Why You Need to do Voice Exercises Before Teaching Yoga
Teaching a 90-minute yoga class, teaching a number of classes in a day, giving workshops, or leading retreats or training programs, requires vocal stamina. And just like anything else in the body that requires stamina, we need to prepare ourselves correctly for the experience in advance through voice exercises.
As a yoga teacher doing voice exercises before your class or teaching day is essential to help you actively engage your breathing muscles, position your voice correctly, and align with your energetic intention for the class you wish to give. Doing voice exercises ten to fifteen minutes before teaching maximises your chance of giving a class where your students understand you and are able to come on the journey with you.
As a yoga teacher, your voice sets the tone for your class and voice exercises are the tools you need to use to activate your tone. When your tone is relaxed, your students will be relaxed too. When you tone is upbeat and dynamic, your students will feel energised. How your students experience your voice during class directly affects their time, and their level of enjoyment, on the mat with you. And doing between five to fifteen minutes of correctly designed voice exercises to warm up, bring out and support your teaching voice, will make all of the difference in your success.
”Your voice creates the energy of the practice.Ellen BoyleHatha Teacher (Yoga Tree, Seattle)
Activate Your Body Before These Voice Exercises
I recommend doing these short alignments and stretches just before doing the voice exercises bellow, to maximise your receptivity:
Stretch Your Body
You may not have a lot of time. You may have just driven across town after your last class finished and are rushing through your sequence prep before your next class… The thing is, time isn’t borrowed, it’s created. So when you can, make a little time before your voice exercises to roll out your mat and do a few slow flows or sun salutations to warm up and activate your body consciousness. I recommend adding in a few side-stretches to engage your intercostal muscles as well as a few heart openers like camel to open up the chest area.
Stretch Your Neck & Shoulders
To prepare for the voice exercises, stretch your neck by rolling your head forward in slow semi-circles from your left ear to your right ear and back again. I go through a much more detailed process on this in my online voice course for yoga teachers.
Correct Your Posture
Finally, before beginning the simple voice exercises bellow, sit for a moment in meditation position and focus on your alignment. Our voice is within us so correct posture is crucial to be able to use our voices correctly whilst teaching. Check that your spine is straight, your belly is soft, your shoulders are relaxed and gentle roll down your back, your throat is open, your head lifts and both your jaw and tongue are relaxed.
“If you have vocal tension, whether your students recognise it on a conscious level or not, you're bringing tension into your class.”Ellen BoyleHatha Teacher (Yoga Tree, Seattle)
Voice Exercises for Yoga Teachers
This is a 10 minute routine I encourage all of the yoga teachers who train their voices with me to do before teaching yoga class:
Align with your Breath
Place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly. Slowly breathe in and out. As you do, lengthen both your inhalation and exhalation. Imagine they are the waves of the ocean gently rising and falling. Feel yourself relax and mindfully connect to your intention for your class. Imagine the sequences you will take your students through, visualise the energy of the room and how they will feel. Visualise how you will use your voice to guide the space and feel how this feels.
Activate your Breath
Sit in a comfortable position for you to do Kapalabhati Pranayama. Do two rounds of Kapalabhati for one minute each with a 30 second pause in between.
Activate your Voice
Warm up your voice using “brr” and “nn” trills. Vocalise each up and down the length of your vocal range. If you haven’t made a “brr” sound before, imagine the sound you make when you’re very cold.
Position your voice
Speaking involves resonance. When we resonate with ease, our speech comes out easily. We have projection power without needing force. One of the best exercises for resonance is to hum. Sound out a “hmm” on a comfortable tone for you within your speaking range. Imagine your vocal energy shines like a halo above and through the top of your head. Imagine it vibrating on your forehead. Imagine it vibrating through your skull. To find out more about this, take a look at my free Webinar where I guide you through the process of correctly using resonance.
Practice a Tongue-Twister
Try saying Chaturanga Dandasana a number of times over. Focus on how you articulate the phrase and imagine it rolling with ease off of your tongue.
Visualise the Outcome
Whilst reconnecting to your intention for the class and the vision of how you would like to sound and how you would like your students to feel, practice saying some of your teaching instructions.
Have something do drink just before you begin teaching to lubricate your mouth. If your voice feels dry or tired, have some hot water nearby. Inhaling the steam is the most direct way to quickly hydrate your vocal chords.
Be genuinely yourself!
When you understand how to use your voice correctly, take the time to warm up your voice before teaching and align with a clear intention for your class, your voice will flow. Never be afraid to share your authentic self with your students. That is what makes you unique and what makes your teaching style unique. Nobody wants a robot. Your students come to your class because they want to be taught by you! And when you use your voice correctly in that space you maximise your chance of your students continuing to return to your classes.
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Do You Have Questions? Then Get In Touch
If you’re curious about finding your teaching voice and have questions, then I’d love to hear from you. With over 15 years of experience in yoga, voice training and meditation, I’ll help you by starting where you’re at on your teaching journey and be as a bridge to help you develop and strengthen your voice for maximal impact when you teach!