Q&A: How can I get greater lung capacity?

Question:

” How can I increase my lung capacity, both for singing, and just in general? I feel I had greater lung capacity when I was younger. How can I get that back?”

Answer:

Really great question, thank you. To be a great singer—or to live a long, healthy life—you need great lung capacity, yes. Opera singers, tuba players, and athletes are among those with the greatest lung capacity—about 80%. While most of us “regular people”, even many singers, just use a shocking, and totally inadequate 20% in daily life. Could that be the reason for many health problems?

Here are my three tips for building that missing 80% of your lung capacity:

  1. Stand, walk, and sit TALL. No matter your size or shape, whenever you think of it, stand, sit, or walk as if lifted by an invisible light cord attached to the top of your head. By that I mean the spot towards the back of your head which, if you tug there, will cause your your chin to get a tad lower. Now feel that same light cord going all the way down to the heart of Earth. It’s as if you stand, sit, or walk on a rail of light. Good. You’ll also notice that whatever mood you were in seconds before, simply by standing in that “invincible” pose, you’ll feel better. 🙂
  2. Make sure your “engine” is running before you even take a breath. Meaning your abdominals and intercostals (tummy muscles) are at the ready, like in a martial artist, ready to pounce at any moment. This motor is vital, so your throat can stay open and relaxed, without feeling it needs to do the heavy lifting, i.e. pushing. This next exercise will help train that power and ease, as well as increase your lung capacity over time.
  3. Then only, gently breathe in through your nose for as long as is comfortable. Feel lifted from the top, and now expand all around your torso like a giant inner tube. Feel your breath streaming in gently, and as if it just keeps going. Even when you think now you’re lungs are full, feel as if you can inhale into infinity. Then pause for a second, and slowly and in a measured way exhale on “sssssss”. What’s key here is to keep your ribs OUT, and away from your lungs, even as you’re exhaling. Otherwise they collapse your lungs prematurely. Think you have floating ribs that just keep going out and out, even as you exhale. Only when you’re done ssss-ing, do you let them back down. Next you can replace the “sssssss” with a siren top to bottom. Make sure your motor is running, throat is open, and you feel a yawning lift behind your upper molars: the proverbial inner smile. Then simply slide down on any vowel that feels comfortable—in many cases that is an “Oooo”—all the while keeping your ribs out and away from your lungs.

Hope this helps. Gravity is a force that helps us be here on earth. Working in this way with your body you can use it to work for you, for better health, happiness, and effortless singing. If you have any other questions feel free to contact me. For now, be well, and Sing Yourself Well!

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