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Warm-ups: Stretching for seniors

Dear Colleagues,

Here are the wonderful ideas I received for
stretching/relaxation activities for the "senior" set.
You have all been invaluable! I've tried a few of these
already with great success. They especially liked the
straws: not too many of them drink with straws anymore,
so they felt "young" again. Plus, it introduced some
feeling of "playtime." All of the activities seemed to
leave them feeling refreshed, shedding the cares of the
day and ready to sing. Many thanks for each of you who
contributed. One kind person is even going to send me a
copy of the Choral Journal article! I am very glad to
have joined this list and to have the privilege of drawing
upon the expertise of such generous and knowledgeable

Cherwyn Ambuter


I suggest you take a few lessons in Alexander technique
plus a few yoga classes to reacquaint yourself with what
feels good on your body.

Then I suggest you ask your choir to show you what feels
good to them. The more vigorous singers will not have lost
touch with this aspect of themselves. Karate chops sounds
a bit rough, but shoulder massage certainly works and
feels good too. Don't let them do it "train style" but ask
them to find a partner and be the receiver, or the giver.
Switch after a minute.

This is an ideal time to play some CDs of music that they
should really listen to: I use the massage time to
acquaint my choirs with ideal choral sounds and varied
tonal colors. Enjoy!

p.s. Come to the VoiceCare Network at St. John's
University, Collegeville MN to learn more!


I also have many singers in the 60-75 age group in my
community chorus and I like to do the following stretches
or physical warm-ups with them:

-tilt the head over to the right and put the right hand
of top it, while stretching the neck, also drop the left
shoulder to feel an even greater stretch, repeat on the
left side

-roll the shoulders backwards, one at a time

-clasp the hands together and stretch the arms out
straight in front (palms facing outwards)

-keep the feet facing forwards while twisting the torso
to the right (pulsing a few times) and then to the left

-have them all turn to the left and massage the
shoulders of the person next to them, then switch to the

-have them "unlock" their knees and send the weight of
their bodies into their feet, while their heads float
towards the ceiling (Alexander technique) or have them
exaggerate bad posture (locked knees, slumped shoulders,
chin sticking out) and then correct it


There was an article in the Choral Journal last Feb., I
think it was, about working with senior choirs. They had
exercises - stretching - I have found that upper torso
stretching and breathing/relaxation exs. are the best
anyway - all ages - (vs. any real vocalizing at extremes
of range)

And Brenda Smith's book - Choral Pedagogy - is a good one -
Singular Publishing - she is quite an expert on voice
building - particularly with senior choirs - good luck


Check the Choral Journal for December 2002, Kim VanWeelden
at Florida State University published an entire article
dedicated to this topic in this issue.


You are to be commended for your sensitivity about this.
Everyone needs to loosen up before athletic activity, and
I maintain that singing is athletic,if you define it as
working certain muscle groups to develop skills beyond
normal usage.

Stretching generally has gained increased respect among
those who work with the older folks. Yoga, Tai Chi and
other such stretching regimens are gaining increasing
popularity with the older set.

I use yoga in my warm-ups. I start with "going inside"
and feeling the body from the inside out. I have them
locate the breath in their core, and feel the expansion of
their lower back and lower abdomen as the breath gently
enters the body. I have them stretch their tailbones down
as they inhale.

I also talk about posture in yoga terms, i.e., feeling
that the feet are pushing the body upward out of the
floor. Tailbone down, causing a tightening in the groin
muscles to support the breath. Spine rising out of the
hips, strongly thrusting upwards. Shoulder blades on the

Keeping the shoulder blades on the back, I have them
raise their arms above their heads, grabbing one wrist
with the other hand. Gently pulling the wrist I have them
stretch in t hat direction while they feel the
breath "filling up the lung" on that side. Repeat on the
other side.

Yoga generally is SO GOOD for them, because it keeps
their joints and muscles flexible and strong, helping
prevent bone breakage. You might want to encourage them
to join a class for their general well-being, as well as
for their singing. I find that my own yoga study has done
wonders for my breath control, and I thought I was doing
well before!

Hope that helps a little bit.


The biggest thing, as you know, is keeping the body
expanded and supportive. Simple and appropriate for
seniors I think:

1. Lift the arms above the head and stretch, up on the
toes just for emphasis.

2. Shake the head "no", keeping the neck muscles released.

3. Bring arms down slowly to sides, rotating the
shoulders front to back. "lift, back, down"

4. Bring awareness to the new, expanded position of the
ribs, the relaxed posture of the shoulders, and the free,
expansive feeling below the ribs.

Do above several times in a rehearsal.

1. Inhale through a straw over 8 medium beats,
MAINTAINING expansive upper body above.

2. Hiss loudly as long as possible, bringing awareness to
the mid body and breath; also establishes an energized
vocal/pharyngeal posture for singing. tricky, but it
works, especially to prepare for difficult vocal passages.

Of course, everybody loves the backrub (frontrubs are also
popular in more liberal congregations; that's for you to
decide). First left to right, then the other way so the
end people don't get cheated.

Frauke Haasemann has a good book on voice building for
choirs which gives some interesting excercises that are
purely physical.


1. Sit up straight (skyhook in the skull)
2. Reach up--both hands then L & R
3. Rotate trunk
4. Left arm over head to right, then right to left
5. Bend over & touch toes (as close as possible/practical)
& raise "one vertebra at a time" from lowest to neck
6. Turn right then left & exchange back rubs,
concentrating on shoulders and neck
7. Chops to back on either side of the spine.
8. Rub hands briskly together, then rub cheeks & jowls
9. neck exercises, rotations (slow & easy), left, right,
forward, backward


Cherwyn Ambuter

on January 16, 2005 10:00pm
With my adult civic chorale, may I thank those suggestions above. Each of them have value at some time, some place. In addition to the usual stretching movements, attmept to make them unusual.
* Jokes and socialization (though the latter is necessary at some time) at this time are are counterproductive, so convince your singers (mine from 20-70) this kind of stretching and relaxing from their college programs). So, concentrate on stretching, Yoga movements, suggest movements that approximate what the group is doing, yet which might me more personally effective to them. (I have several Yoga students in this group.)
* Incorporate marking time in place, keeping the toes flat on the floot without lifting them. This helps with blood flow for a large number of singers who've spent much of their day either sitting or in up-n-down movement. This focuses on leg power and awareness, greatly contributing to their sense of vitality. Following this, they even sit with great directness and attention. Suggesting they 'sit tall,' I often ask them to repeat move their heels up and down, keeping the toe flat on the floor.
* I do begin on time! But to compensate for those few who must be late due to work or travel, I warm up slowly to allow those latees to arrive, THEN use backrubs for both its own value, but also a social factor introduced before turning to first rehearsal events.
*And, especially for my 40-50+ singers, I warm up slowely humming (with an 'ng')before open vowels, and use 'REHEARSAL REMINDERS' about breathing and progress from shorter breaths to longer one-beat breaths and force long held notes; those running out of air, raise their hands (to inform me the general status and effectiveness thus far). I spend time in warmups and stretching focusing upon the 'long'held' note because of the tendency of those 40+ singers who sit on their vibrato, singing on residual air, rather than using inhaled air upon which to sing. We 'move air forward' which forces them to inhale with greater constitution and application, and it has made a difference in their 'tone.' We've all agreed that aside from the democratization and musical reason(s) for singing, that the tone of our group is probably the single most influential aspect to influence audiences to return to hear us. The group of 65 singers believes fully that improved technique and application of their breathing and tonal concept will and has greatly improved their rehearsal joy and performance techniques. ---------- Lee Egbert