The idea for Stretch and Sing came to me in the fall of 2015. As usual in my creative endeavours, I pulled it out of thin air. I didn’t really have a firm plan. It seemed to me that seniors –now that I am one– need more opportunities to move and breathe. Well…..breathing is my bag! As a yoga practicioner for over 40 years, I have to admit, I may not do my asanas every day–sometimes all I can squeeze in is some pranayama (yoga breathing). The more I started to work with the lovely folks at the nursing homes and long-term care facilities, I realized the one thing that could help them feel better–more alive, more energetic–was deeper and more focused breathing.
Back in the day, I was a music major in college, I spent many hours practicing singing technique, learning repertoire, rehearsing with famous orchestras under top notch conductors. I even sang at Carnegie Hall under Sir George Solti (top row of the chorus) . At the heart of all my training was a foundation of conscious breathing.
I was already a pretty good breather–I swim. Not just splash around and look beautiful on the beach. I really swim! I grew up swimming in Lake Michigan, which you probably know is a huge fresh water lake, with big waves capable of downing big ships like the Edmund Fitzgerald. And no sharks. My love of being in the water was a great basis for singing and for Yoga as well.
Many of the folks I work with in a Stretch and Sing class are not ambulatory, or minimally so. Watching these gentle souls sitting all day, every day, is heartbreaking, as I know they are not getting the oxygen exchange that could improve their enegy level We yoga teachers know that doing some deeper breathing gives the body a chance to exhale all the stale air that drops to the bottom of the lungs. Otherwise, it just sits there, stagnating, lowering vitality, immune function and mood.
So now that I’ve had several sessions under my belt, I am excited about the future of Stretch and Sing. A half hour of each activity is perfect for those with memory impairment. It’s not too much of either the singing or the therapeutic movement. So far, everybody loves it. I look forward to doing more with Stretch and Sing in the future.