For years, I’ve wanted to take voice lessons. As a performer, I thought it was a good idea to train my voice just as I’ve spent time training my body. I finally made good on that ambition this fall when I asked around, found a teacher, and started singing lessons.
Almost immediately, I began to draw parallels between singing lessons and yoga practice. Finding these similarities has helped further cement both my existing ideas around my yoga practice as well as my developing ideas around singing better and more freely. Here are seven key points I return to when I’m standing next to the piano each week.
1. Find the right teacher. A mindful music teacher will ask you what your goals are. Just as with yoga, there are styles and teachers that fit each student. My teacher has a knack for useful, entertaining metaphors and pleasant conversation. I’m not sure if it’s a Jedi mind trick that doubles as distraction and relaxation, but I like it.
2. Don’t live in your head. The more I thought about what I was doing and tried to control it, the more I would hold tension in the wrong places and the wrong way. When developing and honing technique, the monkey mind can make a mess.
3. Breath is fundamental. Like audible speech, singing uses air to vibrate the vocal folds (formerly vocal cords), so any labored, restricted, or insufficient breath will affect the physical results, sometimes in subtle ways.
4. Be in touch with your body. As with the occasional yoga class, you end up learning about muscles you never knew you had. After some lessons, I just feel like being silent because the smaller muscles are tired from all the attention. Eventually, you learn to feel the small differences as well as the large ones.
5. Be patient. Progress is incremental as you learn what you already do and correct or build on that. As you’re working on that, you’re learning to integrate other concepts. Bringing it all together can be frustrating, but it will come with practice.
6. Do your own practice. Although there are drills (like asana or sequences, but for singing), each body will respond differently and have a different range. I am taking voice lessons to learn how to sing like me, not like D’Angelo or Justin Timberlake.
7. Play the long game. Rushing or pushing can lead to injury. Healthy technique repeated over time develops the strength and flexibility the body needs to be able to do the work. There will be setbacks, there will be walls, and there will be stumbles. What seems like sliding backward is usually only shifting gears as you’re integrating new material. You need to back up a bit to get enough runway for the next leap forward.
Training the collection of muscles that make the voice what it is is exactly like training the rest of the body. As yoga has helped me while learning singing, I look forward to seeing the ways in which singing will help my yoga practice.