Speech and Yoga


Summary of Presentation by Melanie-Joy Dorn, Speech-Language-Pathologist,Fair Oaks Hospital to the Women with Parkinson’s Disease, September 6, 2016.


It was a small but lively, upbeat group of women who showed up for the first of our programs. Our special guest for month was well-known and respected Speech-Language Pathologist Melanie-Joy Dorn. Ms. Dorn has been employed by the INOVA Health System for 15 years. Fortunately for us, she has put a new focus in her work, people who live with Parkinson’s Disease.She leads a Communication class through the PFNCA, teaches the LSVT Loud class and Vocal Yoga.

Ms. Dorn came to speak to the group on a subject we have not addressed, issues concerning voice volume and strength and keeping our vocal cords strong. As a yoga coach, she also talked to us about a program she runs called Vocal Yoga.

As a yoga instructor and speech pathologist, Ms. Dorn looked for a connection between her two interests. It is, she found, to be in our breath. Deep breathing benefits everyone who practices it.Taking a deep breath helps you use the extra effort your voice needs to be heard. Other benefits:

  • Makes you calmer
  • Helps to detoxify the body
  • Gives you energy
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Relieves pain
  • Makes you happier
  • Stimulates the emphatic system
  • Improves digestion
  • Increases cardiovascular capacity

The Vocal Yoga class combines Vinyasa Yoga deep breathing, deep breathing and vocalizations to help keep event,a strong voice. I was able to participate in a demonstration of the class at  the PFCNA Walk off Parkinson’s event last Sunday, September 18th.  Although I felt self-conscious doing the vocalizations as walk participants walked or stood by, I can see how they can help improve our throat and voice strength..

During a Q & A session, someone asked about swallowing and choking. Ms. Dorn suggests small bites and explained how your throat works to prevent aspiration. She said that if you have difficulty swallowing to try bending your head down with chin toward chest to make it easier to swallow.

Ms. Dorn was gracious enough to leave us extra handouts. She also has a website , blueharmonyyoga.com which contains this information and so much more. Check it out! She also left me with copies of her handouts and business cards so if you’d like one of those, let me know.
Parkinson’s Disease disrupts your own feedback. This information was in reply to one member who noticed  family and friends had trouble hearing her. Parkinson’s disease makes you think you are speaking loud enough when in fact you are speaking too softly. Since you can’t rely on your own feedback. It’s much better to rely on the reactions of others. Your voice should be at the level of 75-85 decibels. Practicing long loud “ah” or reading aloud in a loud clear voice is necessary. This is where the LSVT Loud program can really help. One member mentioned that she’d gone through the Loud program but felt she needed it again. Ms. Dorn replied that the benefits of the Loud program last around 18-24 months, getting updated on the techniques is suggested .

If you missed the program and either want more information, please ask for the materials or check her website blueharmonyyoga.com. Comments and questions are always welcome.

As requested by the group last spring, there is no speaker next month and I continue to work on the driving and travel independence issues for November.

Thanks again Ms. Dorn for an enjoyable and educational program.

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