What is good posture for singing? We often hear the expression, “standing straight“ as a guideline for a good singing posture, but what does this mean physiologically and more importantly, how does it feel? The image of “„standing straight“ conjures images of stiffness and tension, which is definitely not good for singing. In understanding our body, I will try to convey to you which muscles we can use to achieve a sense of uprightness without false rigidity.
The posture which we are about to introduce is meant for vocal training optimization. Of course, when we are on stage, a singer may not stand straight, lying on his/her back, hunched or jumping around. The posture we are about to discuss is for training off the stage to maximize vocal development.
ABOUT THE SPINE
The Spine consists of 26 bones called vertebrae separated by intervertebral discs. It is a flexible structure which connects the skull to the pelvis and protects the spinal chord. The spine provides attachment to the ribs, the muscles of the neck and back. In medical physiology, the vertebrae are grouped in 5 sections from top to bottom: Cervical (roughly the area from the top of your neck to your shoulders), Thoracic (shoulders to around the top part of your hips), Lumbar (what people usually consider the lower back - roughly beginning from the midsection of your hips) , Fused Vertebrae of the Sacrum, and the Fused Vertebrae of the Coccyx (complete lower area to your tailbone). In this blog, we will define the Cervical and Thoracic Vertebrae as the UPPER SPINE and the Lumbar, Fused Vertebrae of Sacrum and Coccyx as LOWER SPINE.
As you can see from the diagram above, the entire spine is anchored by the pelvis. By moving the pelvis, one creates a chain reaction in the spine to the first vertebrae in the neck. This means that the pelvis is the greatest manipulator of the position of the diaphragm, lungs, larynx, pharynx, and all other muscles which support these structures and their functions.
This means that the pelvis is the key for finding the proper posture for singing.
OPTIMAL POSTURE FOR SINGING COMES FROM THE PELVIS
If we look at the following pictures of the spine and the pelvis, we can see that the muscles of the abdomen (stomach muscles) are connected directly to the pelvis, as well as gluteal muscles (butt muscles), internal rotator hip muscles, and even upper thigh muscles. Indirectly, the lower leg and foot muscles, which can dictate the position of the upper thigh, also influence the position of the pelvis, thereby all other parts of the body.
So even if we stand with our feet in a position that does not allow the pelvis to support the spine properly, we are creating a myriad of problems for us vocally.
Like dancers or athletes, our goal as singers is to have a stable, yet flexible spine. Since the spine's base of support is the pelvis, the position of the pelvis determines whether the spine remains flexible or not. A strong, flexible pelvis is critical for more efficient use of muscles and is key for more fluidity of movement.
In order for the spine to be flexible, the pelvis must be stable. The pelvis must remain anchored so that the body's centre of gravity remains focused at what athletes and dancers call the body's „core muscles“. The body's core muscles are the gluteal muscles, abdominal muscles and lower back (lumbar) muscles. We shall now refer to the „stable pelvis“ as the Pelvic Neutral Position from here on.
A muscular view of the spine from the back (dorsal view). Left to Right: Pelvis with only the inner hip muscles (Right and Left Psoas Major, Iliacus; Middle Picture showing how the pelvis is connected with abdominal muscles; Far right: showing how the Pelvis is connected to abdominal muscles plus muscles of the upper and lower limb