Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I have been corresponding with Dr. Don Carlow who was the President and CEO of two large Canadian Cancer Hospitals. These were the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto and the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver. He also served on the board of the Vancouver Island Health Authority. Now Dr. Carlow operates a private health care consulting company. He is a graduate in medicine from many decades ago and entered the administrative field after many years in practice. Dr. Carlow has been very interested in what my teacher, Dr. Thomas LoMonaco, had discovered in regards to the breathing and the Valsalva maneuver in singing. As singers we want to rid ourselves from using the Valsalava maneuver at all and to do this the proper breathing coordination must be employed. That means keep the inspiratory (outward expansion) going so as to resist the expiratory tension which pulls in. Here is what Dr. Don Carlow had to say about the breathing:
Jeremy. There are some interesting aspects of inspiratory hold which reinforces it's role in maintaining an open throat. It is interesting that with a proper and full inhalation of the breath, that the space between the hyoid and thyroid opens a little and that the thyroid cartilage also descends a little. What is interesting is that during inspiration the whole respiratory tract actually descends. This includes particularly the trachea and bronchi but also includes the lung root (blood vessels and major bronchi). This is because the whole bronchial tree is like an accordion, full of elastic tissue. The trachea for example with a proper breath, elongates by as much as 20% (2.5cm). The carina (at the bifurcation of the trachea into the two mainstream bronchi) also descends the same distance. The thyrohyoid membrane between the hyoid and thyroid cartilages is also made partially of elastic tissue and hence also stretches downward. Loss of inspiratory hold causes these structures to snap back to their original position along with the attendant closure of an open throat. This physiology emphasizes the importance of a full breath and the maintenance of inspiratory tension to hold the respiratory tract in this position and hence hold the opening. It means singing in the correct manner is hard work! It takes real talent to hold the opening with a low volume of breath. I believe that respiratory physiology reinforces Stanley's contention about the importance of inspiratory hold (which must be held from the 6th to 10th rib down through the torso). Also a relaxed abdominal Wall Is very important to allow for the full unimpeeded descent of the diaphragm. While one must pay attention to registration and to proper positioning of the resonator, neither of these can function properly without the proper degree of inspiratory hold, the absence of which cause the respiratory system to collapse and retreat to a closed position. Breathing with the upper part of the chest actually impedes this downward descent. Older people with respiratory disease have to use their upper chest because of relative fixation of the chest wall and loss of elasticity. It is also interesting to note the the upper part of the lungs cannot fill unless the lung root descends to create room (this does not mean elevating the chest)

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