Liberate your Self and your Voice

Liberate your Self and your Voice

How do we keep our voices locked up inside? Who holds our stories? Our deep and perhaps dark secrets? Believe it or not, our bodies are often very busy holding on — sometimes for dear life! Generally, when we have tight or sore muscles, we contribute it to working too hard or even having too much fun. That’s often only part of the story. The way that we hold our body, is also protecting us from feeling our pain and vulnerability.

Take your head, for example. I think of my head like a cork. My head is working overtime to hold everything in! Who knew?! Rather than staying relaxed, long and tall, my head and neck are battening down the hatches! Keep it all safe inside!

Along with tension in the head, comes the jaw, tongue and eyes. All of these parts have part time jobs keeping us far away from painful feelings. Continue reading »

Keep Your Voice Forever Young

More and more, I work with men and women who are aging and experiencing a loss in their vocal capacity. With many women, they find their voice gets lower and they lose their high range. With men, they lose their high voice or falsetto. And in general, the speaking or singing voice can become more disrupted with cracks and pops, dry and brittle. It can also get softer and less powerful.

Use It Or Lose It — Because your body is the instrument or vessel for your voice, keeping your breathing healthy and full and your body strong, is key for the aging voice. If we let ourselves become sedentary, giving into the weight of gravity, hunching over, limiting our breath capacity and so on, we pull the voice down with us.

With life’s blows, we have to work at not letting our pain bring our body and our voice down. For example, not wanting to show our vulnerability or weakness, we can mask our pain with our voice, limiting our expression of feelings, This can cause the voice to become flat or monotone. It is masking our feelings in the same way that our face masks our feelings, making sure that the world knows that we’re keeping it all together. These habitual holding patterns imprison our voice.

On the other hand, if we energize our body, breath and voice, and lift ourselves UP — if we express more of who we are and let it move through our body and voice — If we focus on things that bring us pleasure and joy, we can keep the voice younger and healthier for much longer.

Three Exercises for the Aging Voice:

BREATHING: Here is a simple exercise that works wonders for building power and fullness in your breathing.

Hiss out, using a strong steady stream of air on SSSSSSSS to the count of 6 and then through an open mouth, allow the breath back in to the count of 3.
Place one hand on your belly to feel what happens when the breath goes out of your body and when it comes back in.
Place your other hand on your upper chest to send a message to stay tall, rather than collapsing as the breath goes out of your body.

With practice, when you hiss the air out, the belly will engage and pull in. Then, on the inhalation, you are looking to let go of the tension and work of making sound, releasing the belly, jaw and tongue, and allow the breath to fill in comfortably.
Repeat 5X Daily.

TONING: To energize the voice and lift our spirits, let’s add long tones to our breath exercise. Instead of hissing out the air, open your mouth and sound out on AHHHHHHH to the count of 6. Then, release and allow the breath in to the count of 3. Continue to use your hand to feel the belly moving in as the sound moves out and feel the body release as the breath drops back in. This exercise works the diaphragm so that you deepen into a fuller breath that gets into the bottom of your lungs, rather than a shallow breath in your upper chest. Choose different tones in different parts of your range. Walk or move your body to stay loose and let the sound flow out of you into the world.
Do 5 Long Tones Daily.

RANGE AND FLEXIBILITY: How do you get your range back if you’ve lost it? I suggest doing extended slides which include both chest and head voice, (low and high voice) to build back up your range and flexibility.

Begin with a gentle and low UH sound, like a grunt. From there, let your voice gently slide up in your range and then back down. Gradually extend the slide to include a wider range.
Move your body to encourage the voice to release into the higher range. Here’s a tip: As you begin to go up in your voice, spread your feet hip width apart and bend your knees deeply, as if you’re sitting into a chair. As your voice travels up, you sit down. This is a great way to give your body the message that it doesn’t need to constrict or tighten up in response to going higher.
Do 5 Slides Daily.

And finally, treat your voice as you would a toddler learning to walk. When you let it out, greet it with enthusiasm and loving kindness. When it pops and cracks and sounds ‘ugly’ to you, keep your sense of humor and keep at it!

Whole Body, Whole Voice

Because most of our senses are focused forward, our speaking and singing voice can get stuck in the front. It may be overly nasal or strident, lacking in depth or power. We can easily forget the back of our body. So, we have to consciously bring our awareness into the back to access the fullness of our voice.

The trick here is that it truly is about resting back into yourself rather than working, striving or pushing on your voice. In today’s exercise, I’m going to ask you to let go of tension in many parts of your body. But before doing that, I’d like you to turn your awareness towards a part of your Self that I call the worker. You might know it as a part that is controlling, pushy or that is always driving you to do the next thing. Sound familiar? Don’t make it a bad thing. We all have one!

So, now that you’ve acknowledged that part, I’d like you to ask it to step back so you can do this exercise. You can ask it silently or out loud. You might say something along these lines. “If it’s okay with you, I’d like you to step back for a moment so I can learn about just being with myself, rather than working at it. Then, you can come right back and help out with the next thing!” Get the picture?

An Exercise in Awareness and Breathing:

In order to rest into your back body, you need to let go of the front. That may sound simple, but you’d be surprised! So here goes. I’m going to ask you to close your eyes, so you’ll need to read the directions before you begin. Or even better, have someone else read the directions to you at a relaxing pace.

Find a chair that supports your back and sit with both feet planted firmly on the ground. Lengthen the back of your neck and allow your chin to come down and in slightly.

Close your eyes and send a message to your brain to release the tension that comes with always having to focus on looking at things.

Now, send a message to allow the breath in. Let it be a natural, easy breath. There’s no need to make it big or full. Remember, the worker is taking a break.

Let your tongue lie relaxed on your lower lip.

Let go of your jaw.

Place your awareness in the back of your throat, feeling the coolness of the breath flowing in and out.

Now, there’s one more thing that I want you to let go of and it may not be easy!

Let go of your belly.

In order for your back body to expand and open – for the ribs to move up and out – and for the diaphragm to move down – you need to let go of your belly. Don’t get me wrong, it is great to have strong core muscles. But to have a full and free voice, you need to be able to release them, as well. So, are you ready? Let it all hang out!!

To sense the movement of your breath and the back body opening, I’d like you to place one hand on your side ribs and the other on your belly.

Continue to allow the breath in and out and notice what happens. Remember, you don’t need to take the breath in, simply allow it in. Is there movement under your hands? Are the ribs moving out? Is your belly moving at all? I don’t want you to DO anything to make things move. Simply pay attention. If your back is touching a chair, you may sense your back expanding against the chair.

This whole exercise is about letting go of tension and holding in the front body, in order to allow the back body to open. This may take some practice.

So, when your worker is tiring you out. Take a moment to just be with your whole body and feel the space expanding inside you. This practice will bring support, beauty and power into your voice!