Unless you are a singer or an actor, you may not have thought about the health of your voice very much. For speaking people, our voices have always just been there, since the day we were born, a tool we use unthinkingly to communicate our needs, ideas, and feelings.
Our voices can support so much more than functional communication. When we begin to develop a more intuitive relationship with our voices, the tone and texture of how we speak, emote, and sing can become manifestations of our thoughts and feelings. Those of us who hear can also become more attuned as listeners. We can hear people’s life stories in the way they use the instrument of their voice.
Becoming more attuned to our voices can be a powerful diagnostic tool for our mental, physical, and emotional health. When we feel open, unobstructed, and free, our voices flow with intention, like a river, in an unobstructed rhythm that is unique to each of us.
I know this from personal experience. I grew up singing and performing and studied opera and classical voice in undergrad. It came easily to me, but something was interfering with my expression. I wasn’t able to share what my instrument actually wanted versus what I was taught in school.
Eventually, I discovered that this disconnect came from a well of unprocessed trauma. This led me to devote over a decade to understanding trauma, how it materializes in the body, and how to integrate and alchemize this information. Eventually, this journey brought me back to my voice.
Through healing my voice, I rediscovered so much of what I had lost. By unearthing everything that needed to be said, cried, or screamed, I returned to truly loving who I am and how I move through the world.
What Harms Our Relationship With Our Voice?
The society we're raised in and the environments we grow up in have an impact on how we use our instruments—our body and our voice. This can show up in how we carry ourselves, how we speak up or don't, whether our voice wavers or cracks, whether we speak very loudly, and even our pacing of speech. All these variables are clues to what we need more of or what we are being invited to release.
We may believe we need to be louder or more forceful to sound “confident,” when—for us—the opposite is true.
If we were raised in a volatile household, we might feel we need to stay as quiet as possible to avoid angering other people when, as adults, we are now safe to use the full range of our voices.
Even being misunderstood, misrepresented, disrespected, marginalized, or not given the space to fully express one’s range of experience can interfere with the free flow of our voices.
Suppressing our voices, or using them too forcefully, can create emotional and physical disturbances. The human body relies on the circulation of blood, air, hormones, and energy to function. When circulation within one system becomes obstructed, it can create disturbances throughout. These disturbances can manifest as insecurity, anxiety, frustration, self-doubt, self-loathing, and other difficult emotions.
My students are often shocked by how easy it is to enjoy their voices, how easeful it can be to access confidence and speak up in their life and relationships. Over time, that confidence grows. Voice healing, like other types of healing, is not a fixed destination we arrive at upon concluding a course of work. Rather, it is a dance that we commit to throughout our life.
People who commit to their voices, who really listen to and respect their instruments, are truly mesmerizing. Listening to them can invite you to uncover who you are. That level of empowered vulnerability is, I believe, something that can benefit all of us.
Voice Healing Practices You Can Do for Yourself
Once you become aware that you are hesitating to speak freely or altering your natural voice in some way (an extremely common occurrence most of us aren’t even aware of!), or if you notice your voice gets easily tired or sore, there are several things you can do to begin healing your own voice.
The first is to seek out environments and kind people with whom you feel safe being vulnerable; these supportive environments fortify earnest expression. Fully commit to embracing the experience of being you and notice when you find yourself tempted to change yourself.
[Discover three unexpected benefits of chanting.]
The more time you spend with people who make you feel safe and confident, the easier it is to notice when you feel supported. What do you feel in your body? How does your voice sound? This observation can tell you a lot, particularly what you’re being invited to let go of from the past. Once you’re connected to that feeling, it is easier to take it with you into other environments.
Another is to exercise your voice. This is best done alone in a place you feel comfortable and aren’t self-conscious or anxious about disturbing other people.
Start by choosing a vowel and singing that vowel using a single note. Don’t worry about making it sound “right.” Many people come to me thinking they are “tone-deaf” which is a terrible term and so untrue. If you can produce sound with your voice you can sing.
Once you’re warmed up (or get bored), cycle through several different vowels and notes to find a combination that feels good. This is the key: Find what feels good, and disregard what you think should sound good.
Don’t listen to your voice: Feel it. Find any sound that either feels good or captures your thoughts and emotions. Put aside worries about sounding silly and give yourself permission to feel into your instrument. This is the most important step in voice healing. Healing practices can be simple, and for this—reconnecting to the most vulnerable parts of yourself and giving them the space to shine—it’s best not to overthink it.
What to Look for in a Voice Healer
Perhaps practicing on your own feels too daunting or you’ve practiced solo for a while and want to deepen your healing. In these cases, you may want the support of a voice healing guide or coach.
When looking for a guide, seek out someone who embodies and practices what you want to learn. Voice healing is extremely intuitive work; finding a teacher who has personal experience nurturing their own voice will offer you an expansive opportunity to learn and explore.
It’s important to be discerning about who you work with, especially because healing your voice may be part of a larger process of healing from trauma. If that’s the case for you, seek out a practitioner who specifically identifies as a trauma-informed healer and is able to articulate what that means and how it manifests in their work.
Kindness, confidence, and patience are also important qualities to look for. Well-meaning coaches who haven’t done their own healing can unknowingly project unresolved parts of themselves to vulnerable students. Make sure you’re given the opportunity to meet with a potential practitioner before you engage in any healing work. Use your intuition to gauge whether they are someone you will feel safe and comfortable with.
Finally, seek out someone who has excellent boundaries. Because of the intimate nature of voice healing work, good boundaries between guide and student are non-negotiable. Good teachers create the space and possibility for you to realize that you are the source of your power and healing. You have everything you need; the teacher is a guide.
Each body is a magickal instrument with the power to guide us back to who we are. There is always a way to unearth your power, and voice healing offers us a treasure map. It’s a beautiful thing that our body gives us breadcrumbs to return to ourselves. Once you practice finding them, you’ll be amazed where they lead you.
Keep reading: What is vocal yoga?