I was recently reading about mindfulness and it occurred to me that this state of being happens quite naturally during singing and singing practice. Mindfulness promotes active, deep relaxation which can reduce stress, enhance resistance to disease, speed recovery from illness, increase energy and stamina; and it may even cultivate insight, creativity, and spirituality. Mindfulness is categorised under the mental relaxation technique of ‘meditation’ and it involves focusing one’s mind to quietly observe the flow of all simple stimuli, without conscious thought or worry.
One popular mindfulness practice is known as 7:11 breathing. You breathe in slowly to a count of seven and then breathe out even more slowly to a count of eleven, focusing your mind to the mechanical phases and bodily control associated with the technique. When we learn to control our breathing to be able to sing, the process is remarkably similar to this technique; a comfy breath in with the conscious expansion of the diaphragm, followed by conscious control of the core muscles to release the breath really slowly, and thus allow a legato phrase to be poured forward as a continuous vocal stream which pleases the human ear and hopefully touches the soul. Indeed, most of the activities involved in being part of a choir are activities which help us to connect with be-ing; the mindfulness which is naturally required when interpreting sheet music and translating the dots, bars and words into song releases us from the tumultuous thoughts and anxieties of a busy life and helps us to do this and to reconnect with ourselves.
Now I know why so many of us say that after we have been to choir practice we always feel so much better.