How to Sing For Healing

In the field of music education and music therapy, we often marvel at the wondrous healing power of music. Stories are told of comatose patients responding to musical stimuli and vegetative Alzheimer’s patients who cannot recognize their own children springing to life upon hearing a familiar memory from their childhood. Oliver Sacks has written an entire book titled Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain that, through a series of vignettes, tells the story of the remarkable relationship between synapses and symphonies.

What seems to receive less attention among scholars however, is the relationship between music—singing specifically—and the body. When done properly, singing, even by yourself, can do wonders for your health. In this article, I will describe one easy technique for healing and relaxation that you can do anywhere, anytime with just your voice and your body. (Although you can sing just about anywhere you want, the first few times you do this exercise I would recommend finding a quiet place where nobody will be bothered by you singing loudly.)

Without further ado, here we go…

Begin with a deep breath.

If you find yourself sucking in your stomach, puffing out your chest, and pushing up your shoulders, you are actually going to have to “relearn” how to breathe. Although many of us reflexively go through this motion when told, “take a deep breath,” this is not the way to breathe for healing, relaxation, or singing.

Rather, you must push out your stomach as you breathe in (preferably through your nose), filling your entire chest and abdomen with air. The inhale should last approximately three seconds and your shoulders should not go up as you fill your belly with air. To ensure that you are breathing properly, place your hand on your belly and feel it expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale.

Hold the air in for one or two seconds and then slowly breathe out (either through your nose or mouth), feeling your belly recede as the air leaves your lungs. This powerful exhale is the key to singing for healing.

To incorporate your voice, take another deep breath just as you did before. This time, instead of simply exhaling air, sing “aaaaah” for five seconds as you breathe out, gently pushing the air from your belly into the note. Do not worry about the key. Sing whichever note is most comfortable for you, whichever note comes out automatically.

Now, add in some words. Any words will do. You could sing “aaaah” or “oooom” six times. If you are familiar with the Jewish prayer, “Shema Yisrael,” try singing the six words: “Shema Yisrael A-donai El-oheinu A-donai Echad.” For each word, inhale for three seconds, hold the air in your belly for one to two seconds, and sing the word for five seconds, elongating the final syllable:

Breath in (three seconds), Hold (one or two seconds), Sing: Shemaaaaaah (five seconds)
Breath in (three seconds), Hold (one or two seconds), Sing: Yisraeeeeeeel (five seconds)
Breath in (three seconds), Hold (one or two seconds), Sing: A-donaaaaaai (five seconds)
Breath in (three seconds), Hold (one or two seconds), Sing: El-oheinuuuu (five seconds)
Breath in (three seconds), Hold (one or two seconds), Sing: A-donaaaaaai (five seconds)
Breath in (three seconds), Hold (one or two seconds), Sing: Echaaaaaaad (five seconds)

You can sing the six words to a particular melody or all on the same note. The important thing is to perform the full deep breathing exercise for each word.

Practice this singing technique until it becomes second nature. If you are in a place where you cannot sing out loud, simply deep breathe without singing. Deep breathing can quickly alleviate anxiety, agitation, and anger. As you inhale, let the oxygen fill your whole body, nourishing your muscles and organs. As you exhale in song, let the tension go; release the toxins pent up inside your body and rejoice in the beautiful timbre of your own voice. When done properly, deep belly breathing will not only enhance the quality of your singing, it will also provide you with a powerful tool for attaining relaxation, calm, and internal balance.





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