Breath and What We Can Learn from Cats

November 3, 2016

 

Business Insider just released a video by psychologist and author of Breathe, Dr. Belisa Vranich about breath and its relationship to our emotional state. In the video, Dr. Vranich explains that breathing from your back, or expanding your rib cage horizontally, may have a calming effect on the body, while breathing vertically, from the shoulders, activates our system's flight or fight response. So what's this have to do with cats?!

 

I started thinking about the concept of a wider, lower breath as I watched my cat sleep. When she sleeps, or rests, it's clear that her abdominal area expands and resembles a hollow barrel. I'm no expert on feline anatomy, so let's pretend that my cat suddenly morphed into a human so we can better explain this barrel-like breath phenomenon. The thoracic cavity is expanding in three ways: the diaphragm descends, causing the abdomen to move forward (thus looking like a "belly breath") to make more vertical space for the lungs, the rib cage moves horizontally, widening the barrel, and the sternum moves anterior-posteriorly, meaning forward and up to expand the barrel three dimensionally. So what's this all have to do with singing?!

 

If you think about it, when you're nervous at an audition, would you say it's similar to being in an anxious emotional state? Would you say it feels like your sympathetic nervous system is activated- that fight or flight mentality takes over? Perhaps this is because our breathing has become rapid and short and high (in the shoulders). OR, perhaps, because we're in this emotional state, our breathing then BECOMES rapid and short and high to match. What if we chose to activate calm and balance instead of panic during an audition? What if we could ask our body to expand from the rib cage, creating that cat-like barrel sensation instead? What if we could emotionally trick ourselves into behaving a certain way just by focusing on lowering and widening our breath? How cool would that be? As a result of changing where we feel our breath, our emotions would shift as well, and our auditions would be more grounded, more relaxed, and more inviting. 

 

Next time you feel yourself getting stressed, instead, imagine a cat taking a nap on top of a warm radiator. Think of that peaceful nonchalance, lick your proverbial paw, and mimic that easy widening of your rib cage. MEOW!

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