. Next raise your arms up as you would if a sheriff in the old West said, “Stick ’em up!” Try to get your upper arms and the back of your hands against on the wall. Don’t force it. Just go as far as is comfortable. Hold this posture and relax for a few abdominal-diaphragmatic inhalations and exhalations.
If you’re having trouble getting your arms back, try lying on the floor with a rolled up towel or yoga mat up and down your spine and neck. Start by putting your arms straight out from your body with your palms up, resting them on the floor. If this is difficult, stay with it for as long as it takes until it feels easy and your chest feels open. If it’s easy, “Stick ’em up!” again with your arms bent on the floor and your palms toward the ceiling. Rest in this position each time you do the exercise for a few inhalations and exhalations.
Keep these exercises up for several weeks, and your posture should improve along with your breathing.