[See Part 1 of this blog post here.]
Pop star salvation: Stick our your tongue like a rock god!
On Day #4 I was audible. I had one more special, two-hour Core Integration workshop to teach, all about the diaphragm, core strength, breath and cool gut stuff. At the end of the workshop, a blond pixie-haired Swedish lady introduced herself to me as Robyn and said that she was a singer and has toured for the last five years without getting hoarse by doing a special tongue massage. She told me, “Stick out your tongue and play with it, pull on it just like a baby. Put your fingers in your mouth and massage it, it will release your vocal chords … and massage your throat, too.”
I went back to my hotel, filled the tub and soaked while I massaged the base of my tongue from inside my mouth. It was so freakin’ tight! After 15 minutes (and a lot of drool), I started to have an upper register and a smoother tone. As the base of my tongue relaxed, the inner muscles of my throat gave way, allowing my vocal chords to vibrate again. Waves of tears also sprang out of my eyes, and I could cry out loud instead of in silence. This was the miracle I had been looking for! No lozenge, no inhaler, no steroid nor tea could substitute for fumbling through my own inner tension by taking a hold of it at the root — the root of my tongue.
Life on the road has been incredibly stressful for the past year (I have traveled for more than 140 days out of the last 365), and my inoperable voice is clearly trying to tell me something. Some of the many inner messages that I heard were: Slow down. Be still. Listen to love. Speak for silence. Sing more. (I really like that one!)
Lose your voice, listen with your heart
I am eternally grateful to Robyn. (Did you see her on Saturday Night Live with Katy Perry in December? She is awesome!) She is the best Swedish massage teacher on the planet. The student definitely became the teacher in this instance, and I am so glad she spoke up.
So the next time you lose your voice and are wondering how to regain it, go looking for it with your own hands, and keep your heart listening as you take the plunge.
[reprinted with permission from Gaiam Life.]
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Tongue massage! I will have to remember that. How awesome it is that she was able to share something like that with you. I can’t wait to try it out!
Thank you! Since i became a yoga teacher losing my voice happens more frequently. I’m going to try this the next time it happens.
I have been struggling with my voice for years and have “pushed on” far too many times to count, teaching with a barely audible voice. While I have tried to learn and integrate the lessons my body is sending me (slow down!) , I do look forward to having a new, non-pharmaceutical, tool to try if it happens again. Thanks!
So amazing, I hearing how people can learn to self massage the body to release the muscles naturally that otherwise are prescribed something. Such a terrible experience turned into such a learning opportunity.
Interesting I would read this blog today. Yesterday i felt myself clearing my throat and at times losing all together. I liked this unique approach to unwinding the physical while finding the emotional. This has been a big lesson in my life that whatever is going on in my body is screaming something about my internal thoughts and or external actions. Thank you for your brutal honesty. i believe it is something missing in the traditional yoga ccommunity.
ah! this is perfect – I’m going to try the massage technique a little tonight and then again tomorrow morning. Thing is, I’ve been thinking lately, as I lose my voice, that it’s a clear sign of overuse & something has to give. I’m not a big talker by nature, so all of the teaching that i’ve been doing in the last couple of months – which has been wonderful in many, many ways – has begun to leave me frayed at the edges a bit. Which means it’s time for a shift, a transformation, a new direction – a new economy of words maybe? Either way, thanks for pointing me in the direction of this article – I will self-massage!
Wow, what a helpful article! I am reading for my Yoga Tune Up training, and I happen to be an opera and musical theatre singer. I have been hoarse the past few days and while I think some of it is owing to acid reflux, I am definitely going to try this technique! Unexpected bit of vocal wisdom (and of course, as a teacher I need to keep my voice going too.) Thanks for sharing!
I loved this — as a Speech Pathologist, I often treat patients with voice disorders, many of them, “professional voice users” (actors, teachers, etc.) — and it seems that people don’t nurture or appreciate their voice — until that day when it doesn’t “show up” for you. Your voice is your calling card and it will define you. It will reveal all your secrets — if you’re sick or dehydrated or spent the night “partying” ’til the wee hours, you may still look cute at work the next day but your voice will sound tired. And the more you strain to produce phonation, the more you use extraneous muscles, cause tension, until the vocal folds just rebel, swell, and physically make you let them rest. So voice therapy incorporates exercises to release tension in the head/neck and throat region, manually manipulating the laryngeal area lightly in a downward motion to release tension, release the jaw — and though I’ve never used this specific exercise of manually manipulating your own tongue — you can also try an exaggerated “chewing” motion (without food) — but this releasing of the BOT (base of tongue) makes sense and I look forward to applying it with patients!
I have studied voice on and off for my whole life. I am grateful to have found, at a young age, a teacher who took a very, very physical approach to singing. She would have me push and pull things to get my back muscles involved. She taught me the anatomy of the neck, throat and jaw and introduced me to “mobility” for those areas. She even sent me to body workers who worked exclusively with singers.
I am currently in an off-period from singing but when I go back the first thing I will do is loosen up the muscles of my jaw, tongue and neck. And yes, there will be a lot of drooling. My voice is part of my whole being and needs to be treated as such.
[…] Read how someone lost their voice and got it back naturally. […]
Wow! Such a great experience! You healed yourself and now you are sharing it with us, so we can heal ourselves in the same situation. Thanks.
Awesome!!!! This had the feelings of a fairy tale–maybe it was the two parts, the suspense, the message, or perhaps the colorful way that Jill writes. Whatever it was, I loved it! And before putting my hands on my keyboard to respond, I got a little curious and applicably, as i am now a much more committed student of my body(thanks to YTU teacher training), figured out what exactly Jill-and Robyn- were talking about. Wow! Having taught 3 classes yesterday and 3 the day before(2 in a heated environment), my tongue needed some massaging. Drool indeed! Have a washcloth nearby or do it in the bath as Jill described, but what an awesome tool to have, all within your own two hands!
OK…wierd,gross, icky and Loving IT! I just read part 1&2 back to back…during my work season of teaching and speaking ALL day , day after day by the 3rd month I start channeling Kathleen Turner. I NEVER Thought about the TOUNGE! so cool! I love massagging my scalenes even under collarbone and squeezing my SCM’s, masseters but it just Isn’t DEEP enough. As a kid growing up on a cattle ranch Ive actually played w a cows tounge…just the tounge after the steer was butchered,I know gross and spongey… But it IS apart of the whole. I am adding this in! Also back to Kathleens sexy rasp…I dont mind her showing up. its such a great reminder to conserve on my output and replenish the input. I feel like Ive STOPPED Talking AT my class/privates -by having to be ingenious of spreading myself out over a long period of time-and now get straight to the point of the work in my clients bodies far more quickly.
As someone who has lost her voice twice this year I will be trying this! I don’t know why I never thought to massage my own tongue it would have saved me hundreds of dollars on lozenges, sprays, teas, etc!! The first time I lost my voice I became so much more aware of how essential it is to my teaching. It was also good practice to not have a voice to better help me find my own voice! I found too that working my tongue muscle helps to release tension in my jaw and working on better vocals helps me breath better. I can only imagine spending more time working on my tongue muscle will help me be a better speaker.
Jill, so, I guess a tiny yoga tune up ball for the tongue would have too much of a choking hazard liability? 🙂 Darned, that could have been another big marketing item. :/
But, thanks for sharing the awesome information. I’ll definitely have to try it. I’ve never heard of this before. so cool.
Ah, that is too cool! And it makes so much sense. Thanks for sharing.
I noticed that the *morning after* my first YTU Integrated Anatomy class, I felt like singing on my way to Day 2 and felt pleasantly surprised to note unusual clarity and ease in my voice. As a wannabe singer, I attribute this to the work YTU ball work on the breathing muscles. Thanks for this extra bonus!
Perfect timing for me to read this article, as I am currently recovering from a cold and having lost my voice. Wish I would have known about this sooner! Also, I have terribly painful TMJ and arthritis is my jaw, so in physical therapy, yoga, and accupuncture,I am learning how important parts of our bodies like our tongues are. Our tongues effect so many more muscles than I would have ever imagined, and I have been advised to stretch and strengthen my tongue and other muscles that are around my jaw. Doing Lion’s breath helps stretch my tongue as well. Thanks for this!
I would have never thought to try something like this – sometimes i find that losing my voice is my biggest fear as a teacher. Without my voice, how will i instruct students? While there are other ways, it’s also nice to have your voice to support you. This will be on my ‘body maintenance’ list going forward.
This is fascinating. I have been a teacher (yoga for 6 years, writing/composition a few years before that!), and I have noticed over the past year that I get hoarse and even lose my voice after big intensive trainings, workshops, etc. I wrestled with what I termed laryngitis for weeks and weeks before I eventually ended up in bed, in the fetal position, with the flu and bronchitis. But, as Jill wrote, I know that my lost voice had as much to do with not listening to my heart (which had recently been broken) and needing to slow the pace of my life. What started as a constricted posture around my chest in response to sadness and stress eventually morphed into a lost voice. So, while I look forward to trying the tongue massage and seeing what emotions are released when I get to that root, I also understand that when I suffer in silence, I tend to lose my outer voice. I may have understood this intellectually, but reading Jill’s blog really illuminated that connection in a validating way. Bath tub will be filled and tongue explored tonight!
Also I LOVE Robyn!
It’s amazing! I think we forget that our tongue is a muscle just like our quadricep. In fact I forget about the muscles in my face in general and know that they hold as much (probably more) tension as any other muscle. I like the notion of getting at the muscles themselves rather then trying remedies such as lozenges, teas, I’m especially interested to see how this could help the next time I get a cold.
I have to say, the idea of doing this sounds incredibly strange and even somewhat icky. Yet, it makes perfect sense.
In the same way it felt a bit odd to pinch and roll my skin, it made perfect sense. It’s all living tissue in need of attention and maintenance. I’m not quite sure I’ll be attempting this right away but I’m curious enough to have it in my movement Queue. The lessons never stop.
This is so cool. I can’t wait to start exploring all of the ball techniques you provided me with for the facial muscles and this one as well. In your therapy ball training the other day when we moved to facial massage I felt tortured, I knew it was coming. My mind started to say “enough Heidi, enough,” meanwhile I heard your voice muffled in the background over my own, discussing body blind spots and habitual tension held in the body. Well this was something I knew all along, but it was that BINGO moment that told me to be kind and patient with myself. I have been waking up since college with tension in my jaw, other family members of mine are grinders, I am a clencher. I push my tongue into the roof of my mouth and slightly pucker my cheeks into my teeth and CLENCH. I have to practice letting go every night as I lay in bed. Being the open person that I am, I am willing to add all these little tools into my self care treatment. Can’t wait to see these changes.