Friday, August 13, 2010


I’ve been going for deep tissue massages over the past several weeks for a back thing that was bothering me. When I told my therapist that I’m a singer, she said she’d work on my intercostals.

Quick biology lesson: Costals are ribs. Intercostals are the muscles between the ribs. They aid in breathing in and out.


Now, for the past 15 years or more, I’ve always felt pain in my back when I took a deep breath. I knew it was muscular but didn’t know there was anything I could do about it. I was just... used to it. Then... hello deep tissue massage! Ursula (yes, that’s really her name) is a miracle worker. Besides taking care of the original problem that brought me to her, she has been working on my intercostals. It’s insane, what she does. Near the end of the one hour massage, when I’m on my stomach, she has me take a deep breath and then she pushes, hard, 4or 5 times while I exhale, on 6 different areas of my back, three on each side. Then I turn onto my back and she does this on my sternum. The sternum is that long bone in the front, running vertically between the ribs. It’s like CPR. And when she’s done... holy cow. I can take a deeper breath than I’ve ever been able to take, and without pain! She freed up those muscles and the connective tissue. It’s amazing. I can take these huge breaths. So now I’m working on using my new fillup capacity to really fill up with air before singing a line. I’ve been singing without it for so long that I have to make a conscious effort to remember to do it. Soon it will become habit, I hope. That’s the plan, at least. I’ve found that having all this “extra” air in me has helped me to control my exhalations too, so I can much more easily vary the volume of a note. I think that before, I was blurting out notes by shoving out the last dregs of air. Suddenly there’s no need to blurt. It’s amazing. Like a whole new world of breathing. I can take deeper breaths to relax, and it’s also improved my posture.

The best part of all: My health insurance is paying 70% of the bill. It’s about time my health insurance paid for my voice lessons in some way.

Speaking of health insurance paying for voice lessons, my teacher is away this week. It’s like having your psychiatrist go on vacation. I’m hanging in there. Luckily I can now take long, deep breaths to remain calm and focused.


Avocational Singer said...

A deep-tissue intercostal massage. I didn't know such a thing was available in life. It sounds heavenly! Lucky you!

At least your teacher is coming back! I have no teacher right now and the big job ahead of me of finding someone to replace the one I lost. I'm dreading the task a little, but it could be fun ("in ever job that must be done there is an element of fun") going on a teacher hunt.

Susan said...

Don't be fooled!!! Until they work out the tension and stretch the connective tissue... it HURTS!!! I felt bruised and battered after the first session. But once you get through that, then it's great. And that pressing stuff is kind of scary. But it IS amazing to be able to take these huge breaths, and without pain.

Good luck finding a teacher!

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this post. Got me thinking about my own breathing.
Not something you usually think about...