Humming isn’t just for the birds – how to hum your way to health

Here we are in mid-winter.  You know what that means don’t you?  The arrival of holiday credit card statements, severe weather, and…cold and flu season is in full swing.  While there are many methods of preventing or alleviating cold and flu symptoms out there, here’s one you may not have heard yet – humming.  Studies are being conducted to demonstrate the link between regular humming and sinus health.  One nasty side effect that often accompanies colds or flu is a sinus infection.  According to WebMD, “Sinusitis is an inflammation, or swelling, of the tissue lining the sinuses. Normally, sinuses are filled with air, but when sinuses become blocked and filled with fluid, germs (bacteria, viruses, and fungi) can grow and cause an infection.”  Doesn’t that sound yummy?

One thing you might consider doing to improve sinus health is humming.  Keeping your sinuses healthy requires a constant flow of air between the sinuses and the nasal cavity.  One study reported in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that, when compared to simply exhaling, “humming led to greater levels of exhaled nitric oxide, a gas produced in the sinuses.”  Healthy sinuses have a high concentration of nitric oxide (NO).  Another study in the European Respiratory Journal found similar results, and suggested that daily humming could possibly help reduce chronic sinus problems.  Below are several short and simple activities that take less than two minutes to perform daily to get you humming your way to health.

4 ways to hum your way to better sinus health

  1. Ommmm… the yogis got it right.  Not only does chanting “om” help to focus the mind, it also produces the nasal “m” sound which resonates in the ‘mask’ of your face, or your sinuses.  Whether you practice yoga or not, simply chanting “om” (on any pitch in your lower register) several times in a row can produce a lovely buzzing sound in your nasal cavities that will have great benefits.  If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, try chanting this chant called Ra Ma Da Sa.  Not only does it include several nasal sounds (“m” and “ng”), it can also have a calming effect when repeated for several minutes.
  2. Brahms’ Lullaby.  Even if you don’t have a baby, you still might want to brush up on your lullabies.  Lullabies are usually sung in the lower register and often utilize humming so your baby can feel the vibrations in your chest (it helps soothe them).  But, you yourself can get the benefits of these same lullabies!  Hum the popular Brahms’ Lullaby or any of the other 6 on this list.  Or, check out my earlier post on lullabies for more suggestions.  The best part?  You don’t need to memorize the words!
  3. Mi-mi-mi-mi… one simple exercise that I as a vocalist always like to do in warming up is to sing on the vocables “mi-may-ma-mo-moo.”  Start out in a low voice, almost as low as you can go.  In between each vowel sound, insert an “m” sound so they all blend together:  meemmaymmammommoom.  Sing it all on one pitch, and then try it a little bit higher.  Yes, you’ll sound a bit ridiculous (maybe don’t try this one in public around a bunch of strangers), but trust me you’ll feel the effects when you’re done!
  4. Hum your favorite song.  It doesn’t get any simpler than that!

Try any one of these suggestions for just one or two minutes a day and see how you feel.  Hopefully these exercises will help get you through cold and flu season with fewer sinus problems.  I often like to incorporate humming into my group drum sessions as a simple way to center ourselves and connect our minds to our bodies.  Happy humming!

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