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Old 02-15-2012
terry terry is offline
Head Coach
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 2,305
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Default You can't make this stuff up - a 'spine-tingling' TI story

Doug Alt is a 69 y.o. professional pianist and singer. Reading my blog about Maestro Paolo Carignani and seeing the interview video prompted him to write and tell me how similar his own experience was. The past few days we’ve been exchanging thoughts about an article he would write and we’d publish as a guest post on my blog. His story was already quite uplifting—he’d taken up swimming for general health, found TI and was amazed and excited by his improvement. Pre-TI he’d swum a few ocean mile events on the Jersey Shore and could never break an hour. Within a few months of starting TI practice he’d broken 45 minutes with ease. He’d also begun swimming in the cold ocean in winter and experiencing a new sense of healthful vigor as a result.
The part that relates to Paolo’s experience was a pleasant surprise: He noticed that TI practice left him feeling more relaxed—mentally, physically, even vocally—able to hit high notes with more ease.
This morning he sent me the following email, which literally gave me a chill as I read it:

>>Something extraordinary happened to me today, that fits right in with the Paolo interview, and I have to relate it to you immediately. I will regroup later today to incorporate some of the following into a more concise blog essay.
So, here goes:

In line with the discussion about how swimming has been benefiting my singing, I made sure to plan a swim session for about 2 hours prior to a small vocal show that I was scheduled to do today at 2:30 in a local retirement community.

The swim itself was quite productive. I took some time to relax and work slowly on my weak (left) breathing side, and was able to identify that one big problem I am having is due to an idiosyncrasy in the kick with my left foot. By applying concentration to that area, I was pleased to make some significant progress in changing what is going on there. Then, I did 8 lengths continuously in which I was able to hold 16 SPL comfortably. Prior to this, I had only been able to get down to 16 SPL with major re-grouping pauses between laps. I came out of the pool quite happy.

About an hour later I sang at my “gig”, which was before an audience which has heard me 2 or 3 times a year for the last few years. I felt very good about how I was able to sing, due to the swim prior, with a relaxed throat and body, and my voice was working quite nicely on both the high and low ends. I had a good time, and, from the audience’s reaction, so did they.

The amazing part occurred as I was packing up my equipment after I finished the show.

A number of folks were lingering in their seats, and one lady down at the far end of the front row called out to me, “Doug, what is it that you are doing that made your singing so much better today?” I stopped dead in my tracks. After a few seconds pause, I had the presence of mind not to give a quick reply, rather, I asked her just what she meant by that. (The few seconds gave me enough time to recognize that this 90 year old lady had “talked shop” with me a bit on prior occasions, since she had been a piano player and music teacher earlier in life.) She said that my voice sounded much better than before, and that my physical performance just seemed somehow...better.

As she paused to try to bring up some more words to describe her thoughts, a young gal in the 2nd row (20-ish, and faithfully visiting her grandparents) piped up and said, “Yeah, Doug, I noticed the same thing – your voice was much better today than the last time I heard you here! And, you seemed much smoother, or something...”

Well, I then had to take some time to fill them in on the whole Total Immersion journey that I have been on. As I mentioned the concentration and zen-like aspects of the process, the 2nd row gal lit up like a light bulb, saying, “Oh, I get that concept exactly; I am involved in Tai-Chi (spelling?) and now I understand just what was happening in your singing and body language today.” By this point, I was just flabbergasted that spectators had noticed such changes, and, that they were able to specify so clearly what they had observed!

My amazement deepened a few minutes later.

The room had cleared and I was just loading my gear onto the hand-truck, when one of the staff members came back into the room. We talked a few moments, and I mentioned that I was taking longer to get packed up than usual due to talking with audience members about how swimming has helped improve my singing. Her face lit up, and she poured out glowing accolades, saying, “Oh yes, I was really remarking to others in the back how your high notes were just rolling out effortlessly today! In the past, you were able to sing the same notes, but they just sounded kind of...tight. And, it was very obvious how you seemed to be completely involved and moved by the music!”

Knock me over with a feather.....

PS: This whole sequence of events had me on such a “high”, that I was actually giggling as I wheeled my music gear out of the building and across the parking lot. Then, as I sat down in my car, I broke into tears, overwhelmed by the immensity of the gift I have received in being able to have two major endeavors, music and swimming, providing such uplifting, rewarding, centering and HEALTHY IMPROVEMENT in my life!>>

Here’s my response to Doug:
I just ordered a book "The Science of Yoga" which is the subject of my most recent blog. One of the more interesting aspects of the 'science' is the growing body of evidence that one of the main benefits of yoga practice is how it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. The aspects of yoga which are credited with that closely overlap with the kind of practice you did today -- focused on a weak point you've identified, employing strategic thinking to try to turn it into a strength, being in a place where you had to fully devote yourself to striking a precise balance between the difficulty of the task and the level of your skills. And finally realizing empirically measurable success (something far more available in TI than yoga) as a reward for your focus. These also are known to put you in the Alpha brainwave state - which is where the brain functions best.

Singing is a creative, expressive discipline. And TI --because it's so focused on 'creating art in movement' is also a creative, expressive discipline.

Also I believe it's fairly well established that the neurons you use for singing -- and performing (i.e. making a connection with your audience) -- are multi-purpose. I.E. The same neurons may be used for the cognitively difficult work of tuning your 2BK. When practicing TI, you ‘bathe’ those neurons in oxygen-rich blood, leaving them primed for the next task you give them.

This all makes perfect sense to me.

Watch for a 3-part blog series featuring Doug’s story.
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
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Old 02-15-2012
AWP AWP is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 575

That was a blog story for me, put a 'deep' smile on my face. Thanks Doug!
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Old 02-15-2012
grandall grandall is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 131

Always great to read another story about how TI benifited the swimmer not just in the water but in their proffesion as well.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Old 02-15-2012
tab tab is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 171

That is cool. Now when I pass people I know entering the pool, exchanging casual greeting, I can reply "I am just going for a swim to "bathe’ my neurons" That should make them pause for a moment.

I have often wondered what my actual interest in swimming really is, perhaps this is part of the hidden meaning.
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Old 02-15-2012
andyinnorway andyinnorway is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,680
Default me too

This is great stuff and similar to my own experiences. My vocal skills have also improved in the last year as a result of TI.

Partly due to better core strength to support the voice, partly due perhaps to better oral hygiene from performing 2,000 mouth rinses a day, but also because I have probably adopted a more kaizen approach to my singing, work on each note as challenge rather than looking at whole songs. I no longer waste time singing through passages I can do comfortably. Most pop songs only have 1 or 2 money notes anyway.

Most significantly though, my joy of swimming has translated back into a joy for singing which I had been missing after 15 years of bashing out the same songs to the same audiences night after night. I still sing the same songs but I just enjoy the 'practice of performance' now instead of worrying about the repetition. Learning to see swimming as a mastery skill requiring a lifetime practice has given me the same insight for my singing. The songs are no longer relevant, just the joy of vocal chord movement.
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Old 02-16-2012
dougalt dougalt is offline
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Asbury Park, NJ
Posts: 79
Default Don't Throw the Baby Out with the Bath Water


I thought this story would strike a chord with you.
I think you're right on about the 2,000 mouth rinses - much more noticeably effective when they are all SALT water!
You've also described the "joy of singing" so well.
However, don't forget to stay involved in the story that each song should be conveying to the audience - audiences are perceptive enough to quickly sense when the performer has left them and has gone off into some private little mental world of his/her own.
The multi-tasking aspect of singing is no different than TI swimming, where you can't forget what the feet are doing while you work on head positioning....
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