Staying up with my grandchild on her first night back from hospital, her father was fascinated at all the stretching movements she was making, like a yoga workout. So he looked it up and was fascinated to learn that in these early days her brain is connecting with the muscles in her little body letting them know what they can do, building neural pathways so that her body will know what to do and how to develop as she grows.
For me, it is always watching the little tummies of newborns go up and down as they breathe fully, beautifully and effectively filling the whole lungs so that they get optimum air all the better to fuel their growing process and of course, their voice (literally) in the world. The little ‘mews’ that come out are her trying out her vocal capacity, hearing it for the first time, reading for some more full throttled cries that are her message to the work of hunger, tiredness or discomfort.
As Jeanette Nelson says in The Voice Exercise Book “the voice is an expression of self like no other”.
Working as I have been recently, with 9 year-old children, I have noticed that their tummies are often no longer rising and falling with the beautiful full action of the lungs activated by the diaphragm muscle. When I ask them to take a deep breath, they raise their shoulders up and tighten their chest, ensuring that the air doesn’t completely fill their lungs and stays in their upper chest where the power in the voice is constrained. It’s not enough space – without a free flow of oxygen through the body we get tense and anxious. We are meant to breath diaphragmatically.
Further down the line, I work with adults who feel constrained in how they speak and are even afraid of their own voice, let alone having the confidence that they can use it for their benefit and for that of others. When we ‘mangle’ our voices by not breathing properly, the tone than comes out distorts the meaning of the words leading to being misunderstood, and not heard. This sets up a chain reaction, so that we become stressed, and imagine only negative reactions to our words.
Photo by asier_relampagoestudio at Freepik
Why has this happened? What happens to us in our lives is imprinted on our minds and bodies, which of course are intrinsically linked. If we are told a lot to: “be quiet”; “don’t blow your own trumpet”; or to be a particular type of person for the benefit of others, it tolls on us. We tense up, tighten; and thereby constrict our breathing and so our voice in the world.
I work with young people and adults to re-connect with the free and strong diaphragmatic breathing that we do naturally as a baby. To re-discover the power of their voices, imbuing the words they use with meaning.
If you feel that you have lost the power in your voice or that you aren’t heard enough, I want to give you back a non-judgemental view of your own presence, your sound in the world. Once you are literally in touch with and in control of your own voice, initiated in your own body, and fuelled by your own breath, then you can look to how to connect with others.
The majority of us adults have grown up constricting our breathing in this way, reducing the power of our voice and importantly, making us feel anxious and feeling at the mercy of the challenges and fears in the outside world. I am not prescribing a care-free life through diaphragmatic breathing (I couldn’t even if I wanted to), but one where we re-claim the art of breathing perfectly, as the newborns do, so that we can thrive, stretch our muscles, test out our voice, and learn to love our presence in the world.
I am running three Masterclasses in January 2021 that you may be interested in, so if you would like to find out more, and know how I can help you to gain confidence (and actually enjoy) speaking, contact Fiona Whytehead at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.locuscoaching.com.