1. I didn’t make it up.
Although what I offer as a voice and yoga instructor is unique, there isn’t really much purely original material in my teaching bag of tricks. My primary teachers have been Linda Brice and Nancy Olson Chatalas (voice) and Ki McGraw, Bob Smith, and Julie Lawrence (yoga.) I’ve had other voice and yoga teachers who have been very important on my path, but those five gave me most of the holistic teaching tools that I use today. I have learned so much from them; my approach simply combines the tools I gained from those master teachers, along with my intuition, and years of personal singing experience. Which brings me to my next point:
2. I am my own laboratory.
I am extremely devoted to my own singing and yoga practice – as in, I practice daily, sometimes several times per day. One might say I am always “in practice” because I try to be mindful of my alignment, breath, and how I use my voice at all times. It is through this mindfulness and in these practice sessions that I connect with my deepest self and discover tools that help me work through my own challenges – challenges that are often reflected back to me in my students. In that way I am all the more equipped to handle a student’s vocal or physical challenge; most often I have been through it myself. Yes, I’ve been blessed with many challenges to work through!
3. It’s not singing while doing yoga.
Sorry to disappoint you! This seems to be the thing most people think of right away when I mention “Vocal Yoga.” Although I like the idea of some gentle singing in certain poses (and yes, I have tried it!) that is not my strength as a teacher. I find that I create the best experience for a student when I start them off with yoga, then breath work, then singing – and often times we return to certain yoga poses that will help awaken their support muscles for singing, or make a needed alignment adjustment. Once we are singing, I direct the student’s awareness in a yoga-like way which allows them to explore their unique voice in a similar way as to how one explores their body while engaging in asana practice.
4. It’s about the process, not the product.
Okay, you’ve heard this one before in many other contexts. But truly, us westerners need to be reminded of this over and over! Especially when we sing, so many of us tend to have a goal in mind of how we want to sound, and we get discouraged when we’re not able to achieve that sound right away. Just like you wouldn’t want to attempt Hanumanasana (full splits) in your second yoga session, it takes time (and regular practice) to open up your voice to get ready to sing that belty pop song or tricky aria you’ve been wanting to try. Everyone’s voice is completely unique, and yet there are principles and laws of physics we all must follow. Having a knowledgeable and supportive teacher to guide you is essential in “getting to know” your unique voice and how it truly sounds, and feels. How it feels to you is actually much more important in this process of getting to know your voice, and letting it be free. And there is so much self-awareness to be gained in this journey – so don’t rush this beautiful process of unfolding!
5. Everyone can sing!
Just like everyone has a body and can explore it through yoga, everyone has a voice and can explore it through vocal yoga (or whatever you want to call your mindful singing practice.) If you can speak, you can sing! And everyone deserves to explore that very special part of themselves. Just because a choir teacher in fourth grade told you to lip-sync the words, just because one of your parents told you that you can’t carry a tune in a bucket, just because you had a bad karaoke experience – that is NO REASON not to simply get the tools you need to experience the joy of singing! The phenomenon of anyone being “tone deaf” is simply a myth. Yes, some people have been “gifted” with a bit more of a musical ear, or a bit more musical exposure in their childhood, than the rest of us. But does the existence of certain talented gymnasts or yogis stop you from going to yoga class? No, because you know that, barring certain injuries or disabilities, we can all learn to do downward dog and eventually our hamstrings will stop screaming at us. Well, it’s the same with singing – under the guidance of a skilled teacher, your voice will start doing what you’re asking it to. And a free voice is an incredible gift – both to yourself, and to your community!