HumTo Prevent Vocal Fatigue
We all have days in which we feel completely disconnected from how our bodies feel and what we say. This may be due to exhaustion, stress, anxiety, or chaotic circumstances. You speak, but have no idea what you said or the manner in which you said it. Or, even worse, you yelled at a crying baby out of frustration and fatigue and don’t know who you are anymore. Your voice feels weak, creaky, and tired. YOU feel weak and tired. It’s as if a mommy monster climbed out of your throat and forced negative energy into the room and all over your child. It surprises you, scares the baby, and feels awful for everyone.
Instead of feeling disconnected from a core sense of self, you can use your opportunities to speak as moments for embodied practices. This means two things: first, you explore how your voice feels right now. Do you notice any sensation in your mouth at all when you speak? Does your voice feel tired? Do you feel like your voice is stuck in the back of your throat? Does your voice feel strident? Notice I am not cueing you to the sound of your voice. It’s not possible to truly hear the sound of the voice unless audio recorded due to the amplification process in the skull. Therefore, the “sound” of the voice as you interpret it is unreliable. It is more accurate to focus on the feeling of the voice—where the vibrations resonate on the bony surfaces of the skull, hard palate, and teeth. When you work towards an embodied voice, you work to release the physical tensions surrounding your voice and the emotional tensions beneath.
Start by tuning in to the feeling of your voice in an activity we do daily to feel well: humming!
Yes, humming! Humming is one of the best vocal practices you can do to lift your spirits, develop your voice, and feel connected in voice, body, breath, and spirit.
Close your eyes or find a soft gaze. Hum on an M consonant and feel the vibration on the lips. Experiment with your lips to notice the change in the quality of the vibration—press the lips hard together and hum; soften the lips a lot and hum. Now find the “just right” amount of pressure between the lips to feel the most vibration that feels good.
Keep the voice on one pitch, or note. Usually saying, “Hello, my name is Mom” and sustaining the M at the end of Mom brings you to a pitch comfortable in the conversational range. Feel the vibrations of the M on this one note for different lengths of time—the length of a three-second exhale, the length of a five-second exhale. Next, feel the vibrations of the M while exploring up and down two or three pitches above the conversational pitch from before. Keep the vibrations on the lips and out of the head—we are exploring the speaking voice, not the singing voice, right now.
Now feel the M in words that end with M while sustaining in a second or two longer than you normally would. This is not an invitation to be louder or forceful with the sound, but explore duration in speaking. We are playing with rhythm and tempo. Explore these words then find your own: mom, him, same, seem, flame, momentum, came, postpartum. Feel the M when it ends a syllable. Notice the fun change in tempo and musicality when sustaining the M for a moment longer than the other consonants. Feel it in these words then find your own: symptom, amplitude, membership, exclaim, kingdom.
You can extend this awareness to other sounds/consonants while you speak to continually engage with your expressive spirit every time you speak. It's a wonderful way to find a state of embodiment and yoga (union of mind, body, breath, and spirit) for daily life.