Find your Resonance

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“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? …Your playing small doesn’t serve the world… And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” -Marianne Williamson

When we sing, we are challenged to find our true resonance within. Every voice is unique, so imitating another’s voice is seldom helpful. So, how do we find our way when we are playing an instrument with no clear buttons or valves to press? Where is the instruction manual? In this article, I will offer some simple tips to get you started on your journey to find your resonance.

The yoga of voice begins when we surrender to the process of exploring our own unique instrument, and when our own inner teacher is our primary guide. An external teacher is important, too, especially in the beginning, to shine the light when it feels like we are groping in dark rooms inside ourselves. But ultimately, one of my primary goals as a teacher is to help you build not only muscle memory that supports healthy vocalization, but also the power of curiosity and discernment within yourself as you get to know your voice. I also provide sincere encouragement once your true voice starts to emerge, so that your self-doubt does not dampen your resonance or stop your breath. For it is often so jarring at first to hear your own free voice – many of my students say things like, “Is that really me?” or “Whose voice is that?” when their full resonance emerges. I can identify with them – when my voice first blossomed, I recall feeling extreme surprise coupled with fear that my voice was too big or too harsh. But eventually I got more used to the idea of “taking up more space” and letting my voice shine. There are still times when I’m plagued with self-doubt, but I don’t let that stop me – I thank the nagging voices for sharing, then re-focus on that teacher within. I let that teacher guide me toward my true resonance once again, and in that way I am practicing self-assertion and letting my voice be heard! I feel so honored to guide my students in this process; to help them build their own inner teacher, and to empower them to discover and share their unique, beautiful voice!

The first step is to focus on the sensations in your body – how it feels when you sing – rather than what it sounds like to your own ears. We are never getting a good read of how our own voice sounds! So pay attention to how it feels, and then ask yourself these questions:

Where do I feel my resonance (a buzzy vibration)? Some possible locations could be – your chest, your throat, the front of your mouth, your palette, your cheekbones, your “third eye” (forehead), or even the crown of your head or the back of your neck. It’s all fair game, as long as you don’t feel a strain in the throat. Pay special attention to sensations in the “resonator” of your head – the lifted soft palette, and the area behind the eyes and nose. If you’re having trouble finding any buzz, try humming on an m, n, or ‘ng,’ then try and keep that buzz going as you open to a vowel like “ah.” I also encourage my students to feel an “inner smile” or “smize” (a smile through your eyes!). Different cues work for different people, so it is helpful to have a teacher’s feedback in this process – be sure and communicate with them what works for you and what doesn’t. Observe the sensations as you explore your voice; stay in the present moment, and stay curious!

Is my breath making it up to my resonator? It’s hard to separate these paired concepts of breath and resonance – their dance is what fuels the magic of vocal production. Try focusing on two separate points in the body, such as your lower abdomen and your cheekbones, or your ribs and your palette, in order to facilitate “healthy communication” between your breath production and resonance.

How can this be easier? Oftentimes, there are muscle groups that want to “help” or protect when we are engaging in this activity that is so vulnerable. Common culprits are your jaw, tongue, and muscles in the neck and upper shoulders. When you notice these muscles trying to “help,” thank them, and invite them to soften. Then, re-focus on those areas in your body that are the true helpers, like your ribs and soft palette.

How can I more fully embrace my true resonance? Let your breath and the sensations in your body lead you back to the present moment. Remember, your free voice will most likely be bigger than you expected, and most definitely different that you imagined. Let go of expectations and embrace curiosity as you explore, guided by your own inner teacher. Then, take your discoveries into your daily life and let your voice be heard!

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Singing and the Chakras

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Singing and the chakras

When we sing, energy is flowing more than normal. You can probably feel it, even if you’re not sure how you feel about energy or chakras – there’s no denying that “buzzy” feeling through your head, or maybe chest or throat. There’s more air flowing, you’re hopefully breathing deeper, and the vibrations are causing especially your upper chakras, or energy centers, to open up. 

As a singer, voice teacher, and dedicated yogini and yoga teacher, I’ve been spending a lot of time exploring the places where the paths of yoga and singing intersect. In my exploration, I’ve found more connections than expected, and one area that is especially rich in its lessons and benefits is the chakras. Simply focusing on each chakra at a time while you sing can be beneficial and fun. Here’s a brief guide to start your exploration:

Root chakra: Red. Base of the spine. Issues of Health and Wealth.

As you sing, focus on the area at the base of the spine. Feel your feet, and feel rooted-down to the earth. Try singing a low pitch on the syllable “LAM,” and notice where you feel the vibrations. Make sure the breath is flowing and the spine is tall and neutral, and breathe whenever you need to. On the inhalation, feel a dropping of the pelvic floor. On the exhalation as you sing, gently draw pelvic floor and low belly in and up. If you’re ready to delve a little deeper, ask yourself the question: “What gets in the way of abundant health and wealth? How can I gently acknowledge what’s in the way (fear, perhaps?) and invite abundance more deeply into my life?”

Naval chakra: Orange. Issues of creation, sexuality, feelings and control.

Raise your pitch slightly and focus on the area around your naval. Invite softness to that area as you sweep the low belly in and up as you exhale and sing. Try chanting the syllable “VAM” and picturing a bright orange color. Ask yourself, “How does the creative, generative energy manifest itself in my life? How can I express my feelings in a healthy way? How can I surrender to what wants to emerge rather than using excessive control?”

Sacral chakra: Yellow. The area between and just below the ribs. Issues of personal power and taking action.

Raise your pitch slightly and focus on the area between and just below your ribs. Picture a bright yellow light emanating and pulsating from this area, perhaps as you chant the seed sound “RAM.” See if you can keep your ribs expanded as you exhale and sweep the low belly in and up – imagine you are spreading your wings! Ask yourself, “How does my personal strength and individuality manifest? How can I let myself more readily take right action?”

Heart chakra: Green. The center of the chest. Issues of love, empathy and connection.

Raise your pitch slightly and focus on the center of your chest, picturing a beautiful green light. Try chanting the seed sound “YAM.” Let yourself feel love for another, and also yourself, as you keep this area open and expanded. Normally, we tend to collapse slightly through this area when we exhale – see if you can keep the heart, and whole chest area, open as you vocalize. Ask yourself, “How can I invite more unconditional love and connection into my life?” 

Throat chakra: Blue. Seed sound: “HAM,” pronounced “Haaahhm.” Connected with speaking your truth, expressing yourself, being authentic.

Raise your pitch higher to any pitch that doesn’t produce strain and feels right. Try chanting the seed sound, or just explore the vibrations you feel as you exhale and vocalize on any vowel. As you sing, imagine a light blue light emanating from your throat. Invite softness and open-ness through the throat as you allow the vibrations to “bypass” your throat – in other words, authenticity will naturally occur when the lower chakras are aligned and the upper ones are open. This chakra is the transition point between lower and higher energy centers, and ideally we feel nothing in the throat – it is floating like a buoy on the sea of air. Ask yourself, “How can I be more true to my word? How can I express myself more fully and authentically?”

Third Eye chakra: Darker Blue, Indigo. Seed sound: “OM.” Connected with intuition, unity with all other living things.

Explore higher in your range without strain. Picture a beautiful dark blue light emanating from the middle of your skull – normally people think about the middle of the forehead for this chakra, but see if you can become aware of a spot a few inches back from your forehead. Lift the soft palette and imagine the resonance “spinning” out and down from that location. Detach from any desire to sound a certain way – approach the resonance you feel through your head with curiosity. It is an illusion that we are all separate – ask yourself, “How can I invite more unity into my life?”

Crown chakra: Purple or White. Seed sound: “OM” again, or simply “NG.” This is our connection with the universe and the divine.

Explore aiming out the crown of the head and releasing a high, pure tone. If it doesn’t seem so pure to you at first, simply observe the sensations without judgment and keep breathing and exploring vocally, as long as there is no strain. If you feel strain at any point during these exercises, stop vocalizing and simply chant internally (imagine yourself chanting the seed sound; “audiate” the sound) while paying attention to the breath. Ask yourself, “Am I able to recognize and trust divine guidance when it appears? How can I connect more deeply with my own higher self?”

So in general when we sing anything, we want to stay grounded through the root chakra, stable through the sacral and heart chakra, mobile through naval chakra, open through the throat, and resonating in the third eye area. Simple “soft” awareness on the crown chakra helps to keep us aligned. 

Thanks for listening, and have fun exploring!