When did you stop singing?

When did you stop singing?

I was 7 years old.

The school play that year was going to be The Wizard of Oz and I knew in my bones that I was meant to be Dorothy.

For weeks, my parents listened to me preparing for the audition. I bet they wished that I was somewhere over a rainbow.

The day of the auditions, I was pumped! This was mine.

Then, I was up.

And… I froze.

Choked.

Strange sounds croaked out of me.

The other kids waiting to audition looked out the window. At their feet. Nobody would meet my eye.

No, wait, I said to the music teacher. I can sing it. I turned to my friend and said, Ask her! She’s heard me sing it!

Silence. Then, the music teacher called the next girl up.

I wasn’t Dorothy.

I did get a speaking role, just one that didn’t have to sing. I got to be the witch instead, but that’s another story.

This story is about my singing. Which I stopped completely. So that as an adult, I don’t sing at all. Not even in the shower.

{Once, in high shool, I tried to join the choir but they kept having to stop everyone because *someone* was out of tune.}

I learned to lip synch.

The only time I sing now is when I lead a yoga class, to chant Om and to invoke Shanti. The chants trace the edges of our shared practice, bracket the space that we create for the hour we explore together on the mat.

Nobody else realises that for me, leading this is an intimate and scary thing. That I don’t make myself vulnerable in this particular way in front of anyone else.

The funny thing is, I have noticed that in those moments my fear seems to dissolve. Maybe because I don’t think about it as singing, so much as an invocation.

But I don’t think about it too much, or I wouldn’t be able to do it.

So I make an appointment to see singer and vocal coach, Nadia Hosko. I have to choose a song to take with me for our initial assessment. I cannot choose a song. I try a few but every time I try to sing, I begin to cry.

Why am I torturing myself? I almost cancel. My 7-year old self is terrified.

But she’s been scared a long time now and my throat hurts. I want to feel spaciousness and ease.

I tell her that I will hold her hand and that we can leave if it doesn’t feel good when we get there, and I go to meet Nadia.

The room has a brown couch and a white piano and a cream rug. Nadia is as kind as she is gorgeous. When I tell her I am terrified, she makes me a cup of chamomile tea and sits down with me on the couch. We check in with my scared 7-year old and ask her what she is expecting of herself.

We tell her she doesn’t have to do anything perfectly.

Then we stand up and go over to the piano to do my Vocal Profile. We purse our lips and blow raspberries. Then do scales while blowing raspberries. Then we sing some Leonard Cohen.

And: I don’t cry. Not because I don’t let myself, but because I don’t feel shamed. In fact, it is totally fine to cry if I need to. Instead, at the end of the session I am elated.

Because, here’s the thing: I can learn how to sing. The same way I can learn trikonasana and how to build a website and how to read the body’s stories by touching someone’s skin.

In fact, Nadia’s methodology is all about technique, so singers can have full control over their voices. The four keys to vocal freedom.

Guess what number 1, of the 4, is? Yup.

Breathing.

How yoga is that?!

When you get scared, you hold your breath. Your diaphragm gets tight. Heck, everything gets tight. And you can’t express your true voice like that.

So, it makes complete sense that, when I am practicing yoga, when I am in relationship to my midline and my center of gravity and when I am breathing into my pelvis, sound emerges freely because I am not scared in that moment. I am oriented to my body, and my attention is not available for monkey-mind fear-chatter scripts.

I am not scared in that moment.

And it doesn’t matter that my voice is not very musical… because that, I can learn.

What about you? Do you remember when you stopped doing something that you loved? What would it be like, to try it again?

P.S You can find Nadia online at www.vocalfreedom.ca …and if you are in Toronto this weekend, then you are in luck! She has a workshop this Sunday 15 February, 2015 but be quick as it’s limited to 25 people. Details here.

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