Last month I spent a week in Stockholm, Sweden, teaching my Yoga Tune Up® Integrated Embodied Anatomy module to a group of future yoga teachers at Yogayama studio. I arrived in icy-cold Stockholm late at night after a 22-hour journey. When I awoke jet-lagged the next morning, I was hoarse — very hoarse. With 20+ hours of teaching ahead of me over the next four days, I was concerned. There was no way to call in a “sub.”

Somehow I made it through the first day of yoga classes with some amount of pushing and strain. But on morning #2, the voice was completely shot. I mean 100 percent gone. For six hours, I pantomimed my way through the anatomy lessons … and liberally used Dagmar Khan, one of our European Yoga Tune Up® teachers who’d flown in from Ireland to attend the course. Like a versatile United Nation’s translator, she would speak aloud my whispered words so the crowd of 30 could hear me in the studio.

Silence is a golden opportunity

That night after the session, my hostess, Anna Hultman, rushed me to a city clinic so that I could see a doctor. On the way there, she told me that the students actually enjoyed Day #2 more than Day #1. “And don’t take this the wrong way,” she said, “but they liked it more because you spoke less.”

Identifying deep lower back muscles with Yoga Tune Up® Balls.

Indeed. With my voice gone, my mind and mouth had to edit 80 percent of the “excess speech” I might frequently use to qualify or explain concepts. I had to economize and distill my lessons into their most potent form and transfer the onus of learning away from my vocal chords and into their bodies.

Luckily, I design my embodied teaching so that the complicated interrelated systems of the body can be understood through experiencing them in the body, not just through a two-dimensional slide show. I teach people to be students of their own bodies, not students of my body, my mind or my voice. I give them tools to listen to the sensations emanating from different tissue layers, learn to recognize different neurological relay patterns … so that ultimately, they don’t need me to guide them. They can navigate themselves.

In writing, this all sounds a bit esoterically theoretical, but in the classroom, these methods make the body come alive as never before. They become anatomically fluent.

Still speechless in Sweden

The doctor took a blood test and ruled out bacterial infection. (I never actually felt sick or had a fever … I had just completely lost my voice.) He told me to rest and be silent for two days (all of this in Swedish of course). Anna told him that I was “an important Anatomy teacher from the U.S. and had to deliver a lecture for the next two days, so rest was impossible.” So he caved and gave me a very strong steroid that would work for 24 hours to reduce inflammation.

But it didn’t really work. I woke up on Day #3 and still sounded like a ghost. A ghost who occasionally croaked like a frog.

Stay tuned for part two and find out how Jill got her voice back!

[reprinted with permission from Gaiam Life.]

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Jill Miller

Jill Miller, C-IAYT, ERYT is the co-founder of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide and creator of the self-care fitness formats Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model® Method. With more than 30 years of study in anatomy and movement, she is a pioneer in forging relevant links between the worlds of fitness, yoga, massage, athletics and pain management. She is known as the Teacher’s Teacher and has trained thousands of movement educators, clinicians, and manual therapists to incorporate her paradigm shifting self-care fitness programming into athletic and medical facility programs internationally. She has crafted original programs for 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox, YogaWorks, and numerous professional sports teams. She and her team of 500+ trainers help you to live better in your body with an emphasis on proprioception, mobility, breath mechanics and recovery. She has presented case studies at the Fascia Research Congress and International Association of Yoga Therapy conferences. She has the rare ability to translate complex physiological and biomechanical information into accessible, relevant moves that help her students transform pain, dysfunction and injury into robust fitness. Jill is the anatomy columnist for Yoga Journal Magazine and has been featured in Shape, Men’s Journal, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, Yoga Journal, Self, and on the Today Show and Good Morning America. Jill is regularly featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network. She is the creator of dozens of DVD’s including Treat While You Train with Kelly Starrett DPT and is the author of the internationally bestselling book The Roll Model: A Step by Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility and Live Better in your Body. Based in Los Angeles, CA, she is a wife and mother of two small children and is currently writing her second book.

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I have had this happen on a business trip and presented very hoarse with a lot of hand gestures. Your training methodology is truly magnificent in having the student experience each part of the training through their body biases so that they can better relate when guiding others through a Yoga Tune Up class.


I already gave my speech pathology “shpeel” to the other part of this blog, but you must have been slightly panicked and feeling like, ‘why now??’. Regarding being more concise and economical with instructions during a yoga class, as a student, sometimes it’s appreciated and allows you to focus and “listen” to your body more. But of course, other times it’s more than beneficial to hear all the cues and information as well. Drink a lot of water! 🙂


Jill, I love the way you overcome the obsticles.Even when you were speechless, you didn’t give up. Your faith and the truth of being THE STUDENT OF YOUR OWN BODY is admirable. I am curious to know what happend next.


Ooh! Suspenseful! Will respond more after reading part 2!

Gloria Tan

I too am wondering how this will end. Though it does make me wonder about how the heck you could ever have someone sub for you Jill.. Maybe one of the integrated tune up teachers?? Can they teach your stuff? Also, this story reminds me of when me and my 7 siblings were young and our dad lost his voice. He’s was usually a very vocal, Authoritarian type of parent – (expecting us to follow his strict rules without any lip or explanation) — So one night, my dad came down the stairs trying to yell at us because we… Read more »


Well, I can’t wait how this ends, but I do want to leave a quick comment to say I sympathize. I lost my voice once and it was sooo taxing. BTW, whispering strains the vocal cords even more, but it sounds as if you had no choice.

Jessica Patterson

Having recently wrestled with laryngitis myself, I was really interested to read about Jill Miller’s own experience in Sweden. What stood out to me in particular was the recognition that our job–as teachers–is NOT to direct attention to us, but to help facilitate and encourage that deep inner listening for the innate wisdom within each student. I responded to Jill’s blog referencing the tongue massage Robyn suggested, in which the same basic lesson is revealed (only, in that case, more pointedly for the teacher to hear!). Sometimes we are literally silenced so we can hear, so we can listen to… Read more »

Heidi Knapp

Jill this article caught my attention to other day and now I am happy to sit down and read it, I want to comment on both part one and two (two I haven’t finished yet). The most important section of this part one blog to me is the inner voice you give to students. I feel like you have given me permission to be my own best teacher and this is exactly what my mission is as a teacher. Of course, I want to make relationships for life, but not one’s where people are dependent on me. I am also… Read more »

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