May/June 2021

by Caitlin Smith

Finding Your Voice: The Whole Body

by Caitlin Smith

Finding Your Voice: The Whole Body

As a singer our body is our instrument. We must be entirely sovereign over how we take care of our inner landscape. If the cathedral that we are is filled with concrete, we cannot sing. Tension is that concrete. Opening and aligning the furniture and architecture of our bodies builds the instrument that we can then sing through/with.

We should sing with every inch of our bodies, from the crown of the head to the soles of our feet. This column dives into better understanding the body’s energy centres, or chakras, and how we utilise them when singing.

Though connected by the spine, each chakra has its own energy. They all work together (like an engine or the organs of the body do). If we meditate on each centre, we can feel into its essence and be energised and strengthened by it. We might even discover our own personal insights and develop deeper relationship with these significant places.

In Chinese medicine, everything revolves around the breath. Long slow tai chi movements enveloped and directed by long smooth slow breaths is a fundament of good health. There are relationships between parts of the body that we might not be aware of – vocal health, for example, relates to the kidneys (adrenals). Free passages of energy ‘chi’ mustn’t be blocked in any way.

This is identical to the openness required of the body in order to resonate sound. Singing and breathing from the energy centres allows us to feel and experience their benefits immediately.

Firstly, the Root Chakra: Muladhara, meaning ‘foundation’.

From this place we draw stability and stabilisation, balance, sustenance, community, connection, security, surety, groundedness, belonging, calm, fortification, safety, support, being-earthed and protected.

I visualise this place (seated at the coccyx/tail bone) as an underground cave with ancient paintings drawn onto its walls. In the centre is a fire pit with a circle of elders sitting shoulder to shoulder. There is a space for me to drop down, commune and consult with ancestors and earth energy.

We sing from this place to give our voices depth, richness, warmth, control and ease. I spend more time meditating in this area than any other. It helps to breathe from our roots and draw energy upwards from the earth. In the shlokas relating to Muladhara, the Sanskrit says; ‘Those who meditate on this chakra have absolute control over speech … (Her) sweet voice/reverberation is like that of a far-away sound of a swarm of mad loud bees… she is the inspiration that drives a variety of beautiful arts, poetry and literature’.

Secondly, the Sacral Chakra: Svadhisthana

‘The abode of the self’, which I visualise as a giant dimly-lit beehive-shaped library. Shelves and shelves of books line the walls… perhaps experiential wisdom (that can be drawn from at any time). Svadhisthana is the centre of: gravity, expression, creativity, intimacy and intimate relationships, how to realise and utilise our talents and bring them into the world. And very importantly, emotion. Svadhisthana controls the tongue. Freeing the pelvis/hips automatically releases the jaw!

Thirdly, the Solar Plexus chakra Manipura or ‘city of gems’.

I see this place as a fiery furnace that burns away tension and trauma. Negative or toxic thoughts and experiences are incinerated from dung and transformed into fuel. Here we feel into our inherent value and worth (buried as precious metaphorical metals and stones deep within). This centre is the base of our will, confidence, fortitude, determination, strength, resilience and personal power.

Fourthly the heart, Anahata.

I see the heart as being so spacious that it can contain the embrace of heaven and earth; Ranginui and Papatuanuku. Breathing and singing from this area is truly a delight. The intercostal muscles, that allow our floating ribs to swing outwards and expand with each inhale, are like the body’s shock absorbers. The sternum often holds a lot of fear and anxiety as tension. It’s good to remember that cartilage makes up a lot of the front of the ribcage. I like to think of the heart as ever-expanding, buoyant and full of the love that Papatuanuku and Ranginui have for us.

Fifthly, the throat chakra – Vishuddhi/Vishuddha ‘purification and filtration systems’.

Of all the energy centres of the body this one covers the greatest area and has the largest number of extensions radiating from it. Not surprising considering that it controls the neck, shoulders ears and throat. It is also responsible for the capacity to listen. Therefore, we must learn to listen to ourselves, and others, with openness, trust, love, non-judgement and allowing the filtration and purification systems to do their mahi. Opening the throat with a silent giggle does just that. Allow the sound to swim and fly around the spaciousness of sea and ‘deep space’. There is zero gravity in this massive area. Note: Comparisons shut down the throat.

Sixth is the third eye chakra Ajna or ‘command centre’.

I teach that this exact spot is the control panel or steering wheel for the voice. It is the exit or focus point for sound and the location of ‘ng’ – The most fundamental tool in healthy vocalisation. It’s situated at the centre of the sinus cavities.

One of my students was able to achieve perfectly smooth onsets by thinking of ‘ng’ as a hongi (the breath of life and exchange of wairua ‘the water of two’.) Singing is an immensely psychological activity. Focusing the sound as a laser-beam emitted from Ajna will eradicate distractions, doubt, clutter and criticism.

And finally, the seventh chakra Sahasrara, ‘thousand petalled’.

I perceive this centre as a sunroof. When the rest of the energy centres are spinning, aligned, open and turned on, we will automatically feel a connection with the divine.

Remember, you are the manifesting generator of your own energy. Meditating and singing directly from these areas illuminates and empowers. Assess where and when you might be losing or giving away energy and reel it back in. Then you won’t waste energy by trying too hard, forcing or pushing.

support nzm