Breathing Life into Zoom
By Jean McClelland
This spring I will be back at The Open Center, teaching Awakening Your True Voice: Support Health and Vitality through Better Breathing, a six-session virtual class on Zoom.
Teaching on Zoom has been a rich and revelatory experience for me. Much has been written about the discomfort and fatigue brought on by endless Zoom meetings, but it doesn’t need to be that way. I’ve found that Zoom sessions can be enlivening for both student and teacher, and I can honestly say that Zoom has made me a much better teacher, in that I have had to communicate the essence of my work both through the clarity of my demonstrations and the precision of my explanations. I’ve become quite alert to keeping the energy in the “Zoom room” going. How wonderful it is when people leave a Zoom class more energized and enlivened than when they entered!
My process in teaching on Zoom is really no different from my process in person. Every moment I’m teaching, I experience what I would like my students to experience. I “live” the words I am saying throughout my whole being. It is enormously powerful, and it doesn’t matter whether the class is in person or virtual. As one of my Open Center students wrote after a class, “Thank you for sharing your passion and your energy with us. Even in this virtual classroom, I can feel it so clearly; it radiates out through the computer screen. I’m grateful to you for being a guide on this journey of awakening to the power of breath, flow and voice.”
When New York City closed down last March 10, so did the in-person classes at The Open Center. Drawing on the resources of its staff and teachers, The Open Center brought their classes online in less than two days. It was a gargantuan task but enormously successful; suddenly we had people from all over the country enrolling in our programs. Once we adjusted to the technicalities of Zoom, we soon forgot that a screen separated us from one another. We became a vibrant community.
Breathing: Urgent, Transcendental
Breath and breathing have always been the essence of the vocal work I do with students. Now, because of Covid-19, breathing has become more urgent to literally everyone. In Awakening Your True Voice, we work on strengthening the diaphragm. This is vital to keeping our lungs healthy and keeping us more energized during this challenging time. Pandemic fatigue is real, but we can combat it through better breathing and better use of our bodies.
When we understand the physiology of breathing and experience the power of the body to “breathe itself,” it becomes almost transcendental. After one of our Zoom classes, a student wrote, “Last week, when we began by exhaling, allowing the inhale to take care of itself, and being ‘breathed’ by the wave of the breath, it was like I was being rocked in a cradle. Quite extraordinary. Thank you!”
This is the path through which we strengthen our respiratory muscles and awaken and strengthen our true voice. It is truly inspirational.
Jean McClelland is on the faculty of the Columbia University School of the Arts and The Open Center, through which she teaches Awakening Your True Voice. Her next class begins March 22, with a free intro at 6 p.m. March 15. For videos and more information, visit JeanMcClellandVoice.com.