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Singing at home

Breathing

There’s some kind of cold going around the Bay area. I’ve mostly avoided it, but I have been feeling run-down and congested for the past week. Today I was feeling run-down enough that I almost didn’t go to the weekly singing.

Because of the holiday, there weren’t a lot of singers — a dozen or so instead of the usual score or more, and only three singers in the bass section, one of whom was more congested than I was. Then one of the basses went to the tenor section. When there’s only one other person in the section, I find I have to really focus: no dropping out for a minute because my concentration flagged; no passing over the notes I’m too lazy to read the music carefully. And I have to make sure I sing carefully so I don’t blow my voice out before the end; which when I’m congested means breathing well and not tightening up when the congestion interferes with the singing.

At the end of the evening, I felt really good. The New Age folks talk about how singing is “healing,” meaning I think some sort of existential or spiritual healing. Some folks meditate and concentrate on their breath; some do yoga and pranayama breathing exercises; these and other spiritual practices involve breathing carefully and deeply. Aside from any purported spiritual effects, breathing deeply is also physically healing: you pump up your blood oxygen levels, and yes it can loosen congestion in your lungs.

So at the end of tonight’s singing, I felt energized and upbeat. No mysterious spiritual force at work here — that’s simply what often happens when you do a lot of deep breathing.