The singer’s posture is the heart of singing with mastery. It encompasses full listening capability with our entire organism with a moment to moment conscious, deliberate, dynamically relaxed determination to orient somatically in the way the Gravity works with our body. Once achieved, you feel weightless, centered, totally embodied, with your spine long and relaxed, 1,000 pound weight on your tail, chest free, flexible, & floating, andthus access to the deep, core muscles that are the true initiatory (or intrinsic) muscles that I also call the singer’s muscles in my book entitled “Intrinsic Singing“.
This Chinese non-aggressive martial art called Tai Chi Chuan (the highest of all martial arts done with completely dynamic relaxation) is one of the most direct ways to embody this necessary knowledge. I teach the first third of the Yang Style Short Form as synthesized by Dr. Cheng-Man’ch’ing, the Master of the Five Excellences (if you wish to learn the entire form, I will connect you to colleagues who can offer that to you thru the Tai Chi Foundation).
The entire essence of the form is embodied in this third of the form. This perfect art going back many centuries will also provide you with a true practice that will have an ongoing benefit on you health and well being as well as singing, which those who perform for live audiences demand. It is done relaxed, with abdominal diaphragmatic breathing, awareness in the Center of Gravity called the dantien (Chinese: Hara, Japanese; Moving Center) and over time will deeply nourish you physically, emotionally, mentally, energetically, as well as spiritually. With 5 minutes of practice in the morning and evening, you cannot imagine the benefits that you will receive. And with the principles based teaching, you will begin to see improvement in your vocal emission with guidance from me during training.
This ancient Chinese form of exercise, as well as the highest of all martial arts done non-aggressively, is the perfect embodiment practice for the singers, actors or musicians since it incorporates all the most important sensory-motor skills of active listening with your entire body while remaining dynamically relaxed at all times. This dynamic relaxation must be acquired by the virtuosic singer (or actor or musician) in order to master performing for the live audience without dependng on a microphone for resonance.
On top of mastering the singer’s posture, it will provide you with vitality, a sense of tranquility, and moment to moment mindful awareness that no other exercise capable of. Once acquired into what is called procedural memory, your performing will take on a new level of present moment awareness and virtuosity that you cannot acquire otherwise.
In Tai Chi, because it is always done in complete dynamic relaxation, the intrinsic muscles are being exercised fully and developed in a unitary way, the same set of muscles that I call the ‘singer’s muscles’, also known as the respiratory muscles.
These emotional, initiatory muscles must be in a state of complete dynamic relaxation, fully unified, and elastic in order to sing in your unique voice that Universe provided you with and that is like on one else’s voice.
Meditation in Motion
Tai chi is often described as “meditation in motion,” but it might well be called “medication in motion.” There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health issues. And you can get started even if you aren’t in top shape or the best of health.
In this low-impact, slow-motion exercise, you move without pausing through a series of motions named for animal actions — for example, “white crane spreads its wings”. As you move, you breathe deeply and naturally, focusing your attention in your dantien (center of gravity or moving center) which provides the experience of feeling your body all at once rather than a bunch of ‘parts’ that you have to coordinate with the brain in your head. Tai Chi differs from other types of exercise in several respects. The movements are usually circular and never forced and the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed. And, you are always actively receptive and reaching toward ‘heaven’ with you head while simultaneously sinking your sacrum (last vertebral segment of the spinal column) down toward the center of the Earth. Tai chi can be easily adapted for anyone. And it embodies all the principles that are required for singing and listening well, which all singers must develop (the musician’s ear).
David Delaney began studying Tai Chi at the School of Tai Chi, Inc. in the early 1980s in New York City with Tai Chi Foundation Legacy Holder Margaret Matsumoto under the direction of Professor Patrick Watson (Yang Style Short Form as synthesized by Doctor Cheng Man-ch’ing). David has taught Tai Chi to the public since 1992 and has developed a synoptic method of training singers in the somatic-motor skills and principles derived from Tai Chi that are also needed by the singer who sings for live audiences and wants to achieve mastery of her body-voice-mind as well as improve health, build resilience, and manage the stress that sining for live audiences can arouse.
Link to my article for the Tai Chi Foundation on Tai Chi and the benefits of listening vs hearing-
What is a virtuosic singer article by David Delaney.