Breathing – What is it for? #2: Voice&Vocal Chords

breathe 2Why do you breathe? – Surely, a question we do not ask ourselves in our everyday life – we are born and we do it. We breathe.

We do it involuntarily, we do not have to think about it, yet it is the one thing that keeps us running every single day of our life. From the first to the last moment. We can go without food for weeks, we can go without water for a couple of days, but we can go without breathing only for a couple of minutes.

We realize that especially when we go diving – and we do not have to dive the great barrier reef for that realization – diving our bath tub is fully sufficient for that 🙂

So we breathe – every day adults breathe in and out around 10.000 liter of air. With normal and relaxed respiration we breathe around 15 times per minute – that makes 900 times per hour – around 21.600 times per day. Every single day of our life (of course these numbers vary – dependent on exercise, age etc.).

And it keeps us alive. The air is drawn into our lungs: Through the pharynx (Rachen) – along our larynx (Kehlkopf) and our vocals folds (Stimmlippen) – located at the entrance of our trachea (Luftröhre) – , and through our throat into our lungs. Here it reaches the bronchial tubes and the pulmonary alveolis (Alveolen, auch Lungenbläschen). At this point the gasous exchange (Gasaustausch) can happen: Oxygen from the air is absorbed into the blood and gets transported into the whole body. in the metabolic process (Stoffwechselvorgang) oxygen is used up – carbone dioxide (Kohlendioxid) is produced. The human body cannot use carbone dioxide – therefore it is transported back to the lungs and – yippieh – released into the air that can now leave our body – again through our throat and along our larynx and our vocal folds.

But! The air that leaves us does not only carry the carbone dioxide – which by itself is a wonderful invention – it gets more miracolous!

We breathe also to be able to communicate through our voice.

The breath is the carrier of our voice – without breath no tone.

If our brain has given our nerves the right orders, the outgoing air can set our vocal folds swinging. If we want to communicate – speak, sing, scream – the nerves are informed to periodically open and close the airway. The vocal folds touch and detouch. A fluctuation of pressure is produced which causes sound waves. This process is called phonation (Dr. H. Stoltze, Die Stimmfunktion).

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We often speak of vocal cords (Stimmbändern), whatsoever this word gives a wrong impression, anatomically we speak of vocal folds (Stimmlippen) – which are muscles, located inside the larynx and moved by the larynx muscular structure. The space between the vocal folds is called glottis (Glottis oder Stimmritze). Depending on the height of our larynx we do have a higher or lower ‚keytone‘ in our voice. Men, for example, often have a lower ‚keytone‘ than women for their bigger larynx. Nevertheless, the human voice is capable of expressing all it wants in a range of at least two octaves. All obstacles we feel within that keep us from this variety of tones are socialised conditions and muscular tensions.

So:

The frequency in which the vocal folds swings sets the pitch of the voice –

The strength of the airstream sets the volume.

If chest, throat, mouth and nasal caves are open and can vibrate – more resonances can be created.

Only if we are in full awareness and contact with all these parts in our body, our voice can resonate within its full potential. Such a voice sounds rich and warm and can touch us deeply. Because it is connected with the most intimate and valuable gift that we are given: our breath.

How beautiful is that?

Enjoy your next breath!

Maren.

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