Windsong Voice and Yoga

Educating and Empowering Through Music, Movement & Yoga

Steadiness and Ease:

Finding Balance in Yoga and Singing

Photo Credit: Raimond Klaviers

Welcome!

 Hi, I'm Dr. Madeline Miskie. In my writing, I focus on the connections between the mind, body and voice and share singing tips and inspiration.  Thanks for reading!

There are many aspects of yoga; both physical, psychological, philosophical and for some, even spiritual that have potential overlap with the practice of singing and studying the voice. Today I’ll touch on one of the most basic philosophical principles, taken directly from the Yoga Sutras (Book Two, no. 46), which states, “Asana is a steady, comfortable posture.” (translation taken from Sri Swami Satchidananda’s translation of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali ).

In my own words, this simply means that when I am in a yoga posture (or when I am singing, for that matter), I am aiming for BOTH stability AND comfort.  In terms of stability, I am talking about standing in a way that feels firmly grounded and balanced, but also easy and free.   In yoga and singing, this stability is what keeps me from falling over in a given posture and also prevents me from standing with droopy posture onstage.  Conversely, finding ease and comfort in my body while singing / practicing yoga allows me to:
1. Sustain my energy for a longer period of time
2. Actually enjoy my practice
3. Release tension / free up my voice
 
In my own experience, this practice of balancing effort and ease aims at a larger goal: EFFICIENCY.   Prioritizing efficiency in movement and singing is incredibly useful because it helps:
1. Minimize risk for potential injury from overuse / abuse (mind, body and voice!)
2. Conserve vocal / physical resources (Which we have a limited supply of!)

How to implement this in  your singing / teaching / yoga practice: 

 

 

When you are in the practice room, rehearsal, yoga class, SIMPLY ask yourself 

 

•What effort do I need right now?  What is necessary?

***AND***

•What effort can I let go of? 

 

It’s NORMAL for people to over-effort (or under-effort!) when they first begin practicing yoga (or singing!), but gradually, as the body becomes more and more accustomed to the postures and sequences, the awareness deepens and becomes more refined.  A beginner yogi approaching a posture like warrior II might be thinking: “Where do I position my legs?  How are my arms oriented?  Where do I look? etc.”  Similarly, a voice student might ask, “Was that phrase in-tune?  Am I relaxing my jaw? Did I time my breathing appropriately?” 

 

With repetition over time, the shift may move to “How can I even out my breathing so that my exhalations match my inhalations?”  or “What energetic shift could I make to connect more to the floor?”  Perhaps eventually mental chatter fades into the background and the attention is totally absorbed; if only for a few seconds or moments.  

 

 

Similarly, in singing and voice training we are also looking for such a balance.  Although the physical coordination for singing happens on a more subtle level (i.e. MUCH smaller movements J), there is an undeniable parallel.  A brand new voice student might tense up the abdomen, lift the shoulders and raise the eyebrows in an attempt to sing a high phrase.  Over time, with increased self-awareness and guidance, the student discovers unnecessary patterns and is able to re-train.   

 

 

If you believe that a singer’s voice is ‘uncovered’ or ‘released’ rather than ‘built’ (from an inside-out versus outside-in perspective), meaning that the ‘voice’ of an individual already exists in the same way that all of the information necessary for the maturation of an oak tree is perfectly contained within an acorn, then it seems natural to frame voice study in this way: i.e. to FIRST discover (or uncover) the obstacles (the over-efforting – or perhaps under-efforting) the trying, the tensing, pushing, forcing, negative beliefs, misconceptions, etc.) and THEN to work to re-pattern and re-frame towards greater balance and efficiency.  

 

 

Often, singers get discouraged when they discover for themselves that that they are squeezing the throat, getting stuck in their head, or tensing the tongue – these impediments can be a source of great frustration, however I challenge students to CELEBRATE the obstacles (stay with me) because they show us the next step in the learning process.  Once you discover the obstacle, you have the POWER to work through it and FREE YOURSELF from it and move to the next layer.  I like to think of this pursuit as a MASSIVE treasure hunt!  I actually get excited when I find patterns of tension or mental / physical blocks (as crazy as that may seem!).  For me, it usually feels like a discovery; like finding a missing puzzle piece or solving a riddle.  I encourage you and (if you have them) your voice students to re-frame obstacles in this way! 

Photo Credit: Amauri Mejia

“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.” ~ Closing Mantra

Copyright © Madeline Miskie