‘In many ancient societies, if you came to a wise person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions: ‘When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop being comforted by the sweet territory of silence?’
– Gabrielle Roth
I want to share some thoughts about the power of connecting to your voice.
Your voice is your first and unique musical instrument.
It’s a sound that can create love, warmth, safety, peace or start a conflict. It is the medium through which we express ourselves, state ideas and values. It helps us communicate our moods and emotions.
Especially in this time of distress, we all know how much words and their vibration can unite or divide. They carry love and hate.
Moreover, we instinctively know how somebody’s voice (its tone, volume, rhythm, register and pitch) affects us. It may make us feel at ease, relaxed, trustful or nervous. We know at the gut level when words land coherently or when somebody does not sound sincere or congruent.
The way people speak can be a metaphor for how much space they take, how big they dare to be or how much they believe in themselves. The sound of people’s voice may mirror how much love they can embody and emanate.
We have been immersed in sound and vibration since we were in our mother’s womb. By the 18th-week, babies start to listen to sounds, and by the 24th, they respond to them.
Many people hold stories, limiting beliefs and anxieties around their voice. Some feel uncomfortable or not confident when speaking in front of others; others think they can’t tell their truth or express themselves fully.
Additionally, it is common for people not to like their voice or to believe that they can’t make a sound without being out of tune. This suffering is usually rooted in traumatic events in their childhood. Maybe their teachers humiliated them in front of the classroom. Perhaps their parents yelled at them or told them to be quiet or not to be loud.
In daily conversations, there are many expressions related to the power of speaking: “to speak from the heart”; “to speak one’s truth”; “to speak one’s mind”, “to speak up,” and so on.
Finding your voice — and using it as your medicine — is essential when you long to connect to yourself at a more intimate level. It can be a tool to create the change you want, learn to listen deeply to yourself and others, and ultimately generate more empathy. This exploratory process may enable you to embrace yourself with warmth and compassion. Your vocal adventure can help you create more confidence and assertiveness in your daily life.
‘I raise up my voice — not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.’ Malala Yousafzai
I love voice work. I learnt a lot in my vocal journey and as a professional holding space for others. This path can allow people to strengthen the relationship with their voice, themselves, others and life at ALL levels, literally and metaphorically.
When I was in my early twenties, I suffered slightly from dissociation. I know somewhat that part of me was not fully here. I intuitively wanted to get to know myself better by exploring my voice. I sensed that making sounds was a tool to express myself rawly and subtly tune in with myself. I could follow what wanted to arise spontaneously from within, even if rationally, I could not make sense of it. Often I would go close to a river and make noises (including nonsense or unpleasant sounds, growls, wails, howls). I could feel my voice merging and becoming one with the songs of the water. I had the intuitive feeling that this was a way to release and express the unspeakable from my system, the grief, the taboos, the rage, the despair, the ugly, the longings.
I remember that my grandmother was a singer and an actress when she was very young. As soon as she turned eighteen, she had to find a regular job and forget about singing and performing because good girls did not do it. That career was for whores. I experimented and played with my voice to connect to my grandmother and the women of my lineage. To find my voice meant to relate to those behind me who have been muted and could not express themselves freely, wildly and creatively. It brought freedom and peace to them and me.
Using my voice, I received -for the first in my life — my unique vibration as medicine and something that I perceived in all its inherent goodness and healing power. This exploration was excellent for me because I was used to self-hatred patterns. I was finally starting to shift that.
‘Women have suffered at the hands of a society that wants them to look a certain way, and often, wants them to have a voice to match — sweet, soft, high and gentle. Many women have repressed a whole octave of sound and, along with it, a whole spectrum of feelings. When women discover that singing can provide a safe space where they can take the lid off this repressed aspect of their voice and soul, the spice, power and vitality, which is released, is quite remarkable.’ Paul Newham
We live in a world that stimulates us to spend a lot of time in our heads, distract ourselves and disconnect from our bodies and gut feelings.
Next to our vocal expression, we all also deal with the inner one, which negatively and positively guides us in our daily life journey. This voice sometimes creates prisons, walls of separation and suffering. It makes us bigger or smaller, it inflates and deflates us, and it goes on and on in loops. Through the sound of our voice in our head, we attack ourselves or others. We need to train the muscle of attention and notice when we lack kindness and choose to speak to ourselves as we were our best friends. I know by experience that sometimes it is easier said than done. Nevertheless, with care and practice, we can train ourselves.
Throughout my career, I have worked with many women who had blockages around their voice, trouble speaking for themselves and inhibition about making noises or being loud. Furthermore, the loud and toxic self-talk often undermined their sense of value and self-esteem. The inner critic’s voice prevented them from being where they wanted in their lives.
I am deeply passionate about the topic of voice as medicine. There are so many different aspects and intersections. We can explore this theme from a personal point of view and include an eagle view and how systems (i.e. school, family, medicine etc.) affect individual processes.
Culturally, we tend to repress natural physiological responses like yawning, belching, sneezing. Children naturally make sounds to express their joy, anger, surprise, sadness.
Ancient and traditional cultures recognised the healing power of voice and music. People would embrace singing as a collaborative tool for prayer, celebration, transformation, divination, initiation, expression and ritual.
The Bible says, “in the beginning was the word.” Many ancient and sacred texts refer to sound as one of the original elements of life or the Universe. Apollo was a Greek deity, God of music, dance, truth and prophecy. The Chinese character for medicine includes the character for music. Western medicine broke this connection.
However, in recent years industrialised countries started recognising the therapeutic power of music and vocal expression. For example, studies show that singing in a choir boosts the immune system, reduce stress and improves mood in people affected by cancer.
When I speak about voice as medicine, I am not referring only to the power of singing. I refer to using primal sound to express one’s state, liberate buried or repressed emotions, and release stress. I also include spontaneous and intuitive sound-making, which is not necessarily musical, pretty or in tune. This exploration can lead to finding one’s natural sound and unique blueprint. It can allow the soul to express herself and land more fully in the body.
Moreover, I also refer to repetitive sounds, vowels, and mantras. Ultimately, this is a multilayered journey into reclaiming your spoken voice and vocal expression at all levels (from making raw sounds to singing if you wish).
When people are in a state of agitation, self-criticism and anxiety, very likely they are not breathing fully. Making simple sounds makes it possible to deepen the breath and invite more oxygen into the lungs, blood, and brain while gently soothing the nervous system. That is a way to relieve anxiety almost immediately.
It is as simple as that! When we are making a sound, we are automatically breathing more. And when we repeat a sound a few times and listen to it, we can learn to focus on it, rather than the loud voice in our head. In other words, your mind cannot follow these two tasks simultaneously.
Making sound is also an excellent and dynamic way to be present and give the mind a break. If you concentrate and focus on the sound, the inner talk will slowly take less space, and you will feel more relaxed. This process may enhance the rebalancing of the two brain hemispheres and reach a natural meditative state.
Here below there is a simple exercise that can help you:
- quieten the busy mind and create more harmony
- feel more confident with your voice both at the physical and metaphysical level
- enhance vitality, presence, focus, clarity, self-esteem and relaxation
- develop a simple daily practice
- feel more stable and confident while you navigate challenges.
So, let’s give it a try, shall we?
Please make sure to have some quiet time.
Turn off your phone.
Close your eyes.
Sit comfortably on a chair with a straight spine, with your feet firmly planted on the floor. You can choose to sit with crossed legs on the ground if that’s more comfortable for you.
This practice aims to become familiar with the sound of your voice in a compassionate way and let go of judgment. When some negative thoughts arise, concentrate on your breath and the sound.
We use toning (the sound of vowels) as we don’t want to attach any particular meaning to words or tap into analytical thinking.
1) Start breathing and allow deeper inhales and longer exhales in a relaxed way. Take a minute or two to do so. Pay attention while breathing in and out from your nose.
2) Start by opening your mouth gently and allowing long exhales with the “ah” vowel sound, pronounced the same as in ‘mamma’ or ‘pizza’, as a very open vowel. Slowly allow more sound to come out until you are toning “ah” with more breath. The idea is to create an extended and sustained sound using the same pitch.
The sound of this vowel is traditionally connected to openness, self-love and the heart’s intelligence. Moreover, it is naturally expansive and associated with the syllable ‘Ma’ as in mother, which universally invokes the Divine Mother.
The sound will stimulate the vibration in your chest and the thymus gland (which protects your immune system). It will naturally relax the area around your heart. This practice naturally soothes the nervous system and activates the “rest and digest state”. The longer the exhale, the better; this will allow you to release carbon dioxide and toxins from your lungs. Last but not least, the sound vibrates the vagus nerve, which creates feelings of calmness.
3) Now, add the other vowels sounds (EH — IH — OH — UH). Allow the sound of each vowel to come out through each exhale. You can also count four for each inhales and then exhale with sound on the count of four until you can expand this and improve your breathing capacity (for example, inhale for five and exhale for ten).
4) You can then tone all vowels with each one long exhale. This practice will also strengthen your diaphragm and improve your breathing capacity. Long exhales help to release stress.
- Repeat each cycle (from two to four) seven times.
- During the whole length of the exercise, I invite you to notice where the sound is vibrating in your body and to tune in with subtle sensations. Try to fill your belly when you breathe in and not lift your shoulders.
- You can imagine these sounds as sonic vitamins! Feel free to play around with this exercise and try different pitches for each round; the higher ones are more stimulating and the lower ones more relaxing.
- You could experiment with this in the morning to feel more energised or in the evening before going to bed to relax and have a better sleep.
- When you complete, bring your attention back into the room, wiggle your toes and have a gentle stretch. Sit quietly and notice how the sound affected you. Allow yourself to receive and enjoy the sound of silence.
- I suggest that you do the exercise for at least 21 days to receive the most benefit and feel more confident using your voice. Start noticing more in your daily life how you use your voice, how you breathe, talk to yourself and others, where you speak from (i.e. throat, belly, nose or chest) and how that impacts you and others.
I include some questions below to support your learning process.
- How did you feel before you started?
- How did you feel at the end of the practice?
- What was easy? Why?
- What was pleasurable? Why?
- What was challenging? Why?
- Which kind of sensations did you experience in your body?
- Where did your voice resonate the most? (i.e. nose, throat, chest)
- What judgment did you hold about your voice?
- What did this exercise show you about the way you talk to yourself?
- What was the most significant benefit of this exercise? How can you apply what you learned to your daily life?
- What would be the best outcome if you had learned to master the tools provided in this exercise?
- What else did you notice?
- What would prevent you from practising this exercise daily?
- What else did you learn about yourself?
So, that’s it for now. Please feel free to get in touch and let me know how this landed or resonated and what you find the most helpful.
I hope this piece brought you some inspiration and unleashed a creative exploration!
‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.’