How Feeling My Vowels Softened My Heart

I spent many years emotionally guarded without even knowing it. I regarded myself as a typical “Type A” personality—always on the go, hyper-intellectual, quick-paced, and super-organized. In truth, I was more than likely labeling anxiety as being a Type A personality. Physical attributes that came with this were breathing into my chest (as opposed to the whole of my thoracic cavity), anxiety, and a tight jaw.

It wasn’t until I opened my mouth to the structural vowels in the Lessac work that I first felt freedom and my heart sing. Let me explain.

  The structural vowels are eleven vowels that maintain their sound and lip-opening shape whether you are yawning in a big “good morning to the world” way or simply feeling a minimal-optimal yawn space when you speak. You can feel structural vowels whether you are vocalizing or whispering. Say “cool” while yawning and still be able to make the circular lip opening and be understood. You cannot do this with the word “peace,” a Y Buzz word. Try saying “peace” while yawning and it will turn into “pace,” thus, it is not a structural vowel. It comes down to the structure your lips and cheeks make to create the vowels. When you feel the elasticity of these muscles as in yawning, you feel more flexibility in your spirit--plain and simple!

You can feel and develop the structural vowels in my online course “Embodied Voice: Feel Dynamic.”

I felt the freedom and magic of the structural vowels at the end of my first Lessac four-week summer intensive. I was in my final private coaching session with a certified trainer and we were exploring a short verse of Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The text included many structural vowels and Ophelia was emotional. The last two lines of the verse were:

“Blasted with ecstasy: O, woe is me, To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!”

When highlighted for the structural vowels:

Blasted with ecstasy: O, woe is me, To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!”

  The more I let myself open up to these lip opening shapes and sizes, the more I connected with the character’s distress. My heart moved and I felt vulnerable, but in control. It was amazing. The trainer said, “Isn’t it wonderful how you can feel like her heart is moving through her mouth in her grief?”  Yes, I felt that and it was fantastic.

It was the first time in my life that I had felt a connection between my emotional life and my vocal life without feeling out of control. I felt myself the whole time and I felt healthy, balanced, and free.

  Attuning to the muscles of the lips and cheeks means you are feeling the flexibility of these muscles. All muscles are elastic in nature—they lengthen and contract. Your face muscles do the same!  When feeling the eleven lip opening shapes of the structural vowels and yielding yourself to the elasticity of the muscles that make them, you begin to notice flexibility in your heart and mind. It’s fascinating, freeing, and one of the most beautiful benefits of speaking with awareness that I know. To be able to choose to open my heart freely based off of how I feel my vowels means I can become vulnerable, but grounded. I can stress something important to me without losing my cool. I can be tender without being weak. I have a range of vocal and emotional dynamics available for me based on how I feel the elasticity of my lips and cheek muscles and also how I feel my breath and connect with my listener. This all happens at once and I do not have to plan any of it. I am free and connected. Today I feel this freedom in my everyday speaking, whenever I am reading aloud to my daughter, and while I teach a group. I can affect how they hear me based on the rhythm of my speech. Feeling my structural vowels extravagantly change my speech rhythm subtly, but noticeably.

My listeners feel my true self--my heart--as I speak and they know I am truly connected to them.