Squat Breath

Encouraging breath in the lower part of body is something that I like to do in all of my classes. The best way to get started with this is with the squat. Squatting is one of the exercises that many of my students have a hard time doing. This is because their ankles and Achilles tendons are limited in mobility. So perhaps before we begin you might start by sitting down and elevating one of your feet and circling your foot so that you stretch out your ankles you want to flex your foot forcefully pulling your toes towards your nose, and feeling the stretch along the back of your ankle across the base of your foot and then point your toes, feeling the muscles on the sole of your foot contracting while the muscles on the top of your foot are stretched out.

To get into a squat, start with your feet more then hip width apart so that your heels are about 2 feet apart and your toes are turned out ever so slightly. You’re going to the bend at the ankles, knees and hips and drop your sitting bones down towards the floor. If you have very tight ankles, you may need to do this with your heels resting on a small book. This will allow your heels to be elevated slightly but with your weight transferring down through the books into the floor. you can place your elbows inside your needs and press your hands together, like in the yoga position the garland pose. This is a common yoga exercise and a great way to connect with breath.

The squatting process is something that’s used in many non-Western cultures for sitting, especially in places where the ground is dirty or wet. Children squat naturally until they start to spend time sitting in chairs more often a young child of 2 to 3 years of age squat rather than sit in many instances and can rise from a squat with ease. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all do that again? If you have a hard time squatting you could also squat about 2 to 2 ½ feet away from a wall so you can lean back against the wall and give your ankles a bit of a break.

The point of the squat is to focus on breath down into your pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is a muscular diaphragm that keeps your guts from falling out of the bottom of your pelvis! Basically you should be able to feel with each deep breath down into your core how your pelvic diaphragm stretches a little, as if your pelvic floor was ballooning out slightly. This may be a disconcerting feeling at first, but it really helps to feel breath down in the core of your body in this position you may also be able to feel breath expanding in your back if you keep your knees slightly closer together so that your belly is obstructed, you can restrict breath into the front of your lower body and focus it in the lower part of your back.

Eric Armstrong is the voiceguy. Eric is a dialect, voice, speech and text coach based in Toronto, Canada, where he normally teaches full-time at York University’s Dept. of Theatre. Eric has been teaching voice for the actor full-time since 1994, and has taught in Canada and the US, at the University of Windsor, Brandeis University, Roosevelt University, Canada's National Voice Intensive and York University. He has worked for nationally and internationally recognized companies such as Crow’s Theatre, Volcano, SoulPepper, & Canadian Stage in Toronto, and The Court Theatre and Steppenwolf in Chicago. Eric holds a BFA from Concordia University (Montreal) in Theatre Performance, and an MFA from York University (Toronto) in Acting. His mentors were David Smukler (York, Canada’s National Voice Intensive) and Andrew Wade (Royal Shakespeare Company). He has also studied at the Drama Studio, London, and Il Stage Internazzionale di Commedia dell’Arte in Reggio Emilia, Italy. He’s a long time member of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association, where he has served on the board, as a conference planner, photo editor for the Voice and Speech Review, Founding Director of Technology and Internet Services, and has written numerous peer-reviewed articles, essays and reviews for the VASTA Newsletter, the VASTA Voice, and The Voice and Speech Review.

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