Breath is the foundation of yoga and life, according to Melanie Dorn, guest speaker at our December 2nd meeting. She has combined her expertise and certifications as a Speech Language Pathologist, LSVT/LOUD Certified Clinician, and Certified Yoga Instructor to create a unique yoga program offering for people with Parkinson’s.
Several years ago, while teaching PFNCA-sponsored Communication Club and yoga classes at Inova Fair Oaks, Melanie added a vocalization component to her yoga class and called it Vocal Yoga. Searching to see if anyone else was teaching this type of class, she found Heather Lyle in California. Heather’s classes, which emphasize vocalization in different yoga postures, were offered to actors and singers (“vocal athletes”) with the goal of developing a more powerful breath to support voice.
After earning her teaching certificate in vocal yoga, Melanie developed Vocal Yoga classes for people with Parkinson’s, as well as for people recovering from head and neck cancers. Her program combines vocal yoga, LSVT/Loud, and vocal therapy techniques. Along with a number of other yoga classes, Melanie offers Vocal Yoga through her company, Blue Harmony Yoga.
Melanie led our group through various breath and stretching exercises. She first explained the importance of taking care of voice posture. Standing up straight gives the lungs space to move, allowing as much air to exchange as possible, and lets the diaphragm to go through its fullest range of motion (moving downward and flattening as we inhale, curving upward as we exhale).
Melanie recommends everyone do this Breath Watch (PDF) exercise for five minutes each morning and five minutes each night. It increases the ability to extend the exhalation. Our bodies communicate physically. When we are stressed, our hearts beat faster, our breathing becomes shallower, and we get flushed or sweaty. Telling ourselves or having someone else tell us to ‘calm down’ doesn’t work. This exercise gives us practice in extending our exhalations so we can use it when we feel stressed. Long exhalations help calm us down and communicate to our bodies physical calmness. Blood pressure and heart rate decreases, as does the amount of adrenaline and cortisol our bodies produce.
Vocal Yoga stretches all the muscles that are used for speaking. Melanie began our group class with warm-up movements to decrease tension and increase range-of-motion in our muscles. Tense muscles are hard to move. Pain generally signals that an area needs stretching or strengthening,
Vocal Yoga moves the body in harmony with the breath. Breathing in through the nose warms and cleans the air, and starts the exchange of gases as oxygen enters the body. Breathing out through the mouth gives greater control over exhalation and supports our voices as we speak on exhalation. She explained and demonstrated Diaphragmatic Breathing (PDF), also referred to as belly breathing. Instructions for this exercise and information, books, and resources about Vocal Yoga (PDF) have been provided by Melanie.
Melanie teaches an online Vocal Yoga class on Fridays – 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. Try it out before you commit – the first class is free! Melanie can be contacted through her website: http://www.blueharmonyyoga.com/contact.html