Many of us carry tension in our shoulders. The stress of driving to work, being at work, kids, school, housework; everyday activities cause tension, good and bad. It is very important to spend some time every day to decompress and release that tension. This stress and tension can eventually lead to health problems, including voice disorders and the voice box is located in your throat where this tension lies.
Yoga is a great way to decompress. Realistically, however, many of us do not have the time to pull out a mat and do a full hour session of deep breathing and stretches every day. On days that you can’t take the time to really decompress, here are some quick things you can do to ensure mental and physical well-being.
Every day, or every stressful activity if need be, should begin with a warm-up and end with a cool-down. Just like if you were about to run a marathon; you wouldn’t just stand up and start running then lay down and watch TV as soon as you are done. First you must stretch or do some speed walking, and when you are done you will probably cool off by doing some walking or more stretching. So when entering a stressful situation or a situation during which you will do a lot of talking, warm- up your voice and your shoulder and neck muscles. Likewise, when you are done with you stressful situation, cool off your voice and your tension areas with a cool-down. Remember, cool-downs do not have to be as long as warm-ups.
Start with shoulder and neck stretching:
Shoulder Rolls- Bring your shoulders forward and roll them back to gather tension up then release it. Inhale for upward motion, and exhale for downward motion. Remember that you want to open the chest area by rolling back, not forward.
Head rolls- Turn your head over one shoulder, roll it down so your chin touches your chest and to the next shoulder. Never roll your head backwards when trying to reduce tension because this will add tension to your voice box. Inhale for the downward motion to the chest and exhale for the upward motion to the next shoulder.
Head tilts- While keeping your shoulders in place, tilt your head as far to the side as you can to the shoulder without moving your shoulders up. For the exhale, release and slowly move your head back to midline. Repeat this on the other side.
These exercises should take less than 5 minutes to do. Do each of these approximately 5 times. Take notice of which work best for you and do those more than the others.
Next, warm-up your voice with:
Lip trills- Take a deep, slow breath and expel it by doing raspberries. Hold this out until you finish the entire breath stream. This exercise is like a massage for your vocal cords.
Sighing- This helps you to release tension while relaxing the vocal cords. Take a deep breath. Open your mouth wide and let out a big yawn and a loud sigh. Make sure that the sigh lasts until you are out of breath. (Warning- this exercise is most likely going to make you yawn for real!)
For a cool-down, simply do an abbreviated version of these exercises. Remember, these exercises are meant to decrease tension and stress as well as promote good vocal hygiene!
That’s all for now. Hope this helps. Keep calm and breathe on!