Ask Parvati 23: The Voice – To Speak Or Be Silent? Part 1: Soul Confusion, Vocal Tension

BY Parvati


Dear Parvati,

I am having difficulty knowing when to speak up or remain silent about what I feel. I experience this confusion with things that make me feel uncomfortable and with things that I like. I thought that perhaps you, as a singer, may have some insight about the voice and how to know when it is a good time to use it, or when it is best to keep quiet. Thanks.


“That” person is coming into the room! Your heart suddenly races. You feel pressure in your head. Your cheeks flush. Your mouth dries and your throat automatically tightens. You feel panicky, sweaty, weak-kneed. With your heart speeding, you feel short of breath. There is something you want to say. It is stuck, like a lump in your throat. You try to speak. Your mouth is wide open, but there is no sound. Suddenly, you wake up. This is just a nightmare.

Or is it? Some dreams reflect back to us aspects of ourselves that we dare not yet see. Many people dream of trying to speak only to find themselves feeling trapped and  unable to find the words or the means to express how they feel. Some people experience that kind of vocal constriction and hesitation more regularly, even when supposedly awake while moving through the day.

Finding our authentic voice can be challenging. Many of us were scolded when we were young and have lost touch with our natural impulses. Growing up, we perhaps heard phrases like “hold your tongue!” or “shut your mouth!” or “tighten your lip!” No wonder we develop vocal tension.

We perhaps were told to either be quiet when we were enjoying giving voice, or speak up when we were enjoying silence. Listening to conflicting signals, we end up unsure when to express or when to listen. If not careful, we end up out of touch with our internal compass and can feel trapped in indecision and fear of disapproval.

Whether or not you experience vocal confusion consciously, because of our cultural tendencies, most of us carry old-story tensions in our bodies. These tensions, incubated when we were children, we hold with us as adults until we pause to question their validity, place and source.

Withheld vocal expression and stress regarding speech and sound are commonly held in and around the mouth, lips, jaw, tongue, throat, chest, lungs, and shoulder area, though they can be held deeply in any place in the body and be the result of any emotional withholding, ranging from rage to bliss.

In order to unwind the tension, we must be willing to explore it. There is no better way to explore vocal tension than through the willingness to make sounds. When we were infants, our sounds were free and primal. As adults, we can become overly hung up on “nice”, “pretty”, “powerful”, “strong” and “correct”. A powerful way to release vocal tension is to be wiling to dive within to where we remember sound as being raw and real.


Find a quiet place where you can lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Begin to breathe naturally, deeply, but without forcing. Allow your body to relax and your awareness to move inward.

Gently massage your jaw muscles that run from the ear, to under the cheek bone to the jaw bone. Then begin to yawn, and sigh. Allow your whole throat to open up. Feel your neck expand. Feel your spine lengthen. Feel your muscles release, not just in your face, head and neck, but through your whole body/being. Keep yawning and sighing.

Now stand. Do the same exercise standing. Allow yourself to relax, yawn and sigh.Then shake out your feet, shoulders, arms, hands. Rub your hands over your face.

Open and close your mouth so that you give the muscles of your face a good stretch. Then take a deep breath and exhale so that you sputter your lips, like you were playing the trumpet, or like you were making a motorboat sound with your mouth. Let your lips relax and your tongue soften.

Stick out your tongue and roar like a lion. Open your mouth wide and exhale. Let it out. Do this a few times until you have had enough. Shake it out and let it go.

(Continued tomorrow with Part 2: Sounding It Raw and Real)