How emotions affect your voice and the power of self-acceptance
Emotions & Your Voice
Have you ever heard the term, “It’s not what you say but how you say it that matters?” Ever noticed that the sound of your voice changes when you express different emotions? That when you speak words in anger your voice sounds completely different compared to when you’re happy? Have you ever felt an emotion so strongly that you were simply unable to get the words out and you felt like your voice was trapped in your throat or shut down?
“In Chinese medicine, our organs correspond with specific emotions. Our Liver connects with anger, Spleen with worry, Lung with sadness, Heart with excitement and Kidney with fear. Our speech is an extension of how well our Qi (energy) flows. With proper training, we can hear directly in our speech which organ(s) is affected.” - Annie
Whether we like it or not, we are emotional beings. We feel and our feelings affect both our thoughts and our bodies. Our emotions are energy and the voice, located within - and produced by - the body, is significantly impacted by them.
How Emotions affect Your Voice
Inside the body, it is the limbic system where the majority of our emotions come to life. When a feeling is activated there, nerve signals with information about how the body should behave based on that emotion, get sent throughout the body. This includes being sent to the muscles involved in breathing as well as to the jaw, neck, shoulders, tongue and larynx. All of these areas are involved in the mechanical creation of your voice including the physical vibrations produced by the vocal folds which are located in your larynx. What this means is that every emotion you feel directly impacts the muscles mechanically involved in producing your voice.
In life this fact can play out in disempowering ways. For example, imagine the following situation: you’re standing before your boss needing to speak about an important, uncomfortable topic, but no matter how many times you’ve practiced what you wish to say your voice still shakes, your pitch goes up two octaves and you squeak out the words instead of expressing yourself confidently. Or imagine this situation: you need to talk to your partner about a problem in the relationship, but despite your best preparation, when you go to open your mouth the words barely come out. Your knees wobble, your voice becomes raspy and you’re unable to say what you wish to. Or this situation: you’re finishing teaching a yoga class and you’d like to sing a mantra during Savasana but you’re so nervous that your voice cracks and shakes and you can’t sing the mantra in the way you can when you’re alone.
Emotions Guide the Voice
Emotions guide our voice and we can choose to either work with this fact or have it work against us. In vocal production, whether it be for speaking or singing, our emotions impact:
The pitch we express ourselves in
The speed we 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 emphasized
Even the words we choose to say, or not say!
Self-acceptance is the Key to Vocal Freedom
Self-acceptance means accepting yourself as you are in this very moment. It means accepting the story that brought you here - the good and the bad - and accepting all that you think, feel and are, now. At times this idea may be overwhelming. But when we fail to accept ourselves we cause a split within our own being which has a ripple effect on our voice. We shut down parts of who we are, which disempowers us and it disempowers our voice.
“Yin yoga is unique in a way that we’re forced to face head on with our emotional obstacles while holding a pose. In Yin yoga, when practiced earnestly, we learn to sit with the discomfort and accept our body and mind for where they’re at in that moment.” - Annie
Failing to accept ourselves includes failing to accept how we feel in the present moment. In my own experience this often happens because I think “I should” feel something other than I do in response to a situation. So if I’m feeling angry and I try to speak to the person I’m angry at, and my voice shakes, I might feel frustrated at myself. Rather than accepting my anger and how it expresses itself through my voice in that moment, I try to control it and make it sound different. And when that doesn’t work, the frustration I then feel causes a split within me, and within my voice. This often makes my voice break and causes me to not be able to express myself at all. Which leads to more frustration and the cycle continues!
What I’ve learned overtime through my own singing and mindfulness practice, is that self-acceptance is the key to vocal freedom.When we can accept ourselves and how we feel in the present moment, we become complete and can actively use our emotions to energise and colour our voice. This is a very loving and nurturing practice.
“Being yogic is to cultivate loving awareness in all aspects of life. This can be done through singing, talking to others, eating, walking, and even sleeping (Yoga Nidra). Our vocal speech is directly related to the Lung and Large Intestine meridians. These channels resonate with our ability to let go of our own expectations and past conditionings, which allow us to express freely.” - Annie
Using Emotions as Food for the Voice
The following exercise is one I share in my online courses for yoga teachers & students . The idea behind it is to allow ourselves to actively use our current emotion as energy for the voice when we speak or sing. To do this exercise, sit in a comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed:
Tune into how you feel in this moment without judging or trying to change it. Simply allow your feeling to be there, as it is, now.
Imagine this feeling is a living energy. You can give it a colour if you wish to.
Locate this energy in your body. Again, practice being the observer - all the time allowing your experience to be as it is.
Now chant Om. As you chant imagine that the energy of your feeling moves out from its location in your body through your voice. Allow how you feel in this moment to be carried on the vibration of your voice and out into the world. Repeat this five times.
Close your eyes and observe your experience.
For me doing this is an incredible form of self-love and self-acceptance and the result it has on my voice is dramatic. Working with our emotions and our current state as we speak or sing allows us to accept who and how we are, now. Sharing our voice from this place of self-integration is a valuable and empowering gift for ourselves as well as for those around us.
To learn more about your voice and how to use it with confidence, power and impact for yoga teaching and/or singing mantras, take a look at Kirbanu’s YOU ARE YOUR VOICE online courses. Enjoy 10% off when you enter the code: ANNIESL003.
Kirbanu is an Australian voice coach, musician & yogi who fuses vocal science with mindfulness techniques to teach people how to use their voices in empowering ways for speaking and singing. Her passion is to share practical tools & techniques with you so you too can experience the joy and confidence a holistic connection with your own voice brings.
Her online Voice Courses for Yoga Teachers & Students: YOU ARE YOUR VOICE