Are you familiar with TED talks? I find them fascinating. They’re not necessarily restful or easy to listen to, but they are always challenging and potentially mind-opening. I saw this TED talks the other day: (go ahead, watch it…it’s only 3 minutes long!)
The first time I saw it, I was a little weirded out; it was strange and uncomfortable. Then I watched it again. Okay, it was still strange and uncomfortable but I found I was also intrigued. This man, Sxip Shirey, was doing new and impressive things with only his breathing.
Breathing: such a simple action. We take a breath somewhere between 18,000 and 30,000 times each and every day and we rarely notice it. We breath when we’re awake and when we’re exercising. We breathe while we’re sleeping, our bodies automatically inhaling and exhaling even as our minds are far off in REM dreaming. While most of the time breathing is completely involuntary, there are times where it is forced to the front of our consciousness.
Singers are taught to control their breath, to use it to reach higher pitches and move notes forward. Air is a tool and one you must master to be a good singer. An action that is natural and almost always subconsciously controled, breathing is suddenly an area of focus that comes with a set of guidelines and exercises.
Yoga teaches that breath is at the center of everything and that more air/breathing is equal to more life. Yogis need to surrender to their breath. The yoga practice of breathing, pranayama, even has its root meaning connecting airflow to life. A long list of health benefits is associated with a focus on proper breathing and pranayama practice.
With these two schools of thought in mind, I can’t help but wonder, “How does Shirey view and use air?” He uses it forcefully, sure, which makes it seem like a tool but it’s also at the center point of his performance, which would be more of a pranayama quality.
And, more importantly, how does air factor into music therapy? Do we pay much attention to air, how we use it and how it sustains us? How can we use it to connect with music therapy clients?