The body has an enormous impact on our vocal potential. When the right muscles are working in the right way, speaking and singing are easy. But when the muscles are under tension due to a bad posture or a restricted way of speaking, things fall apart.
There’s a quiet part of you, right now, going “Oh dear lord, that voice guy’s going to start talking about posture”. Don’t deny it, I can hear it! But that insipid word ‘posture’ doesn’t even come close to describing how liberating and freeing working on the body can be for the voice. Because this is where you can acquire habits which not only free your voice – they make your communication more effective and allow you to conquer vocal problems.
So here goes – a couple of simple changes you can make to your body that will set your voice free.
Your muscles rely on bone. They hang from bones, between bones, around bones. They connect bones to other bones and allow bones to get to where they need to go. But when the bones are out of place, the muscles that connect them become unnecessarily tight. So we need a way of making sure that the bones stay in a position in which they’re not going to tense the muscles. This is where ‘alignment’ comes in. This is a dead simple idea – but I’m not going to describe it to you, I’m going to show you.
1. Stand up in a strong, militaristic posture – as stiff as a plank. Take a hand, and place it on the belly. Without bending your knees or hips, lean your body forward a little. You should feel that the muscles of your belly (your six-pack muscle, the rectus abdominis) tense to keep you upright.
2. Do the same again with a hand on the muscles either side of your spine. Lean backwards. You should feel those muscles tense.
3. Do the same again each side, with your hand on the corresponding side of your waist.
Can you feel those postural muscles kicking in? This happens, to a more or less degree, throughout your whole body. Any time that something is leaning over to one side – or out of alignment – it tenses, putting a greater pressure on the rest of the system to keep it in line.
So, we need to get everything stacked on top of each other, so that we aren’t putting any unnecessary pressure on our voice. But how do you know if you’re on-track with your posture?
1. Find a full-length mirror, or get a friend to have a look at you. Go side-on, so that your face and body is at a right angle to the mirror/friend.
2. Soften your knees, making sure that you’re not locking them backwards as you speak/sing.
3. Take your pelvis in your hands and rock your hips back and forth, giving them a release. As you rock them forward, you should feel the tailbone tuck under, and you should feel the tailbone flare backwards when you rock them back.
4. Let your shoulder blades fall down your back so that your shoulders soften and fall downwards to a comfortable position.
5. Let your neck lengthen, as though someone is pulling your head up by an imaginary string. Often the head will want to go forwards, as though you’re staring at something small. Pull it upwards and backwards, checking the front of the neck for any tension.
6. Here’s the money shot: You should see a straight line going from the arch of your foot; to the knees; to the point of the hips; to the ear. If anything deviates from that straight line, repeat the steps above and find the culprit. With these checks every day, you can not only increase your overall health but strengthen your voice for your singing and speaking needs and optimise your body language.