Voice Yoga 1 – Why work with the voice?

At one of my workshops, a participant, an avid yoga practioner, commented that this was like yoga for the voice. 

I thought that was an insightful comparison.

Stretching, strengthening, and loosening; aligning the breath so the voice is integrated with the body; locating the voice in the body, rather than in the head; developing fine sensitivity, balance, and body awareness: these could all be considered aspects of voice yoga.The voice, like the body, is a direct expression of our being. It is our way of moving through the world, expressing ourselves in the world. Through movement and voice, we ARE in the world, meeting others, negotiating all the experiences that make up a life.   

The experienced ear, and eye, can “read” a great deal about a person. The experiences of childhood, for example, remain in the body, and thus also in the voice. Traumas, fears, obsessions and compulsions (over-control), lack of confidence, depression, can manifest in, for example, vocal tightness, restriction of range, color, volume, speaking far back in the throat as if to “swallow” ones own words, a dead and monotone voice with no vibrancy, a thin and dry voice unconnected to the breath and body. Many people are too tight and controlled in the throat, whether speaking or singing, and are cut off from the powerful sense of support and aliveness that comes with good breath connection. Others sound as if they could blow away in the wind, without a trace.

The state of the voice is an expression of the soul, the body, and the mind. Our lives can be heard in our voice as symptoms, such as those mentioned above – tightness etc. In working with these symptoms, we gently stretch and ease and create space for new sounds to occur. By opening up the voice, the student may experience some of the original fears, or other psychological disturbances, that closed down the voice and breath in the first place. This is normal and to be expected. Likewise, when holding a yoga pose, the student may encounter the arising of long buried thoughts and feelings.

 It’s it important to approach this work with respect and gentleness, and not to push yourself too far. The throat area is extremely sensitive and triggers many primal instincts. Breathing and suffocating, ingesting and vomiting, fear, disgust, and choking are all felt in the throat. Have a friendly and kind attitude toward your experiences.

I commented in a previous post about studying voice in my difficult early 20s. I only felt like singing when I was happy, and often that’s still the case! However, I discovered that singing, with my body and breath open and in alignment, would CREATE happiness! It was the kind of exhilarating happiness that seems to have no logical reason, like after jumping into a cold river! I discovered then that happiness flows both ways!

In the same way, a person with a thin, weak and breathy voice may discover powerful, rich and earthy sounds they have never made before. They may hardly believe their own ears! This is archetypal work. The self-concept changes and expands with the realization of what qualities have been buried and hidden away from the world, dormant and underdeveloped. 

The voice is like a direct hotline to our soul. This is what makes it potentially profoundly moving, and sometimes a terrifying thing. When we sing, especially in front of others, we may feel naked: our everyday mask begins to slip and we have nowhere to hide. If we can dive into this experience and let others see us, in all our shakiness, timidity and lack of control, some taste of essence can begin to shine. We see each other in and through our humanness, rather than the thick plastic mask of “image”, “who I think I am”, or “what I want you to see”.

In loosening what has been restricted or dulled, in aligning what has been unconnected, we begin to allow new ways of being in the world. 

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