Could singing really be better for you than yoga? Not only does singing make you feel good, it has bona fide health benefits too. Looking into the benefits of singing in a choir, researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have found that choristers’ heartbeats synchronise when they sing together, bringing about a calming effect that is as beneficial to our health as yoga. "Singing delivers a host of physical and emotional benefits, including increased aerobic exercise, improved breathing, posture, mindset, confidence and self-esteem,” says Jeremy Hywel Williams, who leads the Llanelli Choral Society in Wales. If you've ever experienced that post-exercise high, that's the feeling you can get from a good singing session, especially if you sing with others.
With this in mind, we're able to see what the therapeutic benefits of singing can be. People dealing with difficult life events, depression, illness and low confidence can benefit from the focus on physicality and breathing that singing demands, as well as the high levels of concentration required to learn different techniques. Just as yoga requires a constant flow of both breath and movement, singing too demands a mind-body connection that can have a meditative quality, blocking out negative thoughts and feelings.
So why is singing (and more specifically, breathing properly) so good for us? Like yoga, the answer really lies in its physical demands - we use the whole body for singing, from the legs to anchor us down to the powerful abdominal muscles as well as the diaphragm itself. This muscle, separating the abdominal cavity from the thoracic cavity, is the major muscle responsible for breathing, enabling a full intake of breath and strengthening the voice as a result. The discipline of breathing often feels like a good workout, as you are using the core muscles and focusing your energy to achieve a great sound.
Can as much be said for the downward dog? Those living in Los Angeles don’t have to choose between the two: vocal yoga is the latest trend in the US, combining the health benefits of both in a single class. If this isn't for you, fear not; the same benefits can be enjoyed by joining a choir or even singing in the shower! The science doesn’t lie: singing really is better for your health than yoga. And, in the words of Ella Fitzgerald, “the only thing better than singing – is more singing”.