Find The Voice
Are the Grammy’s getting you thinking about your own voice? Well, obviously there’s only one Adele, but the rest of us can learn to use our voices for maximum expression and, it turns out, better alignment in our bodies.
Next weekend, Body Mind Centering teachers Roxlan Moret and Diane Elliot will be leading a workshop at Samamkaya Yoga Back Care & Scoliosis Collective that explores how to free the voice and breath in a way that supports the spine, organs and nerves. Elysha Lenkin spoke with Roxlan to learn more about this workshop.
Elysha Lenkin: Explain how the voice works in relationship to our body’s alignment.
Roxlyn Moret: We sometimes think of our voices as just being the vocal chords, the vocal folds, and they create vibrations. These vibrations resonate through the cavities in the body, and one we will be particularly focusing on is the pharynx that is behind the nose in the back of the throat and the mouth. Constrictions and tightness in this area are really right at the top of our spine. So when you hear somebody with a big voice, that voice is finding resonating surfaces not just in the pharynx - in the cavities in the body, but in the bones and in the muscles as well. Those can be resonating surfaces.
So when we look at voice, it can have a powerful impact when we let the vibration go through our body. And where we have physical restrictions, our vibration will be blocked and stopped. So when you think about an opera singer or Adele, and you look at the bigness of the voice, it’s because it’s not just coming from those vocal folds. It’s coming from a really deep place in the body. The leading American choreographer Eric Hawkins used to say “If you really want to move, then you really want to be able to find the voice moving through your body. “
It’s so interesting because a woman who has known me for 40 years came up to me after this workshop in Portland last year, and said ‘Roxlan, if somebody had said that you would be teaching voice when I met you 40 years ago, you could have knocked me over with a feather!’
EL: Why was she so surprised?
RM: Because I didn’t have a voice when I met her. I found my voice! The sound of my voice, and the ability to teach, and to express vocally was really fascinating for her.
EL: In this workshop will you help people find their voices?
RM: We are going to be creating an environment for people to find their voice. Finding one’s voice can be a great big adventure because of all of the aspects of voice - the emotional and the psychological components. The larynx, the mechanics of how the vocal folds work with the cricoid, arytenoid and thyroid cartilage. And then the pharynx, the resonating chamber and the vibration of sound through your body. So there are a lot of pieces, and a lot of ways to figure out what is yours in to your voice. It’s not going to be the same for everybody.
EL: How do you address the fact that the experience won’t be the same for everybody?
RM: We have a structure to the workshop. We will be looking at all of these different pieces, and we will be having explorations. We will be integrating asana. They’ll be doing free movement exploration. There will be discussion. There will be groups. There will be questions. Reflections, time for them to think about their voice. I do these workshops with different pieces, different little inroads, because each piece will resonate differently with people.
EL: You and Diane taught this material two years ago in North Carolina and then in Portland last year. How has the workshop evolved?
RM: My ability to palpate and give directions has gotten more clear with the arytenoid and
thyroid cartilage, and my understanding of the vocal mechanism has deepened. When I say understanding, I mean not just on the page, but being able to feel it in my own body and hear it and touch it in somebody else’s.
EL: Who is this workshop for?
RM: I am quite surprised at the range of people that we have. From people who have a lot of experience with voice, professional singers. To people who are yogis and have a lot experience with movement, and are very interested in looking at developing their voice. And we have some people who are curious and don’t have big experience with asana or voice. Everybody has got experience coming in. Some are teachers and have a lot more experience than others.
EL: Sounds like it could be really helpful for those interested in public speaking.
RM: And guess what? Most of us end up speaking in public at some time or another. It’s really great for people who are teachers, people who speak in groups, people who give interviews. What comes through our voice is really important.
EL: What type of work will you do with the breath?
RM: We will look at the relationship between breath and voice. Not only will I talk about the external respiration - that’s the inhalation and exhalation, but I’ll also talk about the cellular breath, the fluid breath that every cell breathes. I may be doing some work on what we call the omental breath - embryological breathing. So we will be looking at different aspects of the breath, mostly to get people to a very relaxed place, and a very embodied place where they have more internal awareness.
EL: You and Diane met while studying with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. Will you incorporate Body Mind Centering into this workshop?
RM: This work that Diane and I are presenting is very influenced by Bonnie. We take an embodied anatomical approach which is exactly like the Body Mind Centering work. It’s like this is what it looks like on paper, what does it feel like in your body? Can you touch it in your body?
To find one’s embodied voice, to find the clarity of your voice, the truth of your voice,