Monday, June 03, 2019

How to adapt singing warm ups if you have limited mobility

Like many choir leaders, I get people to loosen up their bodies as well as their voices when preparing to sing (see Preparing to sing: what should a warm up consist of?).

But we also need to be aware of those who have limited mobility. Here are some ideas for making sure your warm up is as inclusive as possible.

At the beginning of every singing workshop I lead, I emphasise that people should work within their own limits when warming up. Also, if somebody needs to sit down for the session, then they should adapt the warm up exercises accordingly.

If I ask you to stretch both arms above your head and you know that is bad for your back (or arm or shoulder), then you either shouldn’t do it, or find a way of adapting the exercise.

Since a choir leader can’t know the possible physical limitations of every singer (especially in a public workshop attended by unknown singers), it’s up to the individual to make their own adaptations.

If someone has visibly limited mobility – e.g. is in a wheelchair, is using a walking frame, has a leg in plaster, etc. – then the workshop leader can make specific suggestions. But otherwise, when any restrictions are invisible, it’s up to the individual singer.

How might you adapt warm up exercises to suit you? Here are some ideas.

  • if you have restricted movement in any particular limb or part of your body, you can do the same exercise but just limit the extent of any stretch or movement. If asked to do a quick movement or shake vigorously for example, just do it but much, much less.
  • if you can’t move a particular limb or part of the body at all, still do the exercise, but in your mind. The more you can engage with the exercise in your imagination, the more it will have a physical effect. It also means that you are fully participating in the warm up rather than standing outside and looking on.
  • if you need to be seated, try to sit towards the front of your chair and upright in your seat if you can (rather than slumping against the back of the chair). If an exercise asks you to shake your whole body, or to jump on the spot, or stand with your legs hip-width apart, then either do the same in your seat, but minimally (people watching might not even realise you’re doing anything!), or simply carry out the actions in your mind as mentioned above.
  • many exercises can be done at different levels. For example, when asked to roll down through the spine, some people will be able to do that easily and can place their palms flat on the floor. The rest of us mere mortals might just about approach the floor with our fingertips. If you’re seated or your spine is not that flexible, it can be enough to drop your chin on your chest.
Warm ups are not a competition. If someone can reach further or jump higher or sing lower than you, then that’s fine. Do what you do, and don’t try to be someone else.

It’s important that you find a way to be fully engaged with the warm up regardless of how many of the exercises you can do fully. Part of preparing to sing is to become focused, to work as a team, and to wake up your imagination. Everyone can do that regardless of any physical restrictions.

If you have any reservations about how you might deal with a warm up, then speak to the workshop leader beforehand. They’ll be only too happy to help.

I’d love to hear from those of you who have or had physical limitations and found ways of coping with the warm ups. Do drop by and leave a comment.

more about warm ups

You might find these other posts of interest:

How to warm up your voice on the bus (or any other public space)

How to keep your warm ups and singing sessions fresh and engaging

How to develop perfect warm up exercises for your choir

The singers who didn’t like warm ups (and what became of them)

Preparing to sing (series of four posts)

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Chris Rowbury




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