Here are 21 breathing ideas to give you more connection, awareness, and control of your breath.
These are things I have been taught and/or created for myself and my students.
I am making videos of each of these and they are available on my YouTube channel.
1. Gathering & Lengthening:
The spine gathers on inhalation and lengthens on exhalation. Use your hands and breath to show this natural movement.
2. How & Hawaii Breaths:
Form the shape of the word how as you inhale. How is a 2 part breath, feel the “ow” open you. Ha-wa-ii is a 3 part: Low, Middle High. Release muscle tension so air can fill the lungs. Air is a gas and expands in the lungs, not really low to high. But, the L, M, H image helps at times too.
3. Finger Breaths:
Use your finger knuckle or palm of your hand to create a vacuum and suck air off the surface. Use shapes inside mouth, vowels and low and high sounds. Be aware of how this opens body and feel movement of ribs to move naturally.
4. Breathing Bag:
Use breathing bag for ease and stability of breath. To see how you are using your air. To help with quick, silent breaths. For articulation, vibrato, phrasing and calming your nerves and breathing before performances.
5. Breath Builder / Tube:
Use for ease and sustained flow of air. Gives excellent feedback on your air flow and exchange of inhalation and exhalation. Also good for vibrato, articulation and register changes.
To be done with awareness, and letting go of unnecessary tension in body and mind.
Quarter note = 60
4 = Exhale
4 = Hold (while empty)
4 = Inhale
4 = Contain Air (while full)
Repeat and increase counts as able.
Place your hands on your lower belly. Breathe in fully while extending arms out to sides. Now exhale arms to belly with energized ha’s ha’s of air! Helps articulation, core and give you energy.
8. Swinging Ahhhh & Breath of Joy:
Stand in a “monkey” or squat, swinging of arms forward on inhalation and back on exhalation 3 or 4 times, ocean breaths and on final exhalation, voicing ahhhhhh. Enjoy feeling the power and movement of your breath!
Ribs - Rock - Ring - Resonate! remember Lungs need expansion and the ribs move and expand to allow for our breathing. Take one hand and place around a side of your rib cage. Take a breath feeling the lungs fill and the ribs move and expand.
10. Breath Pulse:
Use your breath to make more connection to your breathing. Create deep breath pulse (like deep amplitude of vibrato). Do this in a specific rhythm at first. Treat your breath as your bow. Visualize breath as a bow. Feeling and connecting your breath, body and sound.
11. Hands Breathing:
Use hands to imitate movements of Ribs- rock, move up and out. Diaphragm: descends, flattens on inhalation and returns to domed shaped on exhalation. Abdominals: circle of arms, inhalation circle gets larger on all sides, on exhalation fingers return to touching.
12. Add a Second - Long Tones:
To increase lung capacity: Set your metronome to 60, and play an easily produced note and hold for as many seconds as you can. When you are finished, repeat, but add one second to your time. You will feel yourself: taking in more air and using it more efficiently.
This exercise has the added benefit of helping with nerves, when practiced just before a performance as is calming and centering.
13, Jump, Bounce - Core Connection:
Jump up and land lightly, or bounce.This will give you the feeling of Core Connection from the inside deep core muscles. Always there is movement, lightness, length, whole body playing, resonance, Up lifting... Core takes you up, like a dancer! Core development and awareness is essential for creating great sounds, music.
14. Against the Wall & On the Floor:
Squat and place back against the wall and breath, and also try playing your flute. What do you notice? Lie down on the floor and notice your natural breathing. Then add your flute and play. It is easier to sense breathing and core while laying down with the support of the ground.
15. Rolling Your Shoulders:
Inhaling, roll your shoulders up towards your ears, allowing for a lift and space in your arm structure as your lungs full and ribs move. Exhaling, rolling shoulders wide and down the back with an extended AHHHHH sound.
16. Paper on the Wall:
To feel the sustaining movement and speed of air we need to play. Take an index card or small piece of paper and blowing keep the paper on the wall. Check in to how you are using your whole body as you do this. Do this with vibrato, with articulation and with a phrase of music. Keep card on your stand and use it during your practice when you need faster air speed or connection between notes.
17. Fold Over & Standing Forward Bend:
Fold over straight back and play. This opens back, hips and frees breath. Standing forward bend connects, releases and opens our whole body and breathing mechanism. Play with moving into these in your practice. What do you experience or notice or are more aware of now?
18. Exhale your air & Lips Together:
Exhale all your air and then play a note. Get used to this feeling that even though you “feel” like you have no air there is always more. This is great to practice and learn to have some discomfort and still be able to play through it. Lips together at end of exhalation and then open to breath in. This is a good way to feel natural vacuum of inhalation.
Straws can help to refine the airstream, giving a contained tunnel to feel movement of air, the lips a sense of aperture and how the tongue is a part of this. Blow through straw then playing flute. Try different sizes of straws. Articulate using the straw then do same thing on flute. Try a long phrase your on flute, then straw, then flute.
20. Vocal Warm Ups:
Make these sounds: Ssss, Fuh, Brrr, Vowels and Flutter tongue! Wake up your breathing, tongue and body. Our body is our Primary Instrument! Make body hum with aliveness! Move freely and create gestures for each sound & breath.
21. Colors & Chakras:
“Every note resonates somewhere in the body...” ~Jean Pierre Rampal
Let’s use colors and places in the body to connect to sound to refine our sensitivity to sound, vibration and our primary instrument, our body. What if every pitch had a color and place in the body where it resonated? Many cultures have a system of color and vibration and their relationship to the body.
Play a slow scale finding a color and place for each sound, each key has a unique mood. Play a phase of music, imagine the colors and and sense where each note or gesture or phrase resonates.