Why do we sing??
We all have a unique relationship to our singing voice!
For some, our vocal relationship status may be ‘non-existent’ or ‘dormant’. (I prefer, ‘Waiting to flourish!’)
Others of us are searching for our singing voice. Maybe we’re in a choir or singing at home or having lessons. Maybe we hold some judgements about our voice (‘I’m hearing a rusty iron gate right now… And it’s windy!’ Or ‘Why can’t this record just tune to my pitching?’) There’s alternating enjoyment and contraction, inspiration and castigation. Akin to a passionate love affair with fights and kiss and make ups.
For others of us, singing can be a way of bringing joy to our hearts. Or to self-nurture and heal. And to sing to connect authentically with ourselves, and others in community. And to our true nature / consciousness / God or however we want to name the unnameable. We could call this ‘finding our voice’ - though I believe our relationship to our singing voice can be ever evolving.
And some of us, including myself, we have experienced all of these above mentioned ways of relating to our voice!
My relationship status to my voice during my school years can be summed up in one word: ‘Apathy.’ I did get to sing often at both primary and secondary school - hymns in assembly or chapel. Plus singing hymns every Saturday at church service in another school hall. When I sang it was always with a couple of hundred people. I didn’t really know what my own voice sounded like!
I wasn’t connected to my body or my heart or my consciousness. Definitely just going through the motions, like a piece of drift wood! Though I’m sure singing ‘All things bright and beautiful’ and ‘Onward Christian soldiers’ did plant positive samskaras or impressions and seeds for future sprouting and flourishing.
In my youth I was into Dire Straits and Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix and Metallica - bands where the electric guitars were the kings. In my late teens, I started listening to popular music where the singers were the kings and queens of the band. Frank Sinatra, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, Oasis, the list goes on.
Hearing them gave me the impetus to write my own songs - and to do this I would have to sing! I didn’t really care about how my voice sounded. I saw my voice as an instrument to write a song, nothing else!
It was in my early 20’s when I suddenly heard back for the first time the disparity between the vocal line I was hearing in my head and my vocal take on the recording! I was pretty stunned. I had just assumed I could sing super high, strong and delicate all at the same time like Thom Yorke. My response was: ‘Wow, I’m way off… I need to get another singer to sing my songs!’
And so my stage as ‘the guitarist’ in the rock band began! I was so grateful to meet and collaborate with an amazing human being and soul friend, Dava, who could do what I didn’t have the confidence to do - front a band, talk the talk, walk the walk and sing the songs!
Yet my thirst for songwriting remained unabated, so I continued to write, sing and record my own songs in the comfort of my Oxford bedsit through my twenties.
My relationship to my voice however only really transformed after discovering yoga and kirtan when I was 30. There was a moment, a definite perceived moment, a year later, when I thought, ‘Wow, I actually am enjoying the sound of my voice!’
I had just moved from Oxford to a remote village in Tasmania, happily concluded that chapter in my life, and had all the time in the world. Plus I was in love, and having the time of my life singing rock covers and kirtans! I just couldn’t get enough of the SOUND of my voice and the feelings of joy and love singing was giving me. This was all new for me!
It’s hard to know exactly why my voice had seemingly improved so much so quickly. I can definitely argue a case for starting to regularly practice yoga asanas, pranayama, yoga nidra, mantra chanting, nada yoga and kirtan! And equally for beginning to live consciously. And also equally for the enormously positive sea change, and highly supportive new love relationship. It all came at once!!
And I’m sure it all helped! It was the beginning of my understanding from experience that our singing voices are part of who we are, body, mind, soul and spirit. Now I realise that I was singing with an embodied, conscious voice for the first time.
In my first thirty years, I would spend as much of my time disconnected to my body as I could! Playing video games, drinking, obsessive thinking etc. But when we’re singing our WHOLE body is our instrument. I’m sure my daily asana practice and meditation really helped me stay in my body when singing. Equally nowadays, my daily toning and nada (sound) yoga practices. To be able to feel the vibrations of singing too through the body is such a joy! Especially mantras I find.
And living more consciously, being in my body more, being in a supportive loving relationship and doing practices like bhastrika (breath of fire) I’m sure really helped me mentally. I felt more and more empowered as I realised I had more conscious choice in my life than I previously thought possible. My increasing self-confidence I’m sure really helped improve my vocal power.
Also my experience of the emotional impact of my singing was greatly heightened. I put this down to all the witnessing I practiced during meditation, yoga nidra, asana, mantra chanting and life (as best I could!) For the first time consistently in my life, I was inviting my emotions to surface rather than be pushed down, squashed or overridden.
It felt exhilarating to be able to feel the dejection, isolation, and sadness when singing Lou Reed’s Heroin, the bitterness and acerbic humour of Bob Dylan’s Idiot Wind, the tenderness and heart ache of Neil Young’s Unknown Legend, and the excitement and joy of The Beatles’ And I Love Her.
And most fulfilling of all, for the first time when singing I could connect to the bliss of pure being, to the Divine, to Oneness with all Life. This happened the moment I brought back a harmonium from India and starting singing devotional songs, kirtans and bhajans. Wow. It’s impossible to describe… I remember feeling so complete and full. Devotion perhaps is the closest word. Or Love.
And the wonderful thing was that once this connection was made, I could start writing devotional English songs too, and so whether I was singing in English or Sanskrit, that connection could be there. Like an eternal well spring of replenishment and nurture, ever since, when I sing. I’m so grateful to be able to connect with my singing voice in this way.
It is now such a joy to support others on their singing journey, to witness students, and participants of kirtan, deepen their connection to their singing voice in their own unique way. It is my wish that this blog may inspire you to deepen your connection to your singing voice. Because, wow, the benefits are just incalculable.
And I’m sure there is no end to finding our voice - because it is part of who we are. What a miraculous, mysterious and marvellous process it is that as we deepen our connection to our voice, we deepen our connection to our unique body, mind and soul, energy, emotions, and to the eternal consciousness beyond all this - and vice versa.