If you google the word "inspiration," you get 3 definitions. As is typically the case, the first one, "the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative," is what we normally think of first. The second one is "a sudden brilliant, creative, or timely idea," and the third is "the drawing in of breath; inhalation."
Each of these can apply to singing in pretty profound ways. The first definition doesn't need much discussion. Hopefully most singers are inspired to sing for one reason or another. We could discuss ways of finding inspiration to sing, which could range from reading poetry and listening to recordings of great singers, to traveling the world or eating a great meal.
I believe the second definition, "a sudden brilliant, creative, or timely idea," can be applied to singing a song. A singer might ask "what inspired the character to sing this song," or "what inspired the poet to write this text?" This ties into the previous post about singing with intention. What inspired the character, speaker, or poet to sing the song (whether it is an art song, musical theatre song, operatic aria, or jazz song), and what is the character's dramatic intent?
The third definition, "the drawing in of breath; inhalation," also sounds basic, but we can dig a bit deeper. If we begin to substitute the word "inhalation" for "inspiration" when speaking of breathing, we are already doing something that is more beautiful and artistic, due to the other definitions of the word. If we add to this the definition of the word "spirit," things get more interesting: "the nonphysical part of a person which is the seat of emotions and character; the soul."
There is a quote out there that "singing is an outward expression of your soul (or spirit)." You might consider the breath to be the spirit. At the very least, it is connected to a person's spirit. A person who is happy breathes differently than a person who is brokenhearted. Breathing is free and easy when things are good and might be difficulty when struggling with something.
In my teaching, although I don't often talk about it, I am mindful of this idea. When a person sings, I am listening for breath that is flowing freely. If the throat tightens, if the jaw is locked, if the abdominal muscles are clenched, or if there is a mental block, then the breath doesn't flow freely, and the singing suffers. I like to believe that a tone that is produced of freely flowing breath (or spirit) is a beautiful tone that is ready to express text in an inspired way.
Back to yoga and intention, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes, which I heard in a session with Elisabeth Halfpapp, who is a yoga teacher and one of the founders of Exhale Spa. She said, "Inhale inspiration; exhale transformation." If we sing with inspiration and free spirit, then we can transform our audiences and ourselves. To take that to another level, we might also consider that the air connects us all, and how we use our breath, or express our spirit, can profoundly affect each other.
Finally, I believe Anne Schantz, Assistant Professor of Voice at Reinhardt University, summed up how this applies to singing in a recent Facebook post: "Just mean the words. The intent of what you are singing is carried on the breath, and in the clarity of the vowels and consonants you FEED with that breath." In my interpretation, this is what we need to do before we even consider the way we look on stage. If we "just mean the words," then we are on the right path, but that is a post for another day.