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  • Judith Bareham

Just Breathe

This week I am investigating Laryngeal Phonetics and engaging in techniques for strengthening my voice as taught to me by my Speech therapist, Lori Sutton from

Charlotte Eye, Ear,Nose and Throat (CEENTA).

In a previous post, I talked about my problem with throat weakness arising from some past episodes of persistent harsh coughing or possible infection.

Which is why I was sitting with Lori in speech therapy, where she was re-directing my breathing so I can learn to use my vocal chords the correct way. With the hopes that in utilizing the correct muscles and breathing, I will experience longevity in my voice over career.

Most of us are lazy breathers – we don’t think about it and shallow breathing results, but even so it feels kind of lame to have to learn how to breathe of all things.

But it’s really crucial and beneficial for our brains, health and sleep.

So to Laryngeal Phonation;

I will say that I do consider myself to have pretty good posture – I partake regularly in Yoga and Pilates, and ballet barre, where of course holding your belly in “naval to spine” is the mantra. Coupled with my history of singing and flute playing, I thought I had this down.

But it was clear I needed a refresher as I engaged in abdominal breathing, because it still felt counter intuitive and my inner ballerina was having a melt -down.

But for all that, I know I carry tension in my upper back and shoulders which of course affects my neck and throat and on it goes.

(Therapists at my local Massage Envy salon are joining in a chorus of unison on that one. They shake their heads in wonder when they assess my Macramé of muscles.)

I could say it’s my “Achilles heel” for an analogy but that might confuse us all……

I was concentrating so hard on something so relatively simple and felt suddenly super self -conscious as I was being observed, and timed as I breathed.

However, it is undeniably a great technique any time you feel anxious or cannot sleep as it slows your heart rate down and actually increases oxygen flow.

No time wasted, we moved swiftly on to Phonation flow – or the S/Z ratio: producing ‘S’, ‘Z’ and ‘Ah’ sounds while exhaling and keeping that going for as long as I had air to push out.

Placement of the tongue is crucial here and measuring the length of the sounds is key to finding out where the weakness resides, which produces the desired ratio.

Ultimately a desired result of the same length for each is key.

Finally, onto making what I can only describe as the “Mom car noise” because it’s what I did with my boys when they were young.

Blowing out through the lips keeping on one tone but taking it quiet then loud and back again. Think of a car on a race track driving away into the distance and returning for another lap becoming louder and that's pretty accurate.

This is near impossible if the giggles happen to hit by the way, because you can’t smile and grin and blow through your lips – try it – I bet you can’t.

And then we were done. Time’s up. Homework assigned, and off I went to practice and make weird sounds in my recording booth once more. Which wouldn’t be the first time.

Sometimes the simple things are the hardest because we feel they should be more complicated. But no. Really that’s it.

The key for me is to do it in small increments several times a day, and not in one long session.

That and not talking quite so much. I hear a hallelujah emanating from my husband's direction.

Just a little selfie of me and Lori Sutton, because I told her I would give her a shout out this week.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

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