Releasing the Natural Voice
–A transformative coaching intervention through vocal expression
By Elizna Odendaal
“The voice is the expression of the whole physical body, and intellect and spirit. If the body, the mind or the soul is ill, the voice is affected instantly” (Lehmann: 1945).
The voice lies at the heart of what it is to be human and is one of the most powerful instruments lying at the heart of the communication process. Over the years, voice and body integration work has become an essential part of my coaching. The more I do, the greater my commitment to do more of it. I believe that every vocal technique has unquestionable pedagogical value for the leader of the 21st century. It has remained a vital instrument for inspiring, influencing and convincing – a weapon of mass persuasion. The integration of body and voice provokes new possibilities of expression that often confound the intellect.
Munro and Larson explain that gravity creates the vertical axis of a balanced, upright body. The structurally balanced design can be distorted by physical, emotional, and psychological stress as well as by behavior, mimicry, and inaccurate body mapping. When one part of the body is off-balance or misaligned; the ability to function optimally is compromised. If the misalignment is continued it becomes habitual and is perceive though adaptation as being ‘correct’ while being in balance ‘feels wrong’. Because the individual experiences body alignment as an integral part of the self, it is not easily altered.
Voice belongs to both the body and the mind. It is the only instrument whereby player and played upon are the same and can only achieve full expression when firmly grounded in the body. It is prepared by the body and in the body and is therefore essential to consider the physical condition of the body when commencing any voice work. Kinesensic training is a sensing practice where energy qualities are physically felt and perceived, then tuned and used for creative expression.
It is the extraordinary properties of what are essentially vibrations of air – The human Voice. It is shaped by our earliest infant experience and by powerful social conventions. All functions of life depend on breathing; it is after all the most essential bodily function. By harnessing this incredibly powerful life force, you can control the way you feel. You can find calmness in times of stress and you can cope with almost any pressure. Detecting a thin voice when speaking, means that you do not have sufficient breath stream to support your voice for optimal vocal projection. It could also be a result of bad body posture. This may cause shallow breathing from the chest and in turn reduces the volume of the chest cavity.
When you are relaxed with an integrated body posture, it allows a free and flowing expanding and contraction of the lungs, diaphragm, ribcages and spine. It is enhanced with breathing and promotes the volume of air that we inhale and exhale allowing us to have more breath to sustain the sound when we speak.
Improvisation comes from a natural impulse and when that impulse is not blocked but is allowed free expression through vocal play, spontaneity is released. Individuals who are traumatised as children are disconnected from their natural instincts and unable to react spontaneously. Their spontaneous impulses become short circuited by secondary, inhibiting ones, the early internalized messages from parents and significant people in their lives. These secondary impulses become habitual and familiar and what is familiar feels safe. Natural impulses become difficult to connect with and hard to trust because they feel unfamiliar and unknown. Through the integration of vocal improvisation and body principles, individuals will become aware of and reorganize their own habitual ‘posture’ and learn to find a more neutral, efficient and free use of freeing the natural voice.
There are an infinite number of sound-creating improvisations to explore an endless number of ways to free one’s entire voice. This approach assures vocal flexibility and choice rather than the rigid application of rules and vocal techniques. Each sound, phoneme or melodic speaking line can be purified, filtered from the tension, overwork or pre-established idea of what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, leaving only a unique living body making sounds in the simplest, healthiest and most efficient way it finds.
The most powerful index of character remains your voice and speech mechanism. What does your voice say about you?
“Know your voice – it is strong, it is a sensation, it is resilient and it is you” (Linklater).