The voice is unique in that it is deeply connected with one’s identity; it is a significant part of who we are and how we express ourselves. Yet, the voice says much more than the words one chooses to speak. The tone, timbre, and melody of the voice can reflect one’s physical state of health, as well as express unconscious thoughts and feelings.
Reflecting back upon your own life experience, how do you feel when you find yourself in a situation in which you must speak up? Do you feel comfortable using your voice? Unfortunately, many of us have had experiences in life that led us to “silence” ourselves out of feelings of fear and feelings of inadequacy. This silencing carries a price, as we deny ourselves the opportunity to fully express who we are in the present moment.
If you find that you’re “silencing” yourself, an activity you can engage in to reclaim your voice is a vocal exercise called “toning.” Toning is an easy, gentle way of working with one’s own sound and breath. In toning, the vowels “AH,” “AY,” “EE,” “OH,” and “OO” are individually sounded on pitches of your choosing.
When preparing to tone, find a space where you can feel safe engaging in voice work; this is a time for self-exploration, not inhibition. Once you’ve identified a space that works for you, position yourself in a chair with both feet on the floor so that you can breathe freely and deeply. Breath is an important component to voice work, whether it be for toning, singing, or speaking. You may want to take a few moments to breathe and become more present before beginning to tone.
Once you’re ready to tone, identify a pitch that feels comfortable and then tone on a vowel for 5 minutes. Toning for this amount of time provides an opportunity for your voice to warm up, as well as allow you to have a deeper experience without overtaxing your voice. While toning, bring your awareness to what is happening in the present moment; simply notice whatever thoughts, feelings, and sensations may arise. Afterwards, you may even want to journal your experience. Try this activity for one week, choosing a single vowel to tone each day.
While your experience toning will be unique to you, there are common benefits for those who choose to engage in such vocal exploration activities, including decreased feelings of stress and an increased sense of relaxation. Even more important, when we feel connected to our voices, we can be more authentic in who we are. By exploring our voices in new and different ways, we can gain greater self-awareness, acceptance of our life situations, and discover new ways of relating in an ever-changing world.