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Podcast Episode #32 – Set Your Voice Free

Set Your Voice Free

Do you long to set your voice free and use your complete voice when you speak or sing? Is the sound you make vibrant, resonant and rich, or is it merely a shadow of what’s possible? Does your voice feel powerful and strong, or does it sound fragile, unstable or small? Can you confidently express yourself in any situation, or do you find yourself repeating the same bad habits again and again, and feeling like your voice is stuck inside you?

The Common Voice: Thin, Pressed, and Limited

In my opinion, many of us are living life using what I call a suboptimal voice. It’s a drastically reduced version of how an embodied, complete voice sounds. Such a voice often sounds thin, pressed, nasal or squeaky. Depending on the person, it can sound throaty and coarse. It often sounds compressed, as if being used under pressure. It sometimes sounds swallowed or held back. In all situations, a suboptimal voice doesn’t sound colourful or vibrant, free or lively. It doesn’t have presence and is not what we would call resonant.

It sounds to the ear exactly like what it is; a restriction of the possible sound range, colour and expression a voice can have.

So What Happened to Your Voice?

When you were born, this likely wasn’t the case. As a baby, when you needed to express yourself you accessed the full spectrum of your voice, and you used it 🙂 You set your voice free, letting your complete, embodied, resonate screams be heard by the ears of all, in order to have your needs met. Your voice rang out in full colour, freely.

So what happened? As you aged, you learned to limit your voice. You adapted yourself, modifying your voice to suit those around us, as well as the expectations of the culture and society you were born into. Essentially, you toned your voice down in order to be loved, accepted and to fit in. And although these decisions were most likely made unconsciously, they have a very tangible impact on you now.

Why Can’t You Set Your Voice Free?

Closed Doors to a Closed Voice: Just imagine for a moment that you’re a big, beautiful house containing many diverse rooms. Now as a baby, the doors to each of these rooms were open to you and your voice flowed freely throughout the entire space. You set your voice free! It was unlimited, and this was evident in the complete spectrum of the sound you made. But as you aged, in order to fit in, to get your needs met, and to be a part of society, you learned, consciously or not, to close some of these doors.

Your voice could no longer access the complete space available to it. Instead, it became limited, and it was only allowed to access certain rooms, only allowed to express itself, to vibrate inside a reduced amount of space.

Over time what happened is that your voice was shaped by the colour, the size, and the atmosphere of these rooms. It became calcified by them. And you, and this is really important, you began to identify with this limited, calcified voice as being your true voice. The other rooms, the other space that was available for your complete voice to access, well they were forgotten. You lost connection to your true voice and how to unabashedly set your voice free.

Open Up & Set Your Voice Free!

But what if I told you that in order to access your complete voice, to set your voice free, just like you did as a baby, you need to learn to open up: on every level of your human experience? I’m talking physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. You set your voice free, you need to open up. You need to access all the available space within you and allow your voice to vibrate, to resonate inside that space and let your voice out from there.

How does that make you feel?

It can feel scary, I know. But trust me when I say, it is possible. You can reconnect with your body, your soma. You can learn to open up, release the blocks holding you back, and you can set your voice free!

You Are Your Voice!

Your voice operates throughout your entire body and being. It’s not a separate entity existing outside of you. And it’s definitely not something that’s happening in your throat alone. Vocal production, the physical way the vocal sound is made, happens through a chain reaction involving your brain, your nervous system, your respiratory system, and your articulation system.

And your voice is characterised, coloured and given intention, through your thoughts, emotions and beliefs. So your whole being creates your voice; the way you sound and how you express yourself in any moment. This also means in order to truly set your voice free, you need to go within: To gain a felt sense of your body and the sensations causing vocal production as well as of your psychosomatic state and the emotional, psychological and even spiritual blocks which may be holding you back.

When you can truly feel into yourself, embracing all of who you are, vocalising and expressing from that embodied, empowered state, then you can truly set your voice free, just as you did as a baby. You can let the full spectrum, colour and resonance of your voice out into the world confidently!

Blockages to Your Voice

Just like with any system, blocks can happen. In the case of the voice, blockages may happen due to physical tension. They make happen because of incorrect posture, breathing or jaw tension. They may also happen because of specific beliefs, disempowered thoughts and suppressed emotions.

And just like with any system, blocks to flow create both localised and systemwide tension. If there is tension in your vocal system, your voice, the way you sound and your ability to say what you want to say and express yourself is affected. This is one of the reasons why in my initial work with 1-to-1 Voice Empowerment clients, we spend time identifying such blocks in the system and employing effective tools to help heal, release, and/or integrate them or all levels: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

Change How You Think to Set Your Voice Free

As I mentioned, your voice takes place in you, through you. So in order to truly set your voice free, you may need to redefine your understanding of a voice.

In defining voice, consider two main meta components: The Mechanics of Voice and the Psycho-somatic or Emotional-psychological impact. These are like yin and yang. They are two main parts that are interconnected and together manifest your voice. One does not work without the other, however, to learn about the voice it can be helpful to study them in isolation.

Let’s start by having a look at the mechanics – the physical elements involved in sound creation. Here we can consider 4 main sub-elements: posture, breath, the vocal folds and resonating regions. Here we can build the voice from the ground up, with your posture becoming the foundation for the rest that follows. 

The Importance of Posture on Your Voice

So perhaps in some physical part of your body you experience tension, which many of us do. Maybe you spend long hours at a desk slouching over your computer screen and have tension in your shoulders. It might be strange for you to think about this, but that tension is directly impacting your voice! The tension you may be holding in your shoulders because of bad posture, because of putting yourself perhaps under pressure day in, day out, sitting in front of your computer, that tension affects your voice.

It’s a domino effect. Tension in the shoulder area puts pressure onto the muscles of the throat, directly affecting your larynx, where your vocal folds are housed. This pressure continues onto your vocal folds and your voice will be affected. It may come out sounding strained or under pressure. Perhaps you notice it as a burning or scratching sensation in your throat when speaking, or that you lose your voice after a shorter period of time. In all cases, you will be vocally blocked at a very physical level.

Best Posture for Your Voice

Why Breathing Can Set Your Voice Free

Moving from posture up the mechanical system to breath. It may be interesting for you to consider that you’re a wind instrument. Your vocal folds come together, vibrating extremely fast to produce sound, supported by air pressure. That air pressure primarily occurs on your exhalation. This means that your ability to breathe affects your voice.

When we once again think about posture, poor posture inhibits good breathing. Bad habits like slouching or leaning the body weight into one side of the body create muscular and facial tissue tension that restricts bodily range of motion. This prevents us from accessing the depth of breath we need to support sound creation. And when this happens, you may experience your voice as coming out sounding shaky or unstable. You may feel breathless when speaking. These symptoms can feel uncomfortable, potentially leading to anxiousness and other emotional reactions which further serve to block the voice.

Set Your Voice Free: Learn How to Breathe Correctly

The best breath to support the voice is a deep, effortless “yogic belly breath.” This is a breath connected to active muscular movement of the lower abdominal and pelvic area. It also involves the gentle expansion of the ribs sidewards when breathing in, and a contraction when breathing out.

You can practise this by engaging in an active breath wave exercise. To keep it simple, I call this “active breathing.” Try it here:

  1. Align your posture correctly. If you’re a yogi think Mountain Pose in standing or Meditation Pose sitting. 
  2. Concentrate on a point about 2 inches below your navel. Imagine that you have an air balloon located there and as you breathe in, it expands in every direction outwards. You can actively help this by pushing the lower belly out, away from the body, whilst breathing in. 
  3. As you breathe out, allow this centre to contract back in towards your spine. Or imagine the air balloon letting the air out. 
  4. Bring your awareness to your lower ribs at the sides under your chest plate. As you breathe in, imagine expanding your ribs outwards to the sides. 
  5. As you breathe out imagine them contracting back towards your spine.
  6. Now see if you can engage both areas as you breathe in, expanding through the lower belly and also the ribs. And as you breathe out let them contract.
  7. Repeat this for 5-10 breath cycles and observe how you feel afterwards. 
  8. You can also try this exercise lying down on your back.

How to Breathe for Your Voice

How to Unblock Your Voice?

Now let’s have a look at the other main part of the voice, the psycho-somatic voice. This is where your emotions, thoughts and beliefs impact your ability to express yourself and use your voice in an empowered way. In order to set your voice free, you need to open up the rooms that you’ve closed down overtime within.

The thing is, your biochemistry and hormones, are impacted by your thoughts, beliefs and emotions. And this impacts your physical body. So even when you are able to open yourself up physically, and really access the mechanical realm of your voice, what you believe and the way you think still impacts your vocal sound and expression. The trick is to get your beliefs and thoughts to empower your voice and your expression. For many of us, based on what we’re learned and the rooms we’ve internally closed down, this is not the case.

Change Your Beliefs to Set Your Voice Free!

Beliefs powerfully impact your ability to set your voice free and completely express yourself in certain situations.

This is work I do time and time again with my clients. We are looking at the voice on a mechanical level, but we have to look at the voice on an emotional-psychological level because if we do not address blockages, tension and restrictions in our beliefs, emotions, and thoughts, those energies are going to continue impacting our physical expression and block our ability to set our voice free.

In my Voice Empowerment 1:1 coaching, I work with clients from many areas of life. Some are themselves coaches or teachers, some singers, others are content creators or businesswomen or women in management or speaking professions. Some clients come to me to reconnect to their voice, others for specific work related issues, some for vocal health issues, and others still because they long to enjoy their own voice – to speak or sing.

I’ve been working with my clients as a voice coach since 2012. In all these years, the kinds of beliefs holding my clients and their voice back, never ceases to amaze me. Not because they are such incredible beliefs, but rather because they are so regular. Ones that almost all of us experience. And it really breaks my heart to see them suffer by holding back their voices and the true joy of vocal connection under such beliefs like:

  • My voice is too quiet
  • My voice is too loud
  • I can’t speak clearly
  • I’m not heard
  • My voice is annoying
  • People don’t take me seriously
  • I have nothing important to say
  • People don’t understand me
  • My voice sound horrible
  • My voice isn’t me
  • I can’t control my voice
  • I don’t trust myself or my voice
  • My voice has to work hard for me to express myself

Unable to Set Your Voice Free?

These beliefs, and sooo many more, lead to uncomfortable feelings about ourselves and our voice, causing us to:

  • Shut down
  • Not express ourselves or share what we think or feel
  • Feel fear or anxiety before singing or speaking
  • Feel insecure when speaking or singing
  • Feel unconfident and uncomfortable when using our voice
  • Not speak our needs even when it’s important
  • Not assert our boundaries to our own detriment
  • Not enjoy the joy of our voice
  • Not sing or tone even when we’d like to
  • Be unable or unwilling to share our inner truth with the world

The Healing Power of Voice

So learning how to set your voice free requires you to go inwards and honestly recognise what is blocking you from truly expressing yourself and accessing the full potential of your voice. I know that can be scary, and I know that can also be challenging. And I speak from experience, really I do. But your voice is not like an arm or a foot or a leg. It lives within you, through you, and it’s expressed into the world by your inner state: physical and psycho-somatic, in each moment.

This is actually a very powerful, incredible thing! Because it means that by going inwards and unblocking yourself, by learning to access your complete voice and express yourself freely, means you get to transform, integrate and heal yourself. It means healing the things that you’ve been dragging on behind you, the baggage that maybe you’ve been carrying around for 20, 30, 40, 50, I don’t know how many years. It means looking at that and healing it because you can’t learn to set your voice free when there are blocks in the system, be they physical or emotional, psychological! There is only one way.

An Exercise to Set Your Voice Free

To help you reconnect with your inner self and voice, here is a simple guided exercise from the podcast episode that I’ve broken down into easy-to-follow steps:

Step 1: Find Your Space

  • Take a moment to find a comfortable seat. You can sit on the floor or a chair.
  • Ensure you are sitting upright; avoid lying down.
  • Close your eyes.

Step 2: Connect with Your Breath

  • Begin by becoming aware of your breath.
  • Feel the points of contact between your body and the earth beneath you.
  • Notice the flow of your breath as it moves in and out naturally.
  • Take a few deep breaths, allowing yourself to relax more deeply with each exhale.

Step 3: Heart Center Connection

  • Place your right hand across your heart centre, over your chest.
  • Focus on the sensation of your hand touching your chest.
  • Try not to judge or change how you feel; simply be present with the sensation.
  • Continue to be aware of your breath and the feeling of your hand on your heart.

Step 4: Start to Set Your Voice Free – Embrace Your Vibration

  • Prepare to hum out a sound on the letter “M.”
  • Before you start, relax your jaw and let your tongue rest softly on the floor of your mouth.
  • Take a comfortable breath in.
  • As you exhale, hum the sound “M,” feeling the vibration through your body.
  • Notice the sensations and imagine these vibrations as healing energy penetrating your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual being.

Step 5: Continue to Set Your Voice Free – Embrace the Release

  • Repeat the humming sound twice more at your own pace.
  • Maintain a gentle and relaxed flow of breath, focusing on the softness and healing intent of the vibrations.

Step 6: Set Your Voice Free – Being With What Is

  • After completing the humming, place both hands, one on top of the other, over your heart centre.
  • Observe the breath and stay present to any sensations you are experiencing across all levels: physical, emotional, and mental.
  • Remain in this reflective state for a few moments.

Step 7: Closing the Exercise

  • As you conclude, recognise the love and connection within yourself.
  • If you feel comfortable, give yourself a big, embracing hug, enjoying the warmth and self-connection.
  • Stay in this peaceful state as long as you need, and when you’re ready, gently open your eyes and return to your surroundings.

Set Your Voice Free!

Your journey to set your voice free, to experience a free, resonant and empowered voice is both profound and liberating. It involves more than just the physical act of speaking, toning or singing; it asks you to delve deep into the physical, emotional, and psychological barriers that have been constraining your voice and your vocal expression. By understanding how posture, breath, and tension, as well as unaddressed beliefs and behaviours impact your ability to speak or sing, you begin to experience the interconnectedness of your entire being. This is what it means to embody your voice. And only when you fully embody it can you set your voice free.

Embracing the full spectrum of your voice means acknowledging and addressing these layers of tension and blockages. It’s about returning to the unrestricted vocal vibrancy you once had as a baby, where your voice was not just heard but felt, resonant with life and freedom. As you learn to release these constraints, you begin to set your voice free, allowing your true voice to emerge. Your true voice; an authentic expression of your unique self that’s not only heard but deeply felt by others.

So, commit to this journey of vocal freedom. Don’t just speak, but resonate; don’t just communicate, but connect. Set your voice free and discover the transformative power of expressing your true self, unbounded and clear. And if you need help, I’m here to support you on your path to true vocal freedom, embodiment and empowerment.

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