Anatomy of the voice
It all starts with the breath
Voice production is a complex action, and involves many different parts of the body. Voice production begins with respiration (breathing). Air is inhaled as the diaphragm (the large, horizontal muscle below the lungs) lowers. The volume of the lungs expands and air rushes in to fill the space. As we exhale, the muscles of the rib cage lower and the diaphragm raises, essentially squeezing the air out.
In order to produce sound, muscles in the larynx (voice box) are activated, providing resistance to exhaled air from the lungs. Air then bursts through the closed vocal cords. As the air rushes through the vocal cords, the pressure between the cords drops, sucking them back together. This is known as the "Bernoulli Effect." This vibration, or the action of the vocal cords being blown apart and then "sucked" back together, is repeated hundreds or even thousands of times per second, producing what we hear as voice. This basic sound, created by the vocal cords, is then shaped by muscular changes in the pharynx (throat) and oral cavity (including the lips, tongue, palate, and jaw) to create clear speech or a pleasing singing voice.
The health benefits of singing are both physical and psychological. Singing has physical benefits because it is an aerobic activity that increases oxygenation in the blood stream and exercises major muscle groups in the upper body, even when sitting. Singing has psychological benefits because of its normally positive effect in reducing stress levels through the action of the endocrine system which is linked to our sense of emotional well-being. Psychological benefits are also evident when people sing together as well as alone because of the increased sense of community, belonging and shared endeavour.
Singing is great exercise
Regular exercising of the vocal cords can even prolong life, according to recent scientific research. It’s a great way to keep in shape because you are exercising your lungs and heart. Not only that, your body produces ‘feel good’ hormones called endorphins, which rush around your body when you sing. It’s exactly the same when you eat a bar of chocolate. The good news with singing is that you don’t gain any calories! Not only can it increase lung capacity, it improves posture, clears respiratory tubes and sinuses, and can increase mental alertness through greater oxygenation. It even tones the muscles of your stomach and back, that is if you’re singing correctly.
Keep young and beautiful
Another benefit is that it can keep you looking young as you’re gently exercising the muscles in your face. Forget all those posh and expensive anti-ageing creams, try singing instead! Singing even helps you live longer, according to the findings of a joint study by scientists at Harvard and Yale Universities in the USA. The study showed that choral singing increased life expectancy, and concluded that this was because singing promoted both a healthy heart and an enhanced mental state. Another scientific study has reported higher levels of immune system proteins in the saliva of singers after a period of stimulating vocal exercise.
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