“The voice is connected to everything you do,” says Pittsfield, Massachusetts—based Jurian Hughes, a senior teacher at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. You’re constantly giving voice to something. “It’s about all the ways you express yourself whether through art, taking action, writing, speaking, moving, playing, or being creative,” she says.
Hughes founded Yoga of Voice, a technique to bring forth your authentic self through your voice. Making sound creates a connection to yourself. “With your voice, you’re experiencing the power of who you are,” she says. “Your voice connects you to yourself, to others, and to the Divine.”
“Voice is vibration,” she says. “It’s a reflection of the breath, it’s amplified breath.” The breath moves through your vocal cords and reverberates through every bone in your body.
Yoga of Voice combines yoga poses with voice exercises and practices to create a vocal yoga experience. For instance, Hughes might pair a quiet hum sound such as “om” with a restful floor pose such as child’s pose, or a loud strong sound such as lion’s breath—which is a deep inhale and loud exhale—with a standing warrior pose.
Bringing sound to poses “amplifies the experience … it helps you feel stronger and more confident,” she says. “It’s about finding your own organic sound.” Your voice is the instrument through which you are cultivating vocal yoga. Hughes stresses that it is not how the pose looks or what the sound is, it’s how it feels.
“You’re shifting the focus of attention from the external world to your inner experience.” When you’re in touch with the “felt sense” of your body, it’s easier to speak your truth. “Truth has a vibration,” she says. “Ask yourself, ‘How does what I’m saying feel and vibrate through me?’” You can feel the truth.
Vocal yoga is considered fifth chakra yoga. Chakras are energy centers in your body, and the health and balance of your chakras affect your overall health and wellbeing, according to ancient Indian texts and beliefs. The fifth chakra is associated with the throat. The techniques Hughes employs boost the energy around speaking and expressing.
To tap into your inner self and strengthen your voice, try these five practices.
1. “Sing,” suggests Hughes. “Just start making sound in whatever way feels natural. Sing in the car, in the shower, in a choir.”
2. During vocal yoga practice or a workout, sigh, moan, or groan. If you’re in a difficult posture, let out a sigh. Sound moves energy through the body. Hughes explains that often in a yoga pose you tend to tighten and clamp down instead of releasing. With sound you’re releasing and letting go instead of tightening and withholding. “Just like a newborn baby cries and makes sounds as a way of releasing energy,” she says. “You also need to release through sound.”
3. Don’t judge your sounds, just feel them and allow them to be exactly as they are without trying to change or fix anything. “Swami Kripalu said, ‘The highest spiritual practice is self-observation without judgment,’” Hughes points out. “When you have less judgment about what you’re doing, you engage more fully in the activity and your range of expression expands,” she adds.
4. Use the “I am” affirmation during vocal yoga. Hughes recommends saying “I am heard” or “I am understood” or your own choice of words or mantra while in a pose. Your words go into your ears and affect your body. “Sound waves are particles being received by your eardrum. Let the words land in the cells of your body as you’re saying them,” she says.
5. Stimulate the breath. “The breath and your voice are one and the same. If there’s no breath there’s no voice,” she affirms. Invite full deep breaths into your belly. During stressful times, your breath becomes shallow and tight. “By taking deep breaths into the belly you’re relaxing your nervous system and strengthening your immune response.”
Hughes believes that your voice has the potential to heal yourself and the world. “Your body benefits when you speak your truth.” There’s a sense of relief that comes with honest communication—no matter how hard it may be.