Warm-ups before you sing
Every athlete has a warm-up ritual to physically prepare the body, center the mind, and get in the zone. This is because the quality of your practice is incredibly important and if you are not as fully present as possible, then you simply won’t get the most out of it that you can.
Singing, like sports, is tricky, because no matter how good you are, you have a limited amount of time to improve before your voice gets tired. A reliable warm-up routine, or set of alternating routines, is a great way to maximize your progress. I found that when I reached a roadblock in my vocal training at school, it was developing a sound warm-up routine that allowed me to take my practice to the next level!
1) Lay on the floor, breath, relax.
If you find that you are tense and stressed, then try lying on the floor with your head on a medium thick book for 10-20 minutes. Keep your knees up and your hands resting on the side of your belly. The book allows you to relax your jaw and neck a little deeper than before. From here, try to let your body breathe you, rather than forcing a large breath. Focus on the warm air leaving your mouth, like you could fog a mirror. Eventually your breath will expand and strengthen on its own, and you will breathe into your relaxation. Be here now!
2) Check your posture.
If you have a full-length mirror, take a moment to look at your entire body. Notice your overall posture. Does anything looks unsymmetrical or caved in? Place your hand on the back of your head and neck and find the position of your head where your hand rests flat without anything pushing back. Then Slide your shoulders back and down and bring your chest slightly forward and open. Let your arms and open hands hang from your shoulders like the sleeves of a coat on a hanger. Finally make sure that your hips, knees, and ankles are slightly bent as they balance the weight of your upper body. Now imagine a rubber band stretching from the center of your back out the top of your head and down the curve of your tailbone. Finally move around a bit, changing subtle things in your posture and note how your body changes and looks with each motion. There is no fixed correct posture. Good posture is how you move from position to position with ease and efficiency.
From a standing position slowly bend over, reaching towards your toes. When you do this try to not hold your head (let it drop all the way down), hold your breath, or lock your knees. Instead focus on lifting your hips up into the air and breathing deep into your lower back. Then slowly rise one vertebrae at a time. When you are standing again, place your right arm behind your back and lean your head to the left. Then look up and open your mouth and take in a large breath. The antagonist force between your head looking up and your arm and shoulder remaining down will stretch your jaw and neck in an often very tight spot that needs to be relaxed for good singing!
4) Go swimming or biking.
I find that exercising too much before you practice singing can leave you too fatigued and or tight for good vocal work. Nevertheless, exercise is essential for some people as a way to wake up and energize the body for singing (especially if you struggle with support). Swimming is particularly helpful, it works all your muscles groups evenly, and can help reduce tension by helping you find a state of buoyancy through your breath. When you do swim, try focusing on your legs more than your arms for propulsion. Also use the hot tub, shower, or sauna for additional tension relief. Biking is great for getting the body warmed and lubricated as well. When you bike, try also to focus your energy downward with each breath and relax the upper body of any tension. Find the amount of time and intensity that works for your body before a lesson or practice session and be careful not to over do it and get too tired!
5) Shake it out.
Sometimes the best thing to do is just to let your self and your body shake out any tension you are holding and or shake in any energy that you need to wake up. Shake your body quickly and without bounds a couple of times, and then each time after that, slow down the shaking to about half the intensity and speed of the last shake. Eventually you are just tingly, relaxed, and ready to work!
6) Make it all a morning routine.
I love to do all of this, including singing practice, as a way to get ready for the day. It’s important to wait an hour or so before you start singing just to let your body fully wake up. Turn snoozing in bed in the morning into a productive relaxation technique like number 1). Then shower, make tea, coffee, or just drink water to lubricate the throat. Look in the mirror to check posture, stretch and exercise a bit. Finally, shake it out and begin singing for 15-30 minutes to warm up for the day.