I recently found a style of yoga that has helped me on a fundamental level. It is called Svaroopa Yoga, and it focuses on releasing the spine from the bottom up. One of the teacher trainers on the Svaroopa site says, “beginning Svaroopa® Yoga created a ‘revolution’ inside her, in which ‘everything shifted into its right place and it was like coming home to my Self.'” (Revolution, baby.) The first poses they teach are called “The Magic 4.” After doing these 4 exercises for a week, my lower back felt better than it had . . . maybe ever. And within 4 weeks my upper spine had straightened out so that my shoulder blades were closer together and almost in their rightful places.
Magic? No, better than that. Logical + magical = L’magical. French, I believe.
So, why post about l’magical yoga and risk sounding like an infomercial? Because this brand of yoga mirrors what I value in good voice training: getting to the functional issues instead of treating the symptoms.
As I grow older, I can tolerate less and less hoo-ha. That is a technical term for malarkey. Let’s get to the heart of the matter and uncover the root issues, work on those, then watch the symptoms disappear. The Magic 4 seem to do what they advertise and allow the spine to align itself from the bottom up by releasing muscles in order. (My teacher, Ryoko Suzuki, talks about the physiology and anatomy of the spine and how the exercises affect the muscles around the spine. L’magical, straightforward and effective.)
This is exactly how we might consider training voices.
Look at voice training as a skill building activity, starting with function. Whether you are singing professionally or just for fun, the functionality of the voice can be improved. This can be accomplished by strengthening and balancing the upper and lower registers of the voice, teaching resonance strategies, working on vowel development for tuning, learning to use more efficient airflow/airpressure, and a host of other functional or foundational skills. If the three mechanical parts of the voice (power source, vibrator, and resonator) are out of balance or not working in concert, a whole host of voice symptoms will appear. The idea is to work on underlying vocal function, and see if the minor problems don’t resolve.
Today I found an excellent article by Justin Petersen, a voice teacher in Watertown, MA. He lays it all out there. It’s called “What’s the Game Plan?” and he talks in depth about training vocal function. Maybe he has a Magic 4 of his own, I’ll have to ask, but regardless, he’s operating from the same principles: address the underlying function, and the whole thing will straighten out.