Breathe in for nothing: an interpretative phenomenological analysis exploring the influence of a Pilates warm-up in singers. An overview of the study

  • Marcelle Sutton University of Stellenbosch, South Africa


Research on the use of Pilates for classical singers is limited, despite the well-documented benefits of this somatic (mind-body) exercise modality on the general public. This study sought to ascertain the mental, physical and vocal benefits of a Pilates warm-up on four university singing students and one professional singer using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). A Pilates warm-up for singers was taught to the participants over six weeks, with three workshops of five days each interspersed with home practice. The effects thereof were documented, before-and-after questionnaires (GAD-7, Becks Depression Inventory and the RAND 36-Item short-form quality of life survey instrument) were completed, heart rate measurements taken (to determine if the warm-up initiated a parasympathetic nervous system response) and three semi-structured interviews were conducted with each participant. A focus group was then held with the participants to discuss the effects of the regime. The lived experience of the participants’ use of the Pilates warm-up was analysed and together with the collected data, was grouped into sub-themes named: Singing; Wellbeing; Preparation for Singing/Preparing the Body to Sing; Tools; Resilience; Mindfulness; Mind-Body Communication; Nervous System; Strengthening the Body; Relaxation through Movement and Pilates Breathing. In the cyclical interpretative process of an IPA, these sub themes were then grouped to form the main themes of the study, namely: Tools; Nervous System and Singing.

The results showed an overall improvement in the quality of life as well as an increase in mindfulness and relaxation which benefitted all of the singers vocally in some way. Heart rate measurements and anxiety and depression scores showed a generally positive trend, although these results were inconclusive and require further study. The Pilates warm-up provided the singers with specific tools with which to address their various issues which had an impact on their singing. Performance preparation and posture were found to be enhanced, as well as reduced muscle tension, increased vocal range and improvements in stamina and breathing. This study highlights the potential benefits of the use of a Pilates warm-up for classical singers and the areas of research that should be undertaken to further delineate these benefits.

Biografia do Autor

Marcelle Sutton, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa

Marcelle Volckaert Sutton is a classical singer and Pilates teacher of over 20 years’ experience in both fields of study. She holds a BA.HDE from the University of Cape Town and a Master’s Degree in Music (cum laude) from the University of Stellenbosch.


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