Vocal Yoga Exercises
“Voice is a kind of soul characteristic of what has soul in it; nothing that is without soul utters voice.”
Vocal Yoga is Sound Healing!
We all carry with us at all times the ultimate sound healing tool, our voice! The whole body can fill with vibration from head to toe, giving the sounder the sensation that they are a Tibetan Healing Bowl. In a Vocal Yoga class you will learn how to be an instrument, how to be fully in healing vibration and how to let go of any blocks that have limited your resonance potential. Sound healing has become very popular, but without the inclusion of the voice you can only scratch the surface of your healing potential.
Did you know that your body’s entire well-being is reflected in your voice? Check out the Vocal Yoga Exercises page for some Vocal Yoga exercises.
Did you know that the voice reflects the overall emotional and physical wellbeing of the person?
Heather Lyle’s Vocal Yoga Method classes first take a look at the tension that the autonomic nervous system has imprinted on the body and any patterns that have developed. The body is scanned for hardening that has developed in the fascia of the body as well as the muscles. Fascia release exercises and a series of asanas are used along with primal voice work that specifically target the unique muscles of the voice from the scalenes to the pelvic floor. Any places that are blocking the breath and voice are explored and released. Through exercises from a variety of modalities, including tuning forks, the primal, authentic voice is released and resonance is deepened so that the student experiences that “the whole body sings!” Voice work is really sound healing and the state of the voice reflects the overall health and well-being of the individual. Though the healing of the voice one truly heals more then just his or her vocal cords.
How does my voice feel?
A fun place to start to explore the voice and yoga is to, in place of the normal exhalation of breath, use the voice to sound the exhalations. By connecting the voice with yoga movements the practitioner can become aware of the breath and voice and observe if the voice is releasing of the voice from a deeper, connected place. In the following exercises inhale as deeply as you can. Let the belly open, the ribs expand and the chest lift. As you exhale let the voice connect to the breath. The voice can only go where the breath is. As you exhale on an audible ahhh make sure that your sound rides on your air. Keep the throat open with a relaxed feeling. Don’t let the swallowing muscles engage. The sound will feel as if it starts in your pelvis, moves up through the torso and glides through the throat. This is the “Authentic Voice.” Most of us use only a portion of our vocal potential. Occasionally through laughter or a vocal release of deep emotion, an unexpected powerful, body connected voice can emerge. The use of vocal yoga exercises assist the speaker in uncovering the primal voice which is truly their authentic voice. To find out more about the upcoming Vocal Yoga Teacher’s Certification, look under classes on the drop-down menu of this website. Also, feel free to e-mail me for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Singing Vinyasa Series
Singing while doing a vinyasa yoga flow series assists the voice in releasing freely from the body in its natural, authentic form. Don’t withhold the voice or try to over control the voice when doing these exercises. Also, do not push the voice. Pushing will only cause tension in the throat and result in a tighter, squeezed sound. Let the sound of the voice flow out freely in whatever primal way it chooses. Once again, notice where your voice is free and what posture it feels trapped in. Bring that information to a Vocal Yoga class and the teacher can ascertain what muscle group is hindering your voice. Once the voice is free, you can later refine it with Bel Canto singing techniques. Look for the engagement of the abdominal muscles when you breathe and sing during this vinyasa. The abdominal muscles have fingers that connect to the diaphragm and they engage to control the outflow of breath against the vibrating reed, the vocal cords. A supported voice feels connected to the abdominal muscles in the core as they safely regulate breath pressure rising up the wind pipe to the vocal cords. Enjoy!
Start standing with your palms together at your chest in prayer pose. Float your arms down to your sides and inhale as you lift your arms up overhead to meet, palm to palm. Exhale while singing a descending scale (a high to low series of tones) on “ah,” as you bring your arms out parallel to the floor and bend over toward your feet. Singing will be the exhalation as the voice rides out on the breath. Don’t be too concerned with hitting specific pitches. It is more important to get the voice moving. This descending scale should feel as easy as a sigh.
Breathe into the lower back and put your hands on your shins, rising up half way. Fold back over toward the ground singing a descending scale on “ah” again. While hanging over, see if you can feel the lower back expand with breath and then sing an ascending sliding scale (from a low pitch to a high pitch) on “ah,” starting with a low note that starts from the base of the spine, rises up the spine as you go higher up the scale and ends in the head. Relax the jaw and try hanging your tongue out of the mouth as you sing “ah.” You can even wiggle the tongue against the top teeth to make sure it relaxes and does not engage during your voiced exhalation.
Inhale and come down into plank (push up position). Relax the belly around the navel. Breathe, feeling the breath come into the belly and see if you can feel the vibration of the voice activating in the same place. The core of the body is very engaged in plank, so it can be hard to breathe, so keep releasing and inhaling into the belly. Stay in plank and try singing short, speech level or low tones on a “huh.” See if you can feel the tones originating from the belly. High tones don’t feel as natural in this posture and they may cause tightening in the throat, so stick to low, primal tones.
Inhale and come down into upward dog or cobra. Cobra is easier on your lower back. While in upward dog or cobra, breathe and make sure you feel the breath expanding the whole front of the torso on inhalation. It can be difficult to hold long notes in cobra or upward dog so sing short, speech level or low tones on “huh.” See if you can feel the abdominal muscles engage as you make sound. The belly will move out on inhalation and the abdominal muscles will move inward when you make sound. Try singing a series of rapid staccato (separated) notes on “huh.” This is a great posture for working on your lower register.
Inhale into the belly and come into downward dog. This posture is amazing for helping expand the breath capacity of the singer, so try breathing in a variety of ways before singing in this posture. While in downward dog, the core is once again very active, so consciously release the belly around the navel and breathe into it. Notice the belly goes out on inhalation and in on exhalation. Now try breathing into the sides of the torso. See if you can feel the sides of the waist expanding outward. It may feel as if the bottom ribs and the top of your hipbones are moving outward. Now try breathing just into the middle back, expanding the lower portion of the ribcage. Begin expanding the ribcage at its base and see, as you add more air, if you can expand more and more of the back all the way up to the shoulder blades. It may feel as if your back is arching up into a hump as the ribs open up. This is an awesome feeling and by opening up the back, the lungs are stretched in areas that are usually not active. The more flexibility and mobility in the ribcage, the greater your lung-power. Downward dog is comfortable to sing in. You will find that the middle and upper registers of your voice are easy to get into in downward dog. Sing some high notes on woo. Try sliding the voice up and down the scale and see if you can once again feel the voice coming from the base of the spine, traveling up the spine and ending in the head on the highest notes. High tones will create a lot of pressure in the head in downward dog, but it shows the singer where head tones or falsetto notes need to resonate. Downward dog is a fun posture to practice a song in so now try singing a song. Feel the voice riding out on the breath unobstructed by tension. If you are feeling any tension, while singing, make sure your jaw and tongue are relaxed. Shake your head to make sure the skull is loose. It is fun to stick the tongue out of the mouth and let it hang toward the ground as you sound in downward dog.
Inhale and walk your hands back to your feet. Continue to hang over and breathe. Warm down the voice with some easy “oo’s” and then inhale and slowly raise your arms upward as you come back to standing, touching your palms together overhead and finally sing an “om” on any pitches you choose as you bring your palms back to prayer pose. Your voice and body should feel warmed up for singing.
Cat and Dog
This is a great exercise to become aware of how the abdominal muscles regulate exhalation.
Come onto your hands and knees on the ground. Inhale and arch your back into dog posture as you look up. Remain in this position and release your abdominal muscles, feeling your belly hang towards the ground. Inhale and exhale a few times. Notice that the belly will move outward on inhalation and inward on exhalation. Inhale into the belly and exhale very slowly on a “shhhh.” The “shhhh” sound should engage the abdominal muscles and they will move very slowly inward. Follow the pace of the exhalation as your abdominals move inward on “shhhh,” slowly moving the belly toward the spine as you slowly arch up into cat posture. Inhale back into dog posture and repeat. Move very slowly while doing this exercise. See if you can feel the abdominals engage as they control your exhalation. Let the length of the breath control the timing of the movement of the body into a fully arched cat posture. Now try the exercise on a French “j” as in je suis. See if you can feel the vibration of tone in your belly as you do this exercise with sound.
The Specifics of Vocal Yoga
Each Vocal Yoga posture is specifically designed to open different fascia attachments in the body that affect the body in a way that is very difficult to withhold the voice. Some postures free the lower part of the voice and some the higher. Some postures are great for moving through all the available pitches of the voice, connecting it to the spine and opening the nadis and chakras. My next book: Vocal Yoga, Where Science of the Voice Meets the Science of Yoga delves deeply into each asana that benefit the voice. Here is an example below:
Chair is a wonderful pose for people with large breasts or weight on their chest that can be impeding their breath by compressing the top of the lungs. It allows the weight on the front of the ribcage to fall forward toward the ground, making it easier to breathe. Chair lifts and opens up the ribcage, lengthens the spine and strengthens and stretches your arms and shoulders.
Chair also requires the practitioner to ground their body, activating their whole torso, especially the lats, quadrates lumborum, gluteus maximus, the hip flexor muscles, the front of the thighs, the adductor muscles of the inner thighs the your calves and feet. Patsy Rodenberg, acclaimed Shakespeare teacher, said that in speech we want to stand in a slightly forward “state of readiness” posture which requires activation of the back of the calves, so this posture also strengthens our body to maintain an active state. William Vennard, singing scientist, also spoke of a “state of readiness” posture and specifically expressed that a singer should feel a stretch and activation in the back of the calves.
Recommended Modification: There are modifications for Vocal Yoga poses because, when sounding, you may be having so much fun exploring your voice that you want to stay in a pose longer than you might in a yoga class. Do pay attention if you are overworking any muscles because, when exploring the voice, it is easy to forget if a part of your body is fatiguing. The modification for Chair to start by standing against a wall. Slide down the wall until your knees are bent. Bring your back off the wall but leave your buttocks on the wall and shift your weight forward. Stretch your arms up into a 45 degree angle from the wall. If stable, bring your weight even more forward in your feet and come away from the wall.
Partner work: I especially like to have someone take hold of your outstretched hands and lift them upward and stretch them away from you as you stretch your tailbone behind you. Keep a straight line from your tailbone to your finger tips. You will get a nice stretch through the spine. Keep the head in alignment with the arms, do not lift it so the larynx can stay free. If you don’t have someone to hold your arms up you can rest your pinkies or sides of your hands on a wall.
Pitches: Once you are stable in the posture, release your belly and allow breath to fall into it. Once the breath is flowing into the belly, start making sounds by gently pulling the belly inward on “was” with rounded lips. Start with sounding low notes and slide up the scale. Try mula bandha in this posture. It is easy to activate the pelvic floor in chair, which makes it even easier to hit higher notes.
The Focus Line
A seemingly simple but very transformational exercise is “The Focus Line” in mountain pose. Stand in mountain pose. Try to increase your height by elongating the spine as if a string was pulling you upward from the top of your head. Feel the breath enter in the spaces between the vertebrae of your spine. The spine is a support for the voice and to be in touch with the voice one must also have a connection to the spine. Now inhale from as low in the body as you can and as you exhale say zaaaah and imagine the sound dropping into the base of the spine, rising up the vertebrae, rounding over or through the back of the head and coming out the third eye. This exercise is derived from Fitzmaurice Voice Work and is called “The Focus Line.” It is an amazing exercise to do while singing or reciting text. You can even imagine the sound spinning up your spine and out your third eye. With speech: try this exercise while also saying was-za was-za with your eyes open and direct the sound coming out of your third eye to a spot in front of you. Enjoy!
The Heather Lyle Vocal Yoga Method® Teacher Certification Online Program
Location: On Zoom for now
Please go to The Heather Lyle Vocal Yoga Method® Teacher Certification page for more information.
Teachers: Heather Lyle (NCVS vocologist and creator), Terra Gold (author, yoga therapist, acupuncturist and nutritionist), Jennie Morton (osteopath and performance coach), Surendra Metha (pranayama master and yoga therapist) and other Vocal Yoga certified teachers.
This certification is for voice and singing teachers, yoga teachers, movement specialists, music healers and sound healers, professional therapists, life coaches, actors, …
All certified teachers of Heather Lyle’s Vocal Yoga Method® will be listed on the Vocal Yoga Website with a link to their website.
“You are such a treasure my dear teacher. Late the other nite, past 8:30pm, I was up to read for a big Casting Director and I was pretty beat from the days rehearsal and driving to Burbank. Before entering I did my “NYC fancy acting school back stretch,” thumbs locked, leaned back until everything started shaking. Went in and blew them away, got a high score on everything all 5’s! thank you!”
– Javier Estrella, actor and musician