As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I tend to silently analyze people's speech, especially when it's in a different "speaking" environment, like presentations, radio announcers and... yoga instructors. It's automatic and usually not a huge deal for me to just let it go, a river of analysis quietly bubbling in the background (hanging out with the whine of my tinnitus- think you can't get a hearing loss in your twenties from playing in a band?? think again).
I just have a hard time ignoring painful sounding vocal fold abuse. Yep, abusing those precious instruments that allow us to voice our thoughts and ideas in the most rich and beautifully emotive tones. Quick little anatomy-physiology lesson (very quick I promise):
Vocal folds aren't actually "chords". They are these pretty little muscle and ligaments (and shiny membranes). Actually making sound is uber complex requiring appropriate breath, pressure, muscle and ligament timing and about a zillion bones, cartilage and organs (um lungs, brain).
Did ya know that the primary purpose of our vocal folds aren't to make sound, but to protect our airways? Or that our larynx actually moves down in infancy to allow for speech. That's why babies can swallow and breathe at the same time... and one of the reasons why more complex speech sounds (other than cooing) occur at a certain time-frame in an infant's development.
Anyhoo, point is- vocal folds are precious and special. We shouldn't be messing with them.
One of the things a Speech-Language Pathologist is qualified to do is treat voice disorders. Sure this could be because someone had cancer and half their larynx removed due to smoking.... but it is also often due to just plain ol' abuse. Paediatric and adults.
Very common clients? Teachers... of any sort.
Yoga teachers are a prime example of how taking care of your voice may not even factor into the regular preparation and career care that goes into becoming and remaining an excellent yoga instructor. Most instructors use their voice to teach and although breath (pranayama) is a huge portion of yoga, I hear a lot of not so great habits during class.
Yoga instructors, even more so than lecturing teachers, alter their voice in order to instruct. It's not your "chatting" voice, it's your yoga voice. Don't believe me? Record yourself and have a listen. You most certainly don't prolong your vowels, change the intonation of your syllables, add extra "breathiness" to your phrases or lower your register when chatting about the weather. (or at least I hope not, awkward).
These changes to the typical way we talk mean that our muscles that support phonation (making our vocal folds vibrate) have to work differently and harder, increasing tension in our muscles and ligaments. Our vocal folds can move awkwardly or come together more forcefully causing friction and even polyps and nodules (little ugly bumps and blisters) to form there. Soreness of voice, neck and shoulder tension even headaches and voice loss can result.
That's why, all you yoga instructors out there, need to really take care of your voice.
Here are some little tricks to keep in mind to keep your yogic communication instrument healthy and mucous-y:
- Hydrate! Drink LOTS of water while teaching. Before teaching, after teaching, during teaching. Drink a whole Klean Kanteen-full over that 60-90 minute class. I can't stress this enough. Not only will you be hydrating your throat and vocal folds, but you'll be speaking less. Consider that you don't have to fill the class with your voice all the time. Take some space.
- That water? Not cold s'il vous plait. Lukewarm or room temp is best. Shocking to the muscles otherwise.
- Don't clear your throat. It's so hard on your poor little vocal folds. Trust me, they don't like it. Instead, take a sip of water or a few deep breaths.
- Record yourself teaching and ask a trusted, non judge-y friend to take a listen. Decide if your voice is: a)lower, b) breathy c)harsher d) different tonally.
- No whispering. Or added breathiness. When we whisper (or add a Marilyn Monroe type voice) we're seriously tensing our muscles, including our vocal folds.
- Support all your phrases with a nice strong "belly" breathing. Give yourself time to take adequate breath before speaking. It's not a race on filling in the anatomy of each asana.
- Warm up and rest your vocal folds prior and post classes. Some easy "up the scale, down the scale" humming before and little to no speaking after. They need to recover- you worked them out!
- Ohm carefully, with adequate breath and in a register that isn't too deep. If your normal voice isn't Crash Test Dummies sounding, why would your Ohm be that way too?
- Your losing your voice
- Your voice sounds scratchy and has phonation breaks (like going through puberty for a guy)
- Your voice has changed recently
- It hurts to talk, or your voice hurts after class
This message has been brought to you by your friendly neighbourhood SLP-Yogini :)
article copyright of EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com