“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” – Maya Angelou
We all need courage in order to undertake voice and/or yoga training. When we commit to the process of freeing our voice and body, we are taking a leap of faith and letting ourselves believe that it is possible to overcome obstacles that may have been there so long that we have gotten very used to them! Maybe we aim to release our hamstrings that have been tight for years, or find freedom and ease through that break in our voice that seems like it’s always been there. It takes courage even to believe it is possible to change, let alone take the first steps.
So often I speak with friends or new students who tell me what is “wrong” with their voices, as if that’s just how it is and there’s nothing they can do to change that. This seems to happen more often with singing than with our physical challenges – with the popularity of yoga and fitness in general, people understand that over time with regular practice, they can enact change in their body. Whether it’s losing weight, building strength, or gaining flexibility, there is (usually) a basic understanding that change is possible – but that doesn’t make it easier! It still takes courage to take that first step towards your fitness goals. But it is perhaps even harder for those beginning voice students who are not “natural singers” to take their first steps towards their vocal goals, because vocal training is not as pervasive and accessible in our culture as fitness and yoga instruction. It is still a very new idea that anyone can find freedom in their voice and sing beautifully once they’ve received guidance from an experienced teacher, coupled with consistent, mindful practice.
Of course, just as you couldn’t train a slim, petite woman to lift over 250 lbs, one couldn’t make a light lyric voice into a dramatic one, or vice-versa. There are certain unique, inherent qualities in everyone’s voice, but those are best discovered once the basic principles of healthy vocal technique have been imparted and internalized. Until then, I recommend remaining curious about the qualities of your voice while staying out of evaluation, and especially staying out of judgment and criticism. Have the courage to trust in the unknown mysteries of your voice; trust that anything you hear in your voice that is less than beautiful is just a symptom of tension, or techniques not yet embodied. Basically, certain muscles need strengthening, and others need to release – and this type of training simply takes time (and courage!)
As you grow in awareness of your own instrument, your belief of what you can do will expand. But then you will need courage all over again for those more difficult songs, arias, roles. Just as yogis need courage to attempt more difficult poses such as arm balances and inversions, more advanced voice students need a fresh dose of courage to experience the full breadth and power of their voice.
But the most courage is needed at the start of the journey, to take that leap of faith by taking the first step and believing change is possible. Once you take that step in earnest, this new-found courage will seep into your life and the blessings of many other virtues will come your way!
For more about Becca, visit www.northwestvocalyoga.com