Voice Release Therapy: Be Heard Again

from Adie Grey MacKenzie

Voice Release Therapy is a combination of bodywork and self care techniques that has been seen in many cases to improve vocalization. The specific technique was developed by a physical therapist at Vanderbilt at the request of The Voice Center. It is based on a variety of techniques and uses a lot of myofascial release.

This therapy is helpful for people who feel it takes a lot of effort to produce volume or to be able to get through a performance or lecture. Sometimes teachers can’t project or get volume and end up with very tired voices, and singers can feel like a performance or recording session is too much and they struggle to get through it. Sometimes people have a change in their voice where it doesn’t work as well as it once did. Even abdominal surgery can cause deviations in function that eventually effect the structures that allow the voice to function. Our voices are susceptible to many kinds of emotional and physical changes, even when those changes seem like they should be unrelated, or are on distant parts of the body.

The technical term for these changes is called muscle tension dysphonia, which is a diagnosis only a doctor can make, but what it means is that muscle tension is affecting the function of the voice. This tension can come from postural habits, overuse, and/or emotional stresses, and Voice Release Therapy has been seen to be extremely effective at returning normal or near normal function of the voice; in some people their voice got better than it had ever been!

Treatments work best if people plan to come about once a week consistently for 6-8 weeks. We recommend coming to one session first to see if it is something you want to pursue, and then continuing from there. Each session is 1 hour, and includes hands on work, exercise, and education. We can achieve everything we need to achieve in the visits, whether it takes five or ten or however many your body needs, but there is a tendency for any fascial release to return to a tight state and so maintenance is important. This can happen through self care using exercises you learn and other techniques, or you can come back for regular maintenance sessions with the therapist.

Yoga, especially the kind of yoga taught at HaLe’, is also a great way to maintain results gained in Voice Release Therapy because it works on core stability, anterior stretching, and connecting with the breath in a way that is different from voice lessons. Most of us do so much in our lives that bring our torsos forward into a flexed position, and 99% of the time these vocal problems are caused by postural deviations that end up damaging the capacity of space around the vocal chords. Yoga helps people learn to relax the body into postures that enhance the fascial release done in therapy sessions.

Breathing is also hugely important, since most of us don’t breathe properly. Yoga helps with breath training and reinforces the breath training done in therapy sessions. Some people are good and know how to breathe and that is not the issue, but a lot of people don’t know how to connect to the diaphragm. A lot of us use our neck muscles that attach to the scalenes to breathe, using the neck muscles to lift our upper rib cage. We can learn this through emotional stress, trouble breathing, or any number of places, but when we keep doing it, those neck muscles tighten up drastically which then means the vocal folds (they are more folds than chords) don’t have room to vibrate easily.

Voice Release Therapy is a very effective treatment for many voice issues, and it is also pretty pleasant to receive. It can sometimes get uncomfortable, but most people look forward to their sessions. They find it enjoyable, enlightening, and the results feel good.

Recovery Yoga

from Andy Coppola

It is surprising how much people are recovering from stuff, and not just AA, not just addicts and alcoholics, but more people are given prescription drugs because of a car accident or an injury at work or something like that, and then they slip into a way of living that they are not used to, and it comes with strange behaviors. I have been in AA for 17 or 18 years, and I used to think alcoholics and addicts are different, but the more I interact with people in recovery, the more I see people being susceptible to addiction because of the way the medical practice uses prescription drugs.

 

One of the big things in Recovery and in Yoga, particularly the yoga tradition I work with, is the idea of relationship, and that’s what’s been interrupted. Often the doctors that prescribe these drugs don’t have enough time to spend with people and so instead of getting help, people just get medicine, and that breaks down the relationship. It is through relationship with people that we understand ourselves better.

 

The basis of our yoga is what is my mind doing, what is my heart doing, what is my breath doing. This is not the basis of most yoga, which is more about stretching and getting farther along in some capacity. Instead of trying to get toward a goal, we develop relationship with the body and with the teacher, and then the body begins to trust itself a little bit more, letting go of what holds you back and removing obstacles in your body, in your mind, and in your heart. This approach can be hard for people who haven’t been in a really difficult place to comprehend, because it goes against the norm to say, “I’m not going to push my body too far, I’m not going to work overly hard, I am just going to take care of myself.”

 

It is counterintuitive, but my body responds better to starting with slow, simple movements, simple breathing, and mental focus on things that are not complex. These are small steps that help your body trust your decisions again. You have broken your body’s judgment when you think you have to turn to a pill or some kind of chemical. Those chemicals work so that they change your body so that your body needs that chemical, so it’s a downward spiral, chaining the body, so that it is no longer addressing what it was originally addressing, and it is just this chemical relationship. When you get to a very difficult place in life and experience and you say this is no longer working, then you are willing to say, “I’m looking at what’s going on, and it’s hard to come out of it.” But simple practice, simple breathing, simple movements all build this idea of trust so that your body starts to respond to your judgment again.

 

Rebuilding this trust doesn’t happen over a week or a month, but over time, which is why the relationship is so important. Start with a teacher for guidance, and then work with yourself so that when you sit still with your mind, breath, and body, you can inquire, “What does my body need at this moment?” Rather than provide the solution, you are just constantly asking, and through that process of asking, the answers come; you don’t have to seek them. The body instinctively knows I shouldn’t move this far or hard in this pose because it is causing strain in my back or in my shoulder. Over time, as I become more sensitive to that, my body starts to open up its physical capacity. I’m not trying to do more, but because I am listening to what my body says, my body will open up and allow more to happen because it knows I am listening. I can do more now in my 40s than I could in my 20s.

 

The difficulty with this practice is that it is a process. We are used to paying for something, getting it, and leaving. We are not used to someone saying, “Just be here, stay here for a few minutes and be at peace.” But this is how we rebuild these broken relationships, especially the trust we have broken with our bodies.

The Benefits of Yoga at Any Age

from Nancy Kirkland

People derive different kinds of benefits from a yoga practice. Yoga and other eastern practices differ from most western forms of physical activity because you really have to incorporate the mind into the practice. With aerobic oriented activity like running or swimming, you can just let your mind drift off. With yoga, the mind focus brings a greater benefit in addition to the physical benefits of greater strength, flexibility, and balance. A lot of people sleep better, feel calmer, and breathe better. You don’t have to go in with the intention to get those benefits, they just result from doing a good yoga asana practice.

Yoga also helps people find what is challenging for them, be it physical, mental, or emotional, and helps find a way to address it. People often do yoga positions way too quickly. They will say their shoulder hurts, and I’ll say give it 6 months. Give pain time to resolve. Pain is a very good teacher and yoga is not a pain free practice. When people come to class with pain, they need to recognize that yoga is not an immediate cure all but that there are great benefits to a regular practice.

Yoga is a practice for people of all levels. HaLe’ has students ages 20 to 80, so don’t let fitness or age keep you away. Find a teacher that resonates with you and then stick with them. Don’t try for a lot of variety; go deeper instead of wider. Allow your class to become a community that develops over time. That’s a very supportive group to be in.

Also, don’t avoid props and don’t underestimate restorative yoga. Props like blocks, straps, and chairs make yoga much more accessible to people and allows them to achieve a comfortable practice with a properly aligned body. Restorative yoga is key to improving breath, awareness, and observations skills, even though a lot of people really resist it when they are new to yoga practice because they feel restless, want to exercise, and don’t see the value. It is an important part of a yoga practice; don’t ignore it.

A yoga practice, because it incorporates mind and body instead of being just body, comes with a lot of benefits. A good asana practice should be both convenient and enjoyable, and doing the yoga postures properly has different benefits for everyone. Most of all, though, don’t take it too seriously. It should also be fun.

 

Nancy Kirkland has 45 years of yoga practice and has been teaching yoga for 17 years.

No Sweat Yoga for Runners

from Liz Trinkler

A lot of runners don’t know the two types of stretching that help running: Pre and Post. Pre-run stretches need to be focused on warming up the area, especially legs and hips, and creating blood flow and some flexibility. Stretches should not be held for very long, only two or three breaths, because you can overtax a muscle by stretching it and if you do that before you start, it will make you feel weaker during your run. Pre-run stretching should be about 5 min and focused on getting heat and blood flow into the areas you’ll be using.

Post-run stretches are different from pre-run stretches. They should be held for longer, about 6 or 7 breaths, and will help work out any tightness. It is important to really focus on the breath, taking nice deep breaths with full exhales to help clear the body of lactic acid. There also is no concern about over stressing or tiring the muscles through stretching because this is when you want them to relax.

A regular yoga practice is also of great benefit to runners. If you think you’re just running with your legs, you’re not going to run very long. Beyond the usual focus on the legs and hips, the calf muscles, hamstrings, and the flexibility of the hips allow the whole pelvic area to work efficiently. Ultimately what you are trying to achieve is the strength and flexibility to allow your body systems to work together and avoid injury.

Yoga is about balance and teaching our bodies how everything is connected and how it all works together. All movement comes from the core, and so strengthening the core and teaching the body how to move fluidly without overstressing one particular part of the body will allow you to run faster, longer, and to avoid injury, so that running can become a lifelong adventure.

 


Liz Trinkler has been running for 40 years without injury and has completed 5 marathons. She teaches a class at HaLe’ called No Sweat Lunch on Mondays and Wednesdays 12:00-12:50.

A Feminine Practice of Health

From Jane House

We all have weird things that come up for us in our bodies. Sometimes they are constant symptoms, and sometimes they just show up periodically. Usually, we try to fix them, or to medicate them. Sometimes they are concerning enough that we find ourselves running around to various doctors so they can do the fixing or the medicating.

The practice of yoga can help us reclaim the knowing and power that we lose when our health is being approached from the outside in. When we drop into our bodies, and breathe, we can turn inward.

The body is always talking to us through symptoms, texture, light, pain, and more. We can learn this new language. We can use bodywork, or yoga, or meditation in order to turn to our bodies and to sit with them, to talk with them. This is a feminine practice, just sitting with what comes up.

When we sit for long enough and listen for long enough, we get information from the body up instead of from the head down. An image or an intuition will come through. For example, my left knee swells up for no reason, and it pulls me inward and downward into my body. So I respond to that and listen to it instead of trying to fix it. I read the symptoms and signs that crop up from the inside.

Recently, sitting with my swollen knee, after a month of slowing down, I got the intuition to work with Adie, who does lymphatic massage at HaLe’. I had never met her or tried her work. But the prompt kept coming from the inside, and her work, her particular healing, got into my body and moved something, and my knee got unswollen.

Other times, I’ll get an image, something that comes up from the past that I need to work with psychologically, and it comes from the ground up, an intuition.

When we drop into our own bodies we can become our own advocates, and it’s a really new and different experience, this not getting something from the outside in. It empowers us. The feminine practice is about honoring the body instead of controlling the body.

The Purpose of Yoga

Yoga is for self-fulfillment.
Yoga practice is about self-awareness.
It serves a purpose to balance misunderstandings and misperceptions.
It develops the knowing, the clarity, and the being, increasing accuracy in knowing yourself.
Yoga is a view or perspective, and it can help change your perspective.
Yoga can be your greatest self-help guide as you learn how to reduce your suffering and come out of suffering.

Yoga is also movement, and it gives attention to the direction you are headed.
It is about yoking together and bringing together the elements of self-control that direct the activity of the mind, bringing us a more peaceful and more balanced feeling.

What is Restorative Yoga?

spiritual indian symbol of lotus flower

 

 

by Kristen Hubbard

Restorative Yoga uses blankets, pillows, and other props to allow the body to fully and comfortably relax into each pose, often resting in each pose for 3 or more minutes. Through these fully supported body positions, breath awareness, and meditative contemplation, Restorative Yoga restores a deep sense of calm relaxation to the body and mind. Every effort is made by the teacher to assist the student in finding comfort in each position. Transitions between poses happen slowly, with ease and awareness. The body’s comfortable, supported postures allow the mind to begin the process of unwinding.

 

Due to the continuous influx of stimuli in our daily lives, most of us live in a constant state of alertness. Where this behavior does keep us from being eaten by tigers, falling off of cliffs, and other such peril, it also creates a state of continuous mental, physical and emotional stress. As the body recognizes the sensation of full support and the lack of imminent danger, the mind is unburdened of physical concerns and able to refine focus on the breath.

 

In Restorative Yoga, as in other styles of yoga, we use the breath as a link between the conscious and the unconscious. We can both choose to control our breath as well as surrender to the natural process of breathing. Thus, focus on our breath and the experience of breathing begins to bring us truly into the present moment, into what our body and mind can sense right now, removing focus on exterior stresses and daily concerns and allowing the nervous system much deserved rest.

 

With the physical body fully supported and the nervous system functioning with ease we have the opportunity to explore even deeper states of relaxation. The meditative states achieved through Restorative yoga practice are often more restful than an average night’s sleep. This rested state of mind and body is where we put together the puzzle pieces we’ve picked up throughout our conscious daily life. This is where we establish patterns and where we create memories.

 

A regular Restorative Yoga practice is a powerful tool for those interested in improving the health of the mind, the body, and their vast network of interconnectivity. With the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher, Restorative Yoga is available and beneficial to students of all level, including those completely new to yoga, recovering from injury, seasoned practitioners of any style, on its own or as a complement to any strong practice.

 

Ha.Le’ is pleased to offer Restorative Yoga taught by Kristen Hubbard, as one of our many therapeutic yoga classes for all levels. Please join us! 

 

Class Schedule

 

 

Yoga Can Make You Cry (and that’s a good thing)

dew drops close up

 

At a recent evening Vinyasa Yoga class, I experienced a good, old fashioned “yoga cry”. It felt great. I didn’t try to push it aside or act like it wasn’t happening. I didn’t care that everyone else could see. Okay, maybe I did a little bit. But, in the car, on the ride home, I let the tears flow freely. I felt myself releasing and opening. I felt clearer.

 

I was not new to this experience. Early on in my practice, I had cried often in class. But I was blessed with a knowledgeable and compassionate instructor who helped me to understand the effects that yoga asanas can have on the subtle body. He explained that the purpose of the asanas is spiritual transformation and that yoga is not just another gimmicky workout. But mostly, he left me alone to process my own experience.

 

My recent sob on the mat helped me to better understand the yoga catchphrases of “honoring my practice and “listening to my body”. I felt a surge of gratitude—realizing that yoga is always available, that it allows me to give and take as needed. I honor my practice by coming back to it again and again.

 

-Emily

 

Emily Davidson Nemoy is elated to be teaching Rise and Shine! Slow Flow Vinyasa Yoga on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:15 AM at Ha.Le. In Slow Flow Vinyasa Yoga, movement is synchronized with the breath. We purposefully move at a slower pace so that the practitioner has time to mentally engage with the body, understanding when a pose should be modified. A morning yoga series is a great option for working folks who need to get their practice in before the rest of their day begins. Emily loves teaching and practicing in the morning when the mind is clearer, making it easier to be more focused and mindful.

Try her class 

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