Breathing Exercises

Here's a guide to apply what you've learned through breathing exercises. 

Click here for general breathing tips 

Lower Torso to Upper Torso

Before getting into more complicated breathing exercises, check to make sure your breathing movements are working together correctly. This is best done standing.

1. Place your right hand on your lower abdomen, over your bellybutton.

2. Place your left hand on your chest, right below your collarbone.

3. Inhale slowly. You should feel expansion against your right hand on the lower abdomen first. As your lungs fill, you should also feel an small, involuntary upward movement in your chest. Don't actively try to make your upper torso move; it will do it on its own.

4. Exhale slowly. The reverse movements from the inhalation should occur. With your left hand you'll feel your chest move slightly down (remembering this is also involuntary) followed by your abdominal wall contracting under your right hand.

5. Repeat several times, both through the mouth and through the nose. 

Building Lung Capacity

1. Inhale slowly, as with the previous exercise. Fill up your lungs as much as you can.

2. As you inhale, raise your arms over your head, interlocking your thumbs and fingers pointing to the ceiling. Hold the breath for 3 seconds in this position.

3. Take in 2-3 sips of air on top of what you're holding. Hold for 3 more seconds. You may have to build up to this amount of air sips or seconds holding the breath over time. It won't be comfortable, but listen to your body so you don't pass out.

4. Exhale, and with the exhalation lower your arms to your side. 

Breathing with Beats

This is one of the breathing exercises I did with the University of Houston Wind Ensemble, whose director at the time got the idea from Chicago Symphony E-flat clarinetist Bruce Yeh.

1. Set your metronome to around 100 beats per minute.

2. Extend you right arm in front of you, with your palm facing your mouth.

3. Inhale and bring your palm to your face evenly over 4 beats. By the downbeat of beat 2 you should be a quarter of the way there, by the downbeat of beat 3 you should be halfway there etc. This gives you a visual aide.

4. Turn your air around from inhale to exhale and change your hand's direction at the same time. Bring your hand away from you evenly over 4 beats.

5. Repeat several times. 

Also try:

In for 2, out for 4

In for 1, out for 4

In for 2, out for 8

In for 1, out for 8

In for 1, out for 4, relax for 1, in for 1, out for 4

The combinations are endless, and you can adapt them to your needs. 

Breathing with Beats, Extended

1. Set your metronome to 60 beats per minute

2. Using the same hand motions, inhale for 1 beat and exhale for 1 beat

3. Do this continuously 8 times and see how many repetitions you can build up over time. Remember to maintain a balanced posture and efficient breathing.

I've seen people get close to passing out with this, so if you feel lightheaded, stop! You will build capacity and endurance through working on these exercises on a regular basis, not by pushing yourself farther than you're capable the first time.

Now apply these breathing exercises to your playing!