My daughter Lucia recently added voice lessons to her busy schedule. She's learning how to play Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" on piano and her passion for singing sparked her teacher to add voice lessons to her repertoire. Lucia is a fast and voracious reader and her singing takes on much of the same run-on quality. Before her voice lessons, Lucia would attempt to sing four lines of a song without a single breath, resulting in barely a whisper by the end of the stanza. Lucia has a lovely voice, and now she's learning to use her breath to get some volume behind it.
At her last voice lesson, as Lucia sang, "We could have had it all-lll-lll", her teacher Gretta offered a technique for hitting the high and low notes. "For high notes," Gretta instructed, "bend your knees a little bit. And for low notes, raise your eyebrows." Lucia followed along, striving to get her breathing, her bending and her raising in sync. "These tools are like tricks for the mind." Gretta instructed. "When you are trying to reach a high note that seems out of range, you bend your knees slightly to decrease your anxiety, thereby helping to stay calm and get your voice to sing the high note. And, when you want to go low, you do the opposite, raising your eyebrows a little bit to create the same mental trick."
It's a lot like how yoga works. To get strength behind any of the postures, you have to learn how to breathe. Trying to do a whole side of Half-Moon without breathing will surely result in collapse. And when your body is telling you that your heart is going to pound out of your chest, you focus on yourself and find your normal breathing, reversing the direction of your mind. So, instead of heading to the fight or flight state that the mind often takes when the heart rate elevates, the mind stays calm, even when the body is not.
My favorite thing in the world right now is witnessing my normally shy little eight-year-old bean pole daughter find her voice, watching her belt out a rock song like she's totally in command, embracing it, loving it, finding her inner-Adele. When I'm teaching, I feel a similar throng of pride and joy watching students find their groove, get their footing, experience their strength in their yoga postures. Find it singing, find it in yoga, find your voice.