The navel-throat connection
“The navel is the throat of the lower world while the throat is the navel of the higher world”, as Dr. Levry mentioned in one of his lectures. One can easily become stuck in the lower world (money, power and control), but if the heart is open then all of that could be sublimed.
This is the point when the navel-throat connection becomes so relevant to singing, in my point of view.That channel from the navel to the throat, allowed by the opening of the heart is really of a very important role in alchemic vocal technique. Its implications are huge for the subject of singing.
Applied to singing, I call this navel-throat connection the first bridge for support, because if the channel from the navel to throat is disconnected or as I prefer to say, “unhooked”, the larynx will be doing all the work – and too much work!
In inhalation the diaphragm contracts, meaning that it moves downward; this movement also pulls the trachea down positioning the larynx in a perfect spot for adduction and stretch of the vocal chords. There is a sort of “supporting vacuum” created in between both throat and naval vortexes which will give a very comfortable and safe way of maneuvering the voice. This is the first step to build the path for the vocal chords to be allowed to stretch by the action of the intrinsic muscles of the larynx. Now the extrinsic muscles obviously will help with stabilizing the larynx in this lower position as singing initiates. This is when all of this becomes magical besides scientific – or maybe science is magical.
The sterno-thyroid muscle is one of the laryngeal depressor muscles which assists with keeping the larynx stable in a lower position. It is the main antagonistic muscle to the one that stretches the vocal cords – the crico-thyroid muscle. It hooks directly in the sternum (go figure, right about the same level where we will also find heart). No wonder the bel canto school talked about the sensation of “whimpering” or the sensation of going to cry to find the apoggio! That same feeling of vacuum, or hook was often taught to be found through an emotional feeling – the cry – which in a way is a connection to the heart, but it is also, think about it, a way of naturally engaging the abdominal muscles (remember the naval vortex) which assist in the slow/controlled exhalation desired for singing.
It's really beautiful how all these concepts end up coming together.
A hooked larynx is the foundation for a healthy and easy sound production that leads and allows many other technical aspects of singing.
Following are some ways of experiencing this connection:
1) the sensation of “whimpering” already mentioned, or 2) imagining a fountain of sound pouring downwards from the throat through the chest and down to the navel (the tendency is to sing thinking from the throat above), 3) imagining you are zipping downward or upward, whatever works, an imaginary zip, 4) pressing the hands down on your chest and moving your chest slightly against your hands as you sing (in a contrary motion) and 5) imagining your throat is an open gate (this helps to not squeeze the larynx as we sing).