How Emotions Affect Your Voice and The Power of Self-Acceptance

Have you heard the phrase, “It’s not what you say but how you say it that matters” before? Have you ever noticed how your voice changes when you feel certain emotions? Like how different your voice sounds when you’re angry, happy or sad? We certainly all know the feeling of words getting stuck in our throats when our emotions are high, but what can we do about it?

As humans, we’re emotional creatures. Our emotions influence not only our minds but also our bodies. They produce energy, which in turn significantly affect our body and therefore our voice. And this is where the healing power of self-acceptance becomes very important in the way we express ourselves.

Where Emotions Arise & How This Affects Our Sound

In order to understand how emotions affect your voice, you first need to know how emotions arise within the body in the first place. 

Emotions in The Body

The place where most emotions emerge in the body is the limbic system. When an emotion is activated here, a type of chain reaction takes place through which nerve signals tell the body how to behave on the basis of that emotion. As the voice is produced by the body and in the body, when the body reacts according to a specific emotion, that reaction directly affects the voice: The nerve signals related to the emotion are transmitted to the muscles that control breathing as well as to the jaw, neck, shoulders, tongue and larynx. Consequently, there is a direct physical connection to the vocal folds.

Emotions & Sound Production

Our ability to produce sound, as well as to allow this sound out of of body, is impacted. What all of this means is that everything you feel impacts the muscles mechanically involved in producing your voice. On top of that there is a psychological element that comes into play. When an emotion aries there is most often a belief or story in our minds connected to that feeling. Meaning that not only do your emotions impact the mechanical production of your voice, they also affect the stories you tell yourself in any moment, and those stories affect your ability to speak or sing.

The Effect of Emotions In Self-Expression

Unfortunately, sometimes that may look something like this in real life: You lie in bed late at night and think about exactly what you want to say to your boss the following day. You mentally go through everything sentence by sentence. Then the day comes, you’re now standing in front of your boss and…instead of speaking confidently like you imagined you would, your voice begins to quiver and shake, and your pitch rises!

Another situation that most of you probably know of: You want to talk to your partner about a problem in the relationship and despite your preparation, you don’t come out sounding confident as you speak but rather the exact opposite. Your knees feel like jelly, your voice sounds dry, brittle and gets stuck in your throat. Instead of speaking your truth like you wanted to, you swallow back the words.

Or what about this situation: you’ve just taught a beautiful yoga class and your students are lying in Savasana. You’ve been practicing a mantra that you’d like to sing for them as they rest, but you get so nervous before opening your mouth that when you do your voice cracks and you’re unable to sing like you normally would if you weren’t in public.

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Emotions Guide Your Voice

Your voice is guided by emotions. Whether it’s for speaking, teaching or singing – in fact anytime you use your voice for anything – your emotions have an influence on:

  • The pitch you express yourselves in
  • The speed you say things at
  • The strength or weakness heard in the voice
  • The melody of the voice
  • The breathiness of the voice
  • The way words are articulated and emphasised 
  • Even the words you choose to say, or not say!

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Self-Acceptance is The Key to Vocal Freedom

Self-acceptance is a long process that can be intimidating at times. It means to accept every facet of your being, everything that makes you who you are and all the things that brought you to this point in your life. It also means to accept not only the outer circumstances of your life but also everything going on in your inner world, now. Your thoughts. Your feelings. All of it. I know how challenging this can be but it’s necessary. If we fail to practice self-acceptance we effectively disown parts of ourselves causing disruptions within.

As your voice is a part of you, anytime you fail to own who you are in this moment, you take power away from your voice. You effectively shut down apart of it, as you shut down a part of yourself. 

When We Don’t Accept Ourselves This Happens

Not accepting ourselves means being unable to accept our thoughts and feelings in the present moment. I’ve experienced this at times when I felt like I had to feel a certain way towards a situation, when in reality I was repressing my true feelings. The thing is, in some way or another the emotions we hold back will come out whether we like it or not! I see this in myself when I feel angry at someone but rather than constructively sharing that anger with them, I try to keep my voice calm and not show what I’m feeling inside.

But what happens is that my voice ends up shaking from the anger. I then feel frustrated because I wasn’t able to control the sound of my voice in that moment and hide my anger. And this frustration then leads to a split being caused within me which further impacts my voice. Often it makes my voice break, causing me to not be able to express myself at all. Then I feel incredibly frustrated, shut down and sad, leading to even more frustration and the cycle continues!

An important lesson I’ve learned through years of singing and practicing mindfulness is how crucial self-acceptance is for achieving vocal freedom. By accepting ourselves and our emotions at every moment in time, we become whole. Our emotions will start to impact us positively, energising and enlivening our voice. The act of self-acceptance is a truly nurturing practice which has only positive benefits when we speak or sing.

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Using Emotions as Food for Your Voice

Next, I want to show you a voice exercise from my online course for yoga teachers and students. It will allow you to actively use your emotions as a source of energy for your voice, whether for speaking or singing.

  1. Begin by sitting in a comfortable place with no disturbances.
  2. Close down your eyes and turn your attention within. Focus on your breath. Observe the rhythm of your breath as it moves in and out of your body.
  3. Now focus on what you’re feeling in this moment. Don’t try to influence it. Just be aware of it and let it exist within you.
  4. Next, imagine this feeling as a living and moving energy. Watch it as it moves within you. If you like, you can even see it as a colour.
  5. Observe where you feel this energy in your body. Again, don’t try to change or influence it. Simply allow it to be there as it is.
  6. Now take a loving breath in and chant Om. As you do this try and imagine the energy moving from where it’s located in your body and merging with your voice. Let your feelings be carried away through the vibrations of your voice.
  7. Repeat step 6 at least five times. 
  8. When you’ve finished, breathe deeply into your belly and exhale with a sigh. Then slowly open your eyes.

For me, this is an incredibly great way to show self-love and self-acceptance to myself and my voice. Accepting our emotions as they are and working with them rather than against them when we speak or sing, enables us to embrace ourselves in any situation. Expressing ourselves, whether for speaking or singing, from this place of wholeness is truly empowering.

Do You Have Questions? Then Get In Touch

If you’re curious about your voice and have questions, then I’d love to hear from you. With over 15 years of experience in yoga, voice training and professional singing, I’ll teach you to use your voice in a fun and empowering way to overcome any obstacles you have and to express yourself freely when you speak or sing.

Photo of Kirbanu performing during a Yin Yoga class at Hot Yoga Koeln to yoga and voice training students

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