Disclaimer: I am not a yoga instructor. I developed these Yogic Self-Care for Vocalists routines for a college honors presentation and demonstration with help from a yoga instructor/professor.
Among instruments, the voice – as an extension of the human body – is powerfully complex, versatile, and unique.
By learning and practicing self-massage, pranayamas, and asanas, the yogic vocalist develops a deeper understanding of and connection to her instrument and an ability to:
- Relieve vocal tension,
- Strengthen the body and expand the capacity for breath support and vocal manipulation,
- Warm up before exercising the voice to protect it, and
- Warm down after exercising the voice to heal it.
In this article, I’ll introduce two self-massage routines for tension relief.
Vocal Massage for Relief of Vocal Tension
(Adapted from Chris Johnson of The Naked Vocalist)
Use a lavender massage oil to further enrich the tension-release of these vocal massages.
Muscle on side of neck from ear to shoulder. Massage from ear down gradually increasing pressure for 60 seconds.
Neck and jaw tissues
Hold hands on chest as if pulling down the skin. Lift neck and return to neutral at a pace of one second per direction. Continue 20 seconds.
Place fingers gently on either side of larynx and rock from side to side, moving fingers from the upper placement below the jaw to the lower placement near the clavicles.
Place thumbs into the hollow beneath the jaw, massaging the tongue root with pressure for 30 seconds.
Press fingers deep into the pockets of the cheeks. Alternate opening and closing the mouth ten times.
To find the target muscle, first place hands on cheeks and bite down/clench teeth. Apply pressure with fingers to the bulging muscle, massaging if desired for 30 seconds.
Move fingers lightly from jaw to cheeks to temples and back in a gentle stimulating massage.
Further Tension Relief & Massage
(Adapted from Shannon Roberts, yoga instructor and vocal coach)
- Seated Neck Stretches – Sit in bound angle pose or cross-legged. If knees are raised above hips, sit on a blanket or block. If on a block, use another block to add length to the arms in the following stretches:
- Right hand extended to side, left hand wrapped over head to right ear. Inhale to lengthen spine, exhale to rest head to the left side. Breathe into the neck and out of the extended arm into the ground. Inhale to lift head. Repeat on the other side.
- Fingers laced behind the head. Inhale to lengthen spine, exhale to rest head forward. Breathe into the back of the neck and out of the top of the head. Inhale to lift head.
- Therapy Balls and/or Lumbar Roller – On your back and using your body weight for pressure, roll shoulders, spine, and lower back over therapy balls or a lumbar roller. Adapt to a smaller space by practicing vertically against a wall. To make the most of lower back rolling:
- Bring right knee to chest with left leg extended. Repeat opposite.
- Press the soles of your feet into the ground. Rock side to side.
In Part II of Yogic Self-Care for Vocalists, learn how to use tadasana (mountain pose) to improve your singing posture and pranayamas (breathing exercises) to strengthen the body and expand the capacity for breath support and vocal manipulation.