Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Developing a Healthy Relationship with the Voice Part 3

The All Important Breath!

Developing a healthy relationship with the voice and the vocal cords begins with developing a healthy relationship with the breath.

When I first began studying voice 10 years ago, I received some conflicting advice about breathing. At that point, I had already been practicing Yoga for most of my adult life and that included a great deal of pranayama practice. I was quite proficient at breathing from a Yogic perspective. However I did discover, fairly quickly, that breathing for the purpose of singing or vocalizing or even speaking is different from the yogic breathing I had learned. At the same time, I was also exploring and experiencing how old, unexpressed emotions and traumas can be held in the body, sometimes for a lifetime, and that they can be prematurely triggered by aggressive or incorrect breathing. From personal experience, I knew that the emotional aspect of breathing deeply was an essential factor to consider in developing and practicing any type of breath work.

Why Some People are Actually Afraid to Take a Deep Breath

Many of us breathe in a very shallow way. When we only breathe into the upper part of the chest,
we are only filling the upper part of the lungs or the upper (superior) lobe. The body cannot fully oxygenate itself when the breath is so shallow. And the voice cannot be free and full if it is not fully supported by the breath. Freeing the breath is the first and most important step in freeing the voice. Breath work needs to be done gently, slowly and with total respect for the body, both the physical and emotional aspects. (More about this below)

As infants, we do breathe fully into all parts of our lungs. If you observe an infant breathing, the whole body is involved in supporting that breath. The chest, the back, the belly -- everything opens and expands and moves on the inhalation. And everything releases on the exhalation. So why then, as adults, does our breathing become so restricted? Well, I can only speak from my own experience and resulting theory on this. I do have many years of my own breathing practice to draw on, plus years of teaching and observing the breathing patterns of others.

Back to our infant days, we instinctively knew how to breathe and vocalize (laugh, cry, scream, gurgle....) fully, again with the whole body being engaged in the action. But soon, usually at a pretty young age, we begin to learn that allowing the body to freely do whatever it needs to in order to express itself is not always "socially acceptable". We can't just scream whenever we feel like it. Crying in public is not deemed as socially acceptable. We may have been shamed or ridiculed or even punished for crying or expressing emotion in some way.  At a young and tender age, we start school and have to learn how to sit quietly in hard chairs for sometimes hours on end. We can only do that by squelching all those natural instincts to move and breathe and vocalize and express emotion. As a result, we end up tightening our muscles and constricting what was natural, instinctual physical movement and expression.

 If there has been trauma in a child's life, the holding and constricting becomes even more pronounced. There may be a lot of fear locked up inside. There may be memories and emotions locked up inside. We come into adulthood with muscles that have become tight, rigid and constricted in order to hold back all that stuff that has been buried in the body and in order to stifle our natural impulse to let loose. With all that going on, how can we possibly take a deep, full body breath? Our muscles are too tight to allow that to happen naturally.

 Our fear of letting go is likely very well developed by the time we become adults. With the passage of time it can become physically impossible to get past all the muscular restrictions that have been put on the body. As we get older, we often tend to think of all this muscle tightness and its resulting aches and pains and difficulty breathing as "normal", "part of getting older". While that kind of thinking has become the norm, there is nothing normal about having aches and pains and stiffness and difficulty breathing. The physical body isn't meant to carry all that emotional and muscular tightness. But many of us were raised in the kind of atmosphere -- at home, in churches, in schools, in a society -- that expected us to control our natural normal impulses to move, to make sound, to express emotion.

And it can become frightening, or at the very least, uncomfortable, to even try to breathe deeply. It is definitely NOT advisable to try and push past those emotional barriers and those tight muscles through aggressive, forceful breathing or vocal exercises. 

Opening the body up and releasing all that tension with deep breathing and/or vocal exercises, needs to be done slowly, gently, patiently and with a great deal of love and respect for the body and all that it may be holding for us. 

A Gentle  Three Part Breathing Exercise

** If you have not been practicing breathing exercises, please go back to Part 1 of this series and begin with the simple breathing exercise I offer there. Practice just that easy, simple breath until you feel really comfortable with it and then move on to this three part breathing practice. That is also a good place to begin even if you have been doing breathing exercises. 

You may want to go back and study the diagram of the lungs (above). Pay particular attention to the three lobes of the lungs -- the superior (upper) lobe, the middle lobe and the interior (lower) lobe. We are going to gently and slowly breathe into all three lobes, beginning with the upper lobe and working our way down -- one lobe at a time!!

To begin: You can lie down on a firm surface with a pillow or rolled blanket under the knees. Supporting the knees in this way helps the belly and lower back relax. Or sit comfortably in a chair making sure the back is not slouched. Feet should rest on the floor and the belly and chest should be as open as comfortably possible to allow maximum space for the breath to move through the body..

1. Breathing into the Upper Lobe: It can be helpful to place one hand on your upper chest and, if you are flexible, place the other hand on your upper back. If that is too much of a stretch, just bring your awareness to the front of the upper chest and to your upper back. Imagine breathing right into that space between the chest and the back. If your hands are there, imagine your are directing your breath right into your hands -- front and back. Pay attention to how much, if any, movement is happening in that part of the chest and back.  If there is easy, comfortable movement on the inhale, and an easy free release on the exhale, repeat a few times and then you can move on to the middle lobe. If there is any feeling of resistance or limited or difficult movement of the chest and back, DO NOT move on. Work gently with this exercise until it begins to feel comfortable. A few minutes a day is enough. You may need to work in this one area for a few days, a week, a month ..... whatever it takes to feel comfortable. There is no rush. Also, it could be very helpful to journal any feelings or memories that come up. Or have someone to talk to.

 **Personal note; I found it very helpful to have a therapist to talk to when I was in the process of opening up these vulnerable and delicate areas. Plus, I did a lot of journaling. 

2. Breathing into the Middle Lobe: Bring the hands down to the side ribs. Direct the awareness and the breath right down through the centre of the body and into those side ribs. Ideally the ribs should move easily, expanding on the inhalation and releasing on the exhalation. As above, work gently with this breath until there is easy relaxed movement in the ribs. There is no rush to move on.

3. Breathing into the Lower Lobe: Place one hand on the belly and one hand on the lower back. Allow the breath to move down through the centre of your body and imagine sending it out into your hands. Again notice if movement and expansion of the belly and lower back happen easily or does that movement feel constricted? This is an area where a lot of emotion can get held and trapped, so proceed with care and love and acceptance of whatever may show up. Again, journaling or having someone to talk to is highly recommended if  this work is new to you.

1-2-3 Putting It Altogether: Once you feel really comfortable breathing into each lobe individually, then you can try the complete three part breath. For those that have taken Yoga, you may find that the order of the this breath is different from what you learned in Yoga class. Remember, first of all, that this breath is geared towards using the voice in a healthy way. Plus -- I believe that it is important to always begin the breath where we are most comfortable. For most of us, that is the upper chest. THEN we can slowly work our way down into the depths. The Heart area is often loaded with feelings and emotions and to try and blast air past that, directly into the belly is, in my books, not good!! We need to move down through the body one step at a time, allowing those tight places to release gently and slowly in their own way and in their own time. (More about the diaphragm in Part 4).

The Entire Three Part Breath: 1. INHALE into the upper chest and back. 2. Continue the inhale into the side ribs. 3. Continue the inhale into the belly. 4. EXHALE starting from the belly, then from the side ribs and then from the upper chest. Play with this breath until it feels smooth, easy and relaxed.

If you are wondering why we are exhaling in this particular order, this video (link below) explains it in a really fun way -- plus offers some wonderful breath/voice exercises. I highly recommend watching this video.
.                      Importance of Exhaling From the Belly First

On that note, I'll end for now. Part 4 coming soon!

   And remember: love your body, love your breath love your voice!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Developing a Healthy Relationship with the Voice Part 2

Getting to Know Our Vocal Cords

And Why It Is Important To Stretch Through The Entire Range of Our Voices

The range of the voice, simply put, means how how high we can vocalize or sing and how low we can vocalize or sing. The range is that whole area from high to low. For people who have not had any vocal training, that range may seem fairly limited. However, with the right kind of training or exercises, almost every voice can be expanded. In fact, sometimes just learning how to relax and release the tension in the throat and jaw can free the voice in surprising ways.


If there is tension or constriction in the throat, that may cause the larnyx to be squeezed and lifted into a higher than normal position. The vocal cords are located within the larnyx so if there is tension, that means the vocal cords cannot stretch and vibrate in the way they are meant to. Just learning how to release and drop the larnyx can free up the voice which adds more vocal range. We will be exploring more about how to do that but in the meantime, yawning -- like we did in Part 1 -- is a wonderful way of releasing tension and dropping the larynx into a more relaxed position.


If you sing in a choir, you have likely had your voice classified as soprano or baritone or whatever classifications there may be. Even if you are not in a choir, you still probably have some preconceived idea that you have a low voice or a high voice. Just for now, it would be great if you could let go of labeling or pre-judging your voice in any way. If you are thinking of yourself as someone who has a low voice, then you probably are not stretching out your vocal cords into your high range or head voice. You may be thinking that you don't even have a high range. And vice versa for those who think their voices are high and they cannot drop down into the lower voice. The truth is, most of us have a much greater vocal range than we may think. It is all a matter of releasing tension and taking the time to explore and exercise whatever part of the voice we may feel weak or lacking in.

** Note: From my personal story: Initially, when I began my serious vocal exploration 10 years ago, the first singing teacher I went to labelled me as a Soprano and he raised the key of all the songs I wanted to sing since I could not drop down into any lower notes. I sang totally in my head or high voice. At that point I did not even know I had a chest (or low) voice. But my voice felt and sounded weak and strained in that high range. I couldn't get any volume or loudness in my voice no matter how hard this teacher pushed me to sing louder. Any attempt to sing louder just made my throat constrict and my voice crack and sound "froggy". So I searched for, and found, a vocal coach who had more knowledge and understanding of the vocal cords and how the voice actually works. I was thrilled to discover that I did have a low voice and the main reason my voice had previously been trapped in that high and unstable place was a combination of tension and simply not knowing how to access that low chest voice. The vocal exercises he gave me began to unleash a great deal of previously stored up tension and it felt totally freeing and powerful to sing, speak or vocalize in my low voice. Now I love the feeling and sound that emerges from my chest voice. 

High Voice     Low Voice

So -- the news is, we all have a low voice and we all have a high voice (providing there is no physical issue with the vocal cords) and for maximum vocal health, we need to stretch the vocal cords from low to high. When we are in our low voice, the vocal cords are thicker and more compressed. As we stretch into the higher part of our vocal range, the vocal cords stretch and thin out. If you think about lifting weights at a gym, you don't want to just keep lifting heavier and heavier weights without balancing your workout with some stretching and flexibility exercises. If your muscles are being contracted all the time with no stretching, they will eventually weaken. That is comparable to being in the low voice all the time and never stretching the vocal cords out by singing or vocalizing in the high part of your range. . Conversely, if all you ever do is stretch and work on flexibility with no weight training, your muscles and joints will become overstretched, weak and prone to injury. That would be similar to being in the high voice all the time and having the vocal cords constantly thinned and stretched out. The vocal cords need the strength and compression that comes from vocalizing (singing, speaking, doing scales or other exercises) in the chest register or lower part of the voice.. They also need the flexibility and stretching that comes from being in the high vocal register.

Note: A little bit of vocabulary! Vocal range refers to how high one can sing or vocalize and how low one can sing or vocalize. The range is that whole area of the voice from high to low (or low to high).
Vocal register refers to the various areas of the vocal range. The higher part of the voice is usually referred to as the head register or head voice. Higher than the head register is the whistle register (very challenging to do and hard on the vocal cords). The lower part of the voice is referred to as the chest register or chest voice. Below chest voice is Vocal Fry -- another register that can also be hard on the vocal cords if over done. In between the head register and the chest register is the mix or middle voice, also known as the bridge (between high voice and low voice).

The Muscles that Control the Vocal Cords

There are two main muscles that control the vocal cords. The Thyroarytenoid (TA) muscle controls the lower part of the voice and the Cricothyroid  (CT) muscle controls the higher part of the voice. As our voices transition from low to high, these two muscles work together as the TA muscle gradually hands over control to the CT muscle. That is the place in the voice that is commonly called the Bridge or the Mix Voice. Some singers refer to it as "the crack" (not a term I like) because for many people, it takes a lot of training to learn how to cross this bridge smoothly. So -- not to worry if your voice makes some weird sounds as you move from low to high or high to low. That is pretty normal. It is very important to work both muscles in the vocal cords -- just as in weight training -- if you work your biceps, you need to balance that out by also working your triceps (the front of the upper arm and the back of the upper arm).

More in part three about why this work of accessing our whole vocal range in a gentle and healthy way is very important -- not just for our voices, but also for our bodies and nervous system.

Til then -- love and cherish your voice. And make some happy sounds!!


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Developing a Healthy Relationship with the Voice: Part 1



I did not have a healthy relationship with my voice. Up until I was 57 years old (10 years ago), I never even opened my mouth to sing. Mostly I managed to avoid any kind of gatherings that had singing
 or karaoke in them. If I accidentally ended up in a group where singing was happening, I would either simply mouth the words or sing very quietly under my breath so no one would hear me. Being a pretty reclusive, introverted, shy child and adult, even speaking very much was not my thing.  I felt uncomfortable about the sound of my voice; I was terrified to express any opinions or neediness; it was next to impossible for me to speak up to people in positions of authority.  I did not even trust my voice to be there when I needed it to be. Sometimes, during a conversation with someone, my throat would simply close up and leave me coughing and choking. And feeling embarrassed and humiliated. 

As a result, my vocal cords were weak and undeveloped.

There is more to this story and I have expanded on it in a blog I wrote in June 2015. You can scroll back to that if you want more of the story and if you are wondering what happened when I was 57 to finally start me on the journey of healing and liberating my voice. By the way, I now look for opportunities to sing with others!! It really is fun!

Since that time, 10 years ago, I have explored (extensively) vocal technique and ways of healing, developing and strengthening my voice and vocal cords. In addition to many hours of  exploring, researching and experimenting on my own, I have worked with a variety of singing teachers, vocal coaches and sound healers. My lifelong Yoga practice, my years of studying the Chakras,  my experience as a Reiki Master, plus my several years of therapy and healing my own traumas (vocal and otherwise) have come together to create a very unique healing program aimed more directly at recovering and supporting the voice and the vocal cords. I sometimes think of this developing work as Yoga for the Voice. It tends to be somewhat more subtle and inner focused than most other vocal practices I have experienced.  Because of my own previous, sometimes traumatic, vocal experiences, I do my best to create this vocal work in a way that is gentle and respectful of the voice and of the deeper process and re-connection that happens when the voice is activated in new ways.

That feels like enough of an introduction for now! Let's dive in!



The breath is vital to any voice work. Without breath, there is no voice. Ideally the breath should be supported by the entire body. In other words, the inhale should feel like it is filling every part of the body, right into our deepest core. The exhale can then travel through the vocal cords in a small, controlled stream of air.  With that small, consistent stream of air coming through them, the vocal cords will vibrate in a way that is strong and healthy,  producing the sound that we are aiming for -- be it speaking, singing, sounding etc. A little later, I will offer an exercise so that we can learn to inhale into and through the entire body and then practice controlling the exhalation for the best and healthiest vibration of the vocal cords, but first:


And expressing gratitude for the voice and the vocal cords

Begin by finding a comfortable sitting position with the spine gently erect in its natural curvature. Let the feet be firmly connected with the floor or ground and the belly relaxed and open. Roll the shoulders back to ensure the chest is open and the lungs have plenty of room to expand

   With the mouth closed, begin to breath in and out through the nostrils. Allow the inhale and the exhale to find their own comfortable rhythmic pattern. Relax into that breath, simply observing the flow of air in and out of the nostrils.

    After a few breaths, bring the awareness into the back of the throat. As you continue allowing the breath to flow in and out through the nostrils, focus your attention on the back of the throat. Imagine allowing the breath to touch the back of the throat. Imagine relaxing and opening the back of the throat. If there are any feelings of restriction here, just observe. Approach with interest and curiosity and acceptance  of whatever you may be feeling. No need to change anything. If you feel a need to cough or yawn, allow that to happen. Then return to the breath, focusing again on the back of the throat.

   After a few breaths into the back of the throat, allow the awareness to move more deeply into and through the throat. Focus especially on the lower part of the front of the throat -- the Adam's apple. This is generally easier to see and locate in men, but women have it too -- it is just less visible and obvious. At this point, don't worry about finding the exact location if you are uncertain. For now, just allow your breath to move into the mid--lower part of the front of  throat.

"The Adam's apple, in conjunction with the thyroid cartilage which forms it, helps protect the walls and the frontal part of the larynx, including the vocal cords (which are located directly behind it). "   definition taken from Wikipedia.

As you breathe into the "Adam's Apple" you are actually bringing more air and circulation into your larnyx, also known as the voice box, and your vocal cords which are responsible for the vibrations that create sound. 

Continue breathing in and out through the nose, extending the awareness and breath down through the centre of the throat and deeper into the larnyx and vocal cords. As you continue your focus on the breath moving down into the vocal cords, this could be a good time to actually appreciate and thank your vocal cords for all that they do. The work of the vocal cords makes it possible for us to communicate verbally, to sing, to sound, to express ourselves, to laugh out loud, to comfort others through our words and our voices. Directing that vocal vibration to a part of ourselves or to another person can be incredibly healing. These tiny vocal cords do so much for us and yet we often tend to take them for granted unless we develop a problem with them. Now is a perfect time to acknowledge the incredible gift of voice that we have been given and the amazing work that the vocal cords do to give us that voice.

After a few breaths and a few moments of appreciating our vocal cords, we can allow the breath to come back to normal breathing -- whatever that is for each of us. A really good way to follow this exercise up is by standing and having a few big open mouth yawns along with a nice big STRETCH! This can also be a good time to begin making some sound -- sighing loudly, releasing the voice on the exhale. Take a few moments to yawn, stretch, allow sighs or any sounds that may want to be expressed. Then take a few moments to just sit and observe how your body feels.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Some Healing Help for the Voice


All of our voices matter. And time spent caring for our voices is time very well spent!

Often we don't even give our voices or vocal cords much (if any) thought -- until something happens and our vocal cords become inflamed or in some way damaged or strained. If we've ever had laryngitis, we KNOW how difficult it is to be without a voice, even for a short time.

 And how often do we use our voices just for pure pleasure and fun??

Here is a chance to have some fun with our voices and to help them heal and become stronger at the same time. What could be better?

By the way, these exercises are great for singers, for people who use their voices a lot such as teachers, speakers, actors etc. And I do believe that under use of the voice (as in people who have been silenced or vocally shut down in any way) is as damaging as overuse of the voice. 

Semi Occluded Vocal Tract Exercises

Exercise Number One: The Straw Exercise

We begin with a straw  Pick any colour you want!!!

I've recently come across a very exciting (to me anyway!!) series of vocal exercises called "Semi Occluded Vocal Tract Exercises". Despite the somewhat complex name, these exercises are actually very simple and fun to perform. And they are not very loud -- a definite bonus for those of us who do our vocal exercises in our (possibly not very sound proof) apartments.

From what I understand about these exercises, they are very healing and helpful in the case of voices that have been overused and are overtired from singing or excessive speaking.  I am also discovering,  from my own practise of them and from sharing them with others, that they are extremely helpful also to those of us who have "underused" our voices or had our voices somehow shut down from a young age.  If we are shy or fearful about speaking our truth, or we grew up in the era of "children should be seen and not heard", holding back our voices can create as much or more tension in the vocal cords and throat as overusing the voice. These exercises really help to relax the tension in the throat and vocal cords, as well as strengthening and creating flexibility in the cords and in the voice.

Semi occluded vocal tract exercises work by keeping most of the breath and vocal vibration moving through the body (as opposed to projecting it out into the environment as we mostly tend to do with our voices.

I am going to let the expert, Dr. Titze, who created this first "straw exercise" explain and demonstrate. Click on the link here:    Dr. Titze -- Straw Exercise

The Second Exercise --  THE LIP BUBBLE  

This exercise is also known as the Lip Trill. I just love this exercise -- it is so much fun and feels really great -- energizing, refreshing, vitalizing. It leaves my lips, tongue and whole mouth area feeling light and tingly. It can also get me into higher notes and lower notes than I could normally get into doing regular scales or singing. Initially it can take some time to build up stamina -- the lips may tire easily at first. But it is so worth sticking to and once you've got it, doing scales or even lip bubbling" a song can be a great exercise.

Check out this great lip bubble video.  The Lip Bubble  The bonus here is also some important tips on breathing.

For a little more detail and some important guidelines on doing the lip bubble correctly, check out this link. Lip Bubble Instruction  To get an easier and more correct sound and vibration, it is important to bring the fingers to the cheeks, at the level of the lips (as he demonstrates) and to gently lift the weight of the cheeks up (which he doesn't mention).

If you try these exercises, let me know how it goes.

And remember to love and care for that beautiful voice of yours!!


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Getting "Rooted" for Winter -- Through the Voice

Here we are, in the late fall, moving rapidly towards the cold, dark season of winter. We've been watching the leaves on the trees turn many glorious colors and then gradually fall to Earth to become compost.

 As the trees let go of the energy that supports the growth and maintenance of leaves on their upper branches, I imagine that energy moving down towards the Roots of the tree. After all, those tree Roots have to really dig into the Earth and become strong and stable in order to maintain that tree over the harshness of our Canadian winters.

 In the more gentle climate of Spring, the tree's energy will once again move up into the upper branches to support the growth of new life, new leaves unfolding.

What do Trees and Roots have to do with the Voice?

The dark, cold season that we call winter usually is associated with drawing our energy inward and dropping  it deeply into the mystery and depth of our Soul's journey and into our own Roots. This is a good time to reflect and to connect a little more deeply with our lower Chakras. This, in turn, helps us to become more fully present in our physical body.

Connecting with the lower Chakras and feeling more deeply into the physical body and Roots requires a lower vocal vibration. In other words, Fall and Winter are the ideal time to practice those scales and exercises that help us develop the lower range of our Voices. This is the time to play around with singing songs that challenge us to explore and develop our lower range. It is an especially good time to re-connect our voices with our bodies -- as in re-developing an "Embodied Voice".

Dropping the Voice Deeply into the Body and into our Roots

Whenever we sing, sound, communicate through the voice or pretty much anything we do vocally, we are always aiming to project our voices "out there" into the world. What if, instead, we changed directions and explored the possibility of dropping the voice down through the body and even down through the feet into the Earth and into our own Roots? Imagine opening up that inner vocal channel and allowing the voice to become "embodied" or fully connected within the body.

 As infants, vocalizing (cooing, crying, laughing, all those infant sounds) comes from deep within the body. When an infant breathes, the whole body is engaged. The whole body breathes. When an infant makes sound, that sound is supported by the entire physical body. As we get older and muscular tension builds up, particularly in the lower body, our breath becomes more restricted and is often confined to the upper chest area. Same thing happens with our voice. The same muscle tension that  obstructs the breathing also obstructs the depth of the voice so that it becomes shallow, restricted and functions primarily from the throat. A voice that is held back in this way is restrained and unstable. This makes it difficult for us to really experience and enjoy our voices. A voice that is not connected deeply in the body is NOT connected with the Heart or Soul. A disconnected voice makes it difficult to speak our truth, to speak our needs, to communicate with ease.

The Body is the Instrument -- The Voice is the Sound that Instrument Makes

In my "younger" days, I used to play clarinet. I still adore the sound and vibration of that instrument.

The clarinet, or any wind instrument, is played by moving breath and energy through the instrument and the sound emerges through the widened, or bell-like end of the instrument. Of course the instrument is held out, away from the body and the sound is projected outward. Here is the master of clarinet, Benny Goodman showing us how!

If you want to hear a little of his amazing clarinet playing, click here  Benny Goodman -- Clarinet

The Inner Clarinet

Because I still feel very connected to the clarinet, I like to imagine that I actually have an Inner Clarinet -- also known as my Inner Vocal Channel -- which runs through the centre of my body. The wider bell--like structure at the end of the clarinet relates to my Root Chakra. I imagine myself dropping my voice, my awareness and my breath down through that inner vocal channel so that I actually begin to feel those vocal vibrations deep in my body. The voice then can emerge through the depths of the Root Chakra, or pelvic floor, and run right down into the Earth. This image and practice can help create a very connected, resonant voice. A good sound to move down through that inner vocal channel could be something like Ahhh.....Awww..... It can be a simple slide down or, drop the sound into one Chakra at a time from Throat to Root. Later, once you feel well grounded, you can bring the sound up and through the head or higher Chakras -- preferably with a narrower sound like OOO.....(with rounded lips).

More to Come

I will be posting more on this fascinating topic of Re-connecting Voice and Body in the near future. If you are interested in having an "embodied voice" experience, please join me in my upcoming workshop on Nov. 20, 2015

***This will be the final workshop until Spring.

Re-Connecting Voice and Heart

The Centering Space
59 Cambridge Ave. (Broadview and Danforth)
Friday Nov. 20, 2015
7:15 pm -- 9:15 pm
Cost: $30.00

RSVP please barbarassong@gmail.com

**for more info, click on May 2015 in the archive section, or keep scrolling down.

In the meantime,



Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Power of Songs and Lyrics

**For info on my upcomong -- Nov. 20 -- "Re-Connecting Voice and Heart" workshop, please scroll down past the two most recent posts, or click onto May in the archive list to the right.

Lyrics Can Be Deeply Meaningful

  Have you ever had a song go 'round and 'round in your head? Or listened to a song (that you may have listened to many times before)  with absolute full attention and suddenly find your eyes are full of tears or some other deep and powerful emotion or reaction is welling up?

   I believe that songs, even simple pop or rock songs, can often have deep meaning for us in some way. When we are really attracted to a particular song, it may even be that our Heart or Soul are trying to get a message or insight to us. Songs that we are drawn to can often reveal a great deal about us, if we pay attention.

The Historical Power and Saving Grace of Songs

   Just think about the historical power of songs. Songs and music have been used as comfort or inspiration or even motivation in some of the worst and most desperate of human conditions. It makes me wonder -- could those people who had been captured in Africa and brought here as slaves, living in the most horrible, abusive situations, have been able to survive if not for the songs and music that were still alive in their hearts and souls. What could have kept their spirits  from totally breaking and giving up under those conditions? From what I know about the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira, it was literally through music and songs and dancing that this amazing martial art was secretly created and many of those who were enslaved literally fought their way to freedom through this musical, dancey martial art. And how about those who actually did the enslaving? At least one slave trader awakened from his "evil stupor" and begged for forgiveness by creating the timeless song "Amazing Grace".
                                     Click here for:    The Story of AMAZING GRACE

   In times of great grief, pain or heartache, many people and many cultures turn to music and song for comfort and healing. In times of celebration and sacred ritual, there is almost always song in some form.

   In my years of nursing and working with the elderly, I encountered people who had such severe dementia that they could not recognize their own children. Some were even unable to remember words or how to speak. But offer them a familiar song and they could sing, by heart, every word.

The Power of Songs to Free Up Trapped Emotion

A Few Examples of My Own Journey Through Songs

    In my own journey with songs, I know that generally when I feel attracted to country songs -- Patsy Cline being my favorite -- I know there is some kind of heart broken feeling deep inside of me. Sometimes just singing the song will stir up that thing that may be sitting in my heart and begging for attention.
                                     PATSY CLINE "CRAZY"

Or sometimes I feel drawn to perhaps angrier or "pissed off" kinds of songs.  Being drawn to sing
Who remembers these???
The Beatles "You Won't See Me" or Buddy Holly's song "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" both let me know that I am royally  annoyed at someone or some situation but perhaps, because of my "wanting to be nice" nature, I may have buried the feelings deep inside and not even have acknowledged my anger.  I know, when I feel drawn to those types of songs, I really have to sit and listen deeply to what I am holding inside. Then I can deal with that formerly trapped emotion and move on to happier songs!!
                      BUDDY HOLLY "It Doesn't Matter Anymore"

                     "You Won't See Me" Anne Murray's Version

 Many songs reflect the "longing for home" that I often feel -- "Sentimental Journey", "Country Roads", or longing for love as in "All I Have to Do is Dream" (Everly Brothers).

                           :"Dream" THE EVERLY BROTHERS

My current favorite song is Karen Carpenter's "Top of the World". I haven't been able to stop singing that song recently! When I took those lyrics deeply into my Heart, I could feel so much -- the bouncy, uplifting nature of the song; the slight "other worldly feel" ("looking down on creation") of the song, the deep love and joy that the song expresses, the oneness with nature ("something in the wind has learned my name") etc. etc. So much to be discovered in one seemingly simple pop song. Not to mention the fact that Karen could sing such a beautiful, happy song in her spirited, uplifting way even as she was dealing with the life and death issues surrounding her anorexia. So much pain in her life and so much passion in her songs -- very inspiring.

                                       "Top of the World"  KAREN CARPENTER

A Song for Every Emotion

In the vast array of human emotion, I would venture to say that, for every possible emotion, a song, or many songs, have been written. Song lyrics are often written as a deep emotional response to an experience.

   The songs we are drawn to often say so much about us and so much to us -- I think it is well worth paying attention. Songs are like dreams. The more you pay attention to them, the more they will unexpectedly show up in your consciousness. It is surprising how many songs, or memories of songs, we all have buried away inside of us. Begin by consciously remembering a few, and so many more will begin to emerge from that inner (perhaps dusty!), song closet.

An Amazing and Fun Exercise for Anyone Who Wants to Develop a Closer Voice/Heart Connection

This exercise is: Great for Singers who want to sing with more emotion and authenticity.

Great for Public Speakers or Anyone who wants to communicate with more passion and emotion.

Great for anyone who wants to develop more expressiveness and strength in their voice.

Great for anyone who just wants to understand themselves and their emotional world a little more.

The Exercise:  Simply take the lyrics of whatever song you are drawn to or trying to learn and imagine dropping those into your Heart. It may help to do some deep breathing into your Heart Centre first. Imagine that you have never heard the song or the melody before, so you step out of speaking in the rhythm of the song. You create your own heart felt rhythm. And then you speak the lyrics. It may help to visualize an audience in front of you and you are telling them an amazing story, or expressing some deep, profound emotion to them. You may be surprised at what gets stirred up. Honor and allow any emotion(s) to well up.  Allow yourself to fully feel the lyrics or the story that is being is expressed.

What songs are meaningful to you? Have fun exploring!!



Monday, June 15, 2015

Healing My Voice

**For info on my upcoming "Re-Connecting Voice and Heart" workshop, please scroll down to previous post or click onto the May post on the right.

Healing My Voice
My Vocal Fears    It wasn't so long ago that I had no stability in my voice. I never knew for certain if my voice was really going to "be there" for me or not. I never knew if my throat was going to suddenly close down in the middle of a conversation, leaving me coughing and choking and feeling humiliated. In days gone by, my biggest fear around leading workshops or doing public speaking was never around the material I was presenting. Generally I felt pretty confident that I knew my topic. My biggest fear and anxiety was around whether my voice would hold up and my throat would stay open long enough for me to complete my presentation or workshop. This has pretty much been a lifelong "affliction". Like many people, I learned very early on that my opinion or my feelings or desires were not welcomed. I learned to "stay quiet". At school, some teachers would become very angry with me for not speaking up even when I knew the answers to their questions. At that same school, I was not allowed to sing because the music teacher said my voice wasn't good enough to be in the school choir. Mixed messages all over the place in regards to my voice! Add to that mix that I was a shy, introverted, easily traumatized child anyway. That child who was terrified to open her mouth and speak up has lived in the adult me for many years.

Trying to Heal
   A number of years back I encountered the concept of Sound Healing. I found some wonderful Sound Healers -- people who could create amazing and beautiful healing sounds through their voices. I tried so hard to get my voice "out there" like that but the end result for me would be a strained voice and a traumatized me!!! Just hearing my voice "out there" was scary enough to shut me down again.

Creating a Healing Pathway for My Voice
   I am truly grateful that I have, at least in the past 7 years, managed to create a healing pathway for my voice that is working well for me. There are always a few bumps on the road to healing, but that is the healing journey -- at least as I know it.

The Turning Point
   The turning point for me, when I got really serious about healing my voice, was 7 years ago, at age 57.  I inadvertently found myself in a small circle of people who had great voices and loved to sing. At that point, I had never tried to sing in front of anyone and pretty much steered clear of anything to do with singing or Karaoke. The group that I found myself in on that particular evening always did a deep healing process that involved writing. I loved writing so this worked really well for me. BUT.....this one particular evening, only a few people showed up and the decision was made (not by me!) that we would forgo the writing exercise and share songs instead. Well I couldn't sing, couldn't share any songs. All I wanted in the world was to dash out of there. I couldn't do that either. I was dependent on the facilitator for a ride home. So I spent the rest of that evening struggling desperately not to burst into tears. It felt so terrible to be in a group where everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time sharing their songs, sharing their voices while I was feeling miserable and inadequate. I felt ashamed and embarrassed that I was exuding this miserable feeling energy when everyone else was just having a great time.

My First Singing Teacher
   By the next day, after a sleepless night, I knew I couldn't live like this, with such a blocked up voice, anymore. Within a week, I found myself in a singing studio, microphone in hand! The first teacher that I found did get me singing, which was quite miraculous. I still have the CD recordings of me singing my first few songs. The problem I encountered with this initial singing experience was that I could only sing in a high, disconnected voice. I could not get into any lower notes and I definitely did not feel my voice in my body at all. The teacher told me I was a Soprano and I should just sing high songs. This didn't feel right to me. My voice kept cracking as I tried to sing and I couldn't get any volume on my voice despite the teacher constantly pushing me to blast my voice out to the far wall. I couldn't do it.

Getting Clear

   The good thing about that initial singing experience, besides the fact that it awoke my passion for songs and singing,  was that it helped me get clear about what my voice needed. I finally understood, that as a shy introvert with a weak voice, it would never work for me to try and "blast" my voice out there. Clearly a voice that has not been used very much, in addition to feeling locked down in fear, is going to need a gentle, safe, step by step program to rebuild the weakened vocal apparatus (vocal cords, larynx) and this is not an overnight, or one workshop practice.

Bringing My Voice into My Body
   So I went searching for a vocal technique. I just knew there was something out there that could help to heal and strengthen my voice. I knew there was something or someone who could explain my vocal weaknesses and teach me how my voice worked so I could re-build. Voila! I found a technique and a teacher who knew how to help me bring my voice down into my body and how to develop the stability that the low vocal range offers. Suddenly I had discovered a whole new low voice that I didn't even know I had. Actually, "suddenly" might not be the exact best word! It was a step by step process. I was dedicated to my weekly lessons and daily practice. For the better part of two years, my teacher and I worked on developing this low voice of mine. Through the vocal exercises and scales that I so faithfully practiced, I also felt tremendous release and opening through my whole chest. It was a remarkable, exciting and powerful feeling. Even now, I just love vocalizing in that low range and singing deep, low songs.

A Bittersweet Moment
   After the excitement of discovering my low voice and expanding my vocal range phenomenally, I did have to come to a bittersweet moment of realizing that I probably didn't have that "classically beautiful" singing voice that I was hoping to unleash or develop!! So what was the next step for me vocally? What was important for me in my pursuit of a strong and freer voice? I still continue to learn about, and experiment with, singing. I love the practice of and the learning about songs and singing. I'm extremely grateful to have re-connected with the songs and singers and music that I love. But my Heart and Voice, plus all my previous work with Chakras, seemed to be calling me into another way of exploring and freeing my voice and maybe even helping others explore and free their voices. These days, it is feeling very important, urgent even, that we ALL begin to speak the truth of our Hearts and Souls -- even, or maybe especially, those of us who are shy introverts. These quiet, gentle voices need to be  freed and heard.

Re-Connecting the Voice and the Heart
   So now I am all about step by step rebuilding of the voice, strengthening and stretching (gently) those vocal cords, learning how to drop our voices into the body so we can re-connect the Voice and the Heart. And to gently rebuild the confidence to speak (or sing) our truth. Oh yes -- and for that child within who may never have gotten to speak out or sing out, or just make joyful sound, I am also all about just having fun with voice and sound -- however it may want to show up.

   I am very thankful for all the ways and techniques, and all the voice teachers and to my own unwavering determination that helped me find my Path to my own Vocal, Heart Centered Healing.

   May we all learn to love our Voices and to appreciate all the amazing ways they work for us.

Thanks for allowing me to share my story. I'd love to hear your vocal story!