A couple of days ago I started to sing again. Not just belting along with P!nk on the radio, but dragging my collection of Broadway books down off the shelf and flipping through them humming the tunes that weave together for me into a patchwork of history, obsession, and some damn hard work. I stopped on one song in particular and started working on it once again. A rock ballad. For those of you that may have heard me sing in the past, this is not something I ever considered my strong point. I am a classically trained singer. This means that I gravitate towards music from shows such as, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, MUSIC MAN, CAROUSEL, and so on. But, you have to cover all of your bases when you audition for musical theatre and therefore this rock ballad had been in and out of my audition book for years.
As I sang through it I was surprised at how great it really sounded. I wasn’t singing for anyone else but myself, and it felt wonderfully effortless as I glided from phrase to phrase. I wasn’t manipulating the tone, but singing with my voice, enjoying the feeling of the air passing through the throat, the dip of the diaphragm with each breath and the sound of my tone.
But then I instantly made the mistake of listening to the original cast recording of the song and immediately started making comparisons. My sound is darker and I probably pronounce the words a little too succinctly for this genre. The performer on the recording had a chirpier, edgier sound. Ugh. I still wasn’t that great at this song. I quickly closed up the books, put them back on the shelf, and moved on to other things.
It got me thinking though. How long have I been listening to others about what I should sound like? I’ve had a voice teacher since I was 9 years old. And as someone that still teaches an occasional voice lesson myself I do believe that a developing voice needs someone helping them with technique to keep the voice healthy and going in the right direction, as well as, open you up to composers, pieces and different types of music that you may not be aware of. But in the last 4 or 5 years before I stopped auditioning I realize it had been quite some time since I had picked out my own music, or listened to my gut about using my own musical chops. Instead of singing songs I loved, I was singing songs everyone thought I should sing, or for any particular audition I would cram a new song into my repertoire to fit the producer’s or director’s needs and pray that everything went ok once I stood before them. I was so used to manipulating my voice to sound like what I thought everyone wanted to hear that I no longer relied on listening to what my own unique sound was. Singing stopped bringing me joy because it had become inauthentic in every way – it was no longer my truth.
Maybe this is why I started gravitating more and more towards the yoga. With yoga there is no way that any particular posture cannot be your truth in that moment. Sure you can manipulate a posture or “cheat,” but then you will always get the authentic result of whatever work you put in. If you are not locking the knee you will never strengthen up that knee joint. Just as if you never take that big step out in Triangle Pose you will never get the hips to open as is intended in this asana. But if you are working for your best form, in your best capacity, with whatever you have in a singular moment you are being true to yourself in a way that you may not be for the rest of the day.
I often say to my students, “Be proud of your yoga, for it is a part of who you are.” And though some may think I’m being a bit dramatic others may understand what I mean. The postures you are practicing are your truth in that moment. They demonstrate where you are flexible and where you are tight. The control of your breath and your mind. How your heart, your lungs, and your entire body comes together to accomplish the form and depth of a particular asana is a representation of who you are, where you are going, and where you have been.
As I passed through the last week after that brief work on my music I couldn’t help but think about how I can bring the feeling of the authenticity of my yoga practice to the sound of my singing voice. Even as I sing to the radio in my car I am no longer trying to sound like the artist I am jamming along with, but stretching myself to just be me, to just sound like me. We all have a voice, a unique message of our experience on this planet. And we are here to let it be heard. Not to become a carbon copy of someone else or mimic someone else’s journey. Be you. I guarantee that no else around has the chops to walk the truth of your experience.
How does your yoga practice translate to life outside the hot room?
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