What is ‘Sing with Your Diaphragm’?

I’m sure you’ve always heard people say “to sing with your diaphragm”.
Before acquiring this technique, first of all, you need to understand –“What is a diaphragm?”
(myth – Diaphragm is NOT “Dantian 丹田”!)


The diaphragm, located below the lungs and heart, is a major muscle used in respiration. It contracts and flattens when you inhale, creating a vacuum effect that pulls air into your lungs. A flatter diaphragm delivers better control of air supply to your vocal cords, increasing the strength of support.

Here is an animation for you, to imagine how Diaphragmatic Breathing looks like, in comparison to Chest Breathing (which majority of us do when we want to breathe ‘deep’).

In order to achieve Diaphragmatic Singing, you need to activate a Diaphragmatic Breathing first!

Now, let’s talk about the common mistakes which will stop you from achieving Diaphragmatic Breathing:

  • Tensed shoulders and chest
  • Breathing in only through the nose when singing
  • Letting the chest rise when you want to take a “BIG” breath



Here are 3 things you can try to achieve a feeling of Diaphragmatic Breathing:


#1. Sighing

When we sigh, it enables us to relax completely. It also helps us to remove any remaining air trapped in our lungs, making it easier to breathe in deeper.

#2. Be in a posture that totally relaxes your abdominal area

    • Lying Position: Lie on your back, on your side
    • Sitting Position: Elbows to Knees, Slouch
    • Standing Position: Forward Bend, Hands on Knees

#3. Exhale first, then inhale!

In Chinese, we say hu1 xi1 (呼吸), which means to exhale first and then inhale. This is very important.
Many thought breathing is only about “breathing in”. It’s not! We always have some reserve air in us, or “old air”. Exhale them softly and inhale, it relaxes your respiratory system instead of having penned up tension in your abdominals.


So, How to know you are doing them right?

Place hands above your hip bones when doing your breathing cycles while standing. Thumbs at the back, with 4 fingers wrapping around in front. Your index finger to touch the last ribcage, with the last 3 fingers at the waist (no bony structure there!).

There are the indicators:

  • Minimal chest movement
  • Lack of tension in chest/lungs
  • Rib-cage expands sideways
  • Abdomen expands


So, when you are doing them correct, you should feel 360 around expansion with more at the side than the front. If it is the contrary, (more front than side), it could mean you are bloating your stomach more than inflating your lungs with your diaphragm.


Another final check to know if you are doing it right…

  • Hold that breath for at least 10 secs. If you feel really comfortable, at ease – you should be doing it right! Because diaphragm breathing creates balanced air pressure within your body.
  • Chest/Shallow breathing, creates tension – low & high air pressure within, thus air just wants to rush out. You will feel heart palpitation, tightness in your chest.


Once you manage to draw the air into your respiratory system using Diaphragm, you can then move on to understand how to sing with Diaphragm!
This will be explained in Part 2. Click here to read more.


If you need professional guidance on getting the right breathing techniques to sing better, arrange a trial singing class with us!
We are confident in just one lesson, we will help to diagnose your singing and identify area for improvement.
With our structured Vocal EXPRESSWAY® syllabus, you will improve your singing in the shortest time possible. 🙂




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