Breathing Gym

Yes, you read that right: breathing gym. When I state those words to people who have never heard of this kind of training, I am often met with surprise and skepticism. However, it is a wonderful thing to learn from and take advantage of if you are a wind player or if you teach a wind ensemble.

In breathing gym, you are to practice breathing in and out at different levels and for different periods of time in order to stretch your lungs and make them more flexible, giving you a better air capacity and more control over the volume and tone of your instrument. I have personally seen results after just one forty-five minute session; it gets you warmed up, and it makes it easier to get warm air going through your instrument to get a fuller sound. A typical exercise is breathing in for four counts, and then breathing out for four counts, over and over again with your embouchure in place. It is often helpful to hold your hand in front of your face as you do this so you can feel how strong (or weak) your air-stream is. From there, you can make those counts longer and work to strengthen your lungs.

You can do this individually as you go about your life, quietly practicing short exercises throughout the day, or your entire ensemble can work through a breathing routine to warm up before a rehearsal or concert. On game days in the SJSU Spartan Marching Band, we run a lap around CEFCU stadium (or play “Sharks and Minnows” or some other silly game), and then go into breathing gym before pulling out our instruments. This improves the tone of the band as a whole, but it also helps us focus and prepare for the eventful day ahead of us.