Your Teaching Voice
Why You Need to Find & Develop It
As a yoga teacher, your teaching voice is just as unique as the intention for your class and the style of your sequence. In fact, how your voice sounds directly impacts the way your students feel with you and their ability to follow your instructions. But despite the critical importance of the voice in teaching yoga, few teachers are taught about it during their training.
Voice Training in Yoga Teacher Trainings
From the hundreds of yoga teacher training programs I’ve researched across Europe, Australia and North-America, less than around 5% teach voice within their yoga teacher training programs. And of those, few adequately taught yoga teacher trainers correct voice techniques or how to find your teaching voice.
As a singer, voice coach and yoga teacher myself this actually makes me angry! How can we know to use our voice correctly when teaching if we’re not shown how during our teacher training program? And how can we develop our unique teaching voice if we’re not given the tools to do so?
This is why I created my online voice courses for yoga teachers – to teach yoga teachers what the voice is and how to correctly use it to create incredible classes.
What is Your Teaching Voice?
Your voice is as unique as your fingerprint. But unlike your fingerprint it can be modified, controlled and adjusted. I like to think of it in this way – to find your teaching voice you need to be able to do two main things:
- Understand what your voice is and how to correctly use it for health & impact whilst teaching
- Understand how to modify your voice based on the class you wish to give in a way that is in alignment with who you are
Not having a clear foundation with your voice before attempting to modify it for teaching is like trying Bakasana (Crow Pose) before learning Phalakasana (Plank Pose). You need to understand and experience the basics first before you can fly 😉 And once you’ve learned what your voice is and how to use it for speaking, then you can get creative with your teaching voice!
How to Find Your Teaching Voice?
In order to find your teaching voice you need to experiment with the different qualities involved in speaking that influence how your voice sounds to your listener. And these qualities are:
- Number of pauses
- Intonation or vocal melody
In fact, two of the main elements that impact the message we share are the tone of our voice and the rhythm of the words we use. With this in mind we can practice adjusting these elements to find a rhythm and melody that feels good for us, as well as for how we wish to share ourselves in different teaching situations.
5 Tips to Find Your Teaching Voice
- So the first thing is to change up your rhythm. Here you should think about what you wish to say and how you wish to say it. Is it something mindful that would best be delivered slowly? Or is it something that needs energy, and should be spoken with more speed and intensity?
- Secondly you need to pause for impact when you’re speaking. So the best thing to do here is to think about what you wish to say in advance and decide where the most important moments in your message are. Then, pause before or after saying these to give your message more impact.
- The third thing you can do when developing your teaching voice is to change up your pitch. So here you want to explore what happens we you speak certain words in a lower tone and others in a higher tone? How does the overall delivery feel? It’s a great idea to record yourself doing this and then listen back to the recording to really hear how the effect is.
- Another fun thing is to experiment with changes in volume. In fact, volume is a wonderful form of expression and a great way for you to add more dynamic and colour into what you are saying. So play with this tool when you speak to others and see what happens 😉
- Finally, check how your intonation sounds when you speak. Again it could be helpful to record yourself saying a few differing cues and then listening back to these and feeling the vibe you get from them. It’s best to make sure you raise your pitch within a sentence (before a comma) and drop your pitch at the end of a sentence. In this way it’s easy for students to follow what you’re saying to them.
Get Creative With Your Teaching Voice
One of my favourite ways to help people find their teaching voice for different situations is to experiment with role play.
Taking on roles allows us to change the colour and cadence of our voice without effort. And it can actually be a lot of fun! By having a hand full of “roles” up our sleeves, we can manipulate our voice as we would like it to sound in certain situations. It’s an easy, fun method that puts us in control of our sound in the different situations we find ourselves in!
Role Play Exercise
- Role 1: Imagine you are an excited yoga teacher. Walk around like her. Move like her. Speak like her. Say, “I can’t wait for it to start!” Feel how it feels to be her.
- Role 2: Imagine you are a blissed out Yogi in Savasana. Walk around like her. Move like her. Speak like her. Say, “I let it all go now.” Feel how it feels to be her.
In each role observe how your voice sounds. What effect does the role have on your articulation, projection, speed, number of pauses and your intonation? How does the role feel for you? And how could you imagine using your voice as this role when you teach your next yoga class?
I recommend taking time to play and curiously explore this exercise in a quiet, safe space. Allow yourself to let go and discover new ways of expressing your teaching voice in it. If you need support in this, I’m happy to help you. And, for a short voice warm-up routine before starting your next teaching class, take a look at the blog post I wrote Voice Exercises For Yoga Teachers
Speaking from this place is truly empowering. As a yoga teacher it’s your duty to use your voice in an empowered way. Your voice is your tool to build transformative relationships with your students and to have an impact on their lives. Don’t let anything hold you back from this!