Jai Ganesh

Yogic chanting is a profound and sacred act. It is a chance for me to let go of the need to perform–the need to prove myself vocally–and to just enjoy the bliss of letting loose my soul through song. 

During my Junior year at USC, my artist roommate dragged me along to her yoga studio in Hollywood in the hopes of alleviating my vocal stress-induced anxiety attacks. At the end of that first candlelight evening yoga class, we were asked to join our voices in the sound of an OM. I opened my mouth, inhaled, and let out a sound that reverberated around room and shook me to my core. I honestly did not know that I could produce such a sound. It was such a change from the thin and strangled sound that I was producing in my voice lessons. Free from tension, free from the need to “try,” my voice bellowed like an uncaged beast. As all the other voices in the class faded away, my own continued on as I could not stop the amazing sensation of freedom in my voice. As my breath finally ran out, two giant tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt such gratitude for this brief glimpse into vocal and physical freedom. Though, at that time, I was unable to replicate this freedom in the practice room or in my lessons due to my uncontrollable perfectionism, I knew that freedom was possible and that yoga studio became my sanctuary from the stresses of a vocal arts degree. 

Years later during my immersive yoga teacher training program at Frog Lotus Yoga, I rekindled my love affair with yogic chant. After our daily meditation sessions, we would join together to sing a chant, taught by the head instructor. It was 6AM and there we were croaking through the daily chant, many of my fellow yogis very out of tune. Even with the pitchy singing and early morning voices, there was so much joy in our chants. We felt connected, free, and easy. We sang love. I created a special kinship to this particular chant “Jai Ganesh” as it praises the remover of obstacles who often puts obstacles in our path to force us to make changes in our lives. This reminds us that every hardship is a blessing which we can learn and grow from. By reframing our major life challenges (failed auditions, memory slips, vocal troubles, and the like) as opportunities to learn and make changes, we lessen the toll such experiences have on our psyche. Everything happens for a reason, but it is up to each of us to find that reason and learn from it. 

Tuneful Tuesday Week 27: Jai Ganesh

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Fitness Friday Week 2: Lengthening and Strengthening

This week we’ll be doing a short core session on the floor. Oftentimes, when we think of working the core our minds instantly picture sit-ups and crunches. Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to properly do a crunch or sit-up and end up putting unnecessary stress on their shoulders and necks in the process. Luckily, this sequence focuses on keeping the head and shoulders down and the lower back lengthened while strengthening the abdominal wall, specifically the rectus abdominis: the front loaf-shaped abdominal muscle. It is important that this muscle is both strong and flexible for singers to have the breath support they need for their best sound. 

While completing this series, attempt to feel the entire length of your spine from the base of your skull to your tailbone sink towards the floor. Feel yourself shortening the distance between the front of your hip bones to the bottom of your ribcage. This will help you to isolate the actions in your core and not bring tension or stress into your neck and shoulders. If you do start to feel that your shoulders are straining, don’t try to bring your knees so close to your body and when you are doing the straight leg lift, bend your knees more. ​

​As always, if you have any questions or any requests for future videos, please let me know. If you’re on Instagram, tag me with @Yoga_For_Singers and share your progress.

Where Troubles Melt Like Lemondrops

Growing up I wanted to be Judy Garland. That voice. That style. That passion. Her voice and her stage presence were mesmerizing. I wanted her life so badly. I wanted to be a star. I wanted to be important. I wanted everyone to instantly hush when I opened my mouth. As I grew older, I realized the cost such vocal and charismatic gifts can take on your body, life, and psyche. Poor Judy’s personal life and health were at the mercy of her stardom. The exhaustion of constant performances, guest appearances, roles, and rehearsals literally broke her. Her debilitating struggle towards the illusive perfection, first in her voice and later in her body, forced her to waste away. Depression and anxiety plagued her and she lived in a never-ending state of fear and worry. 

During my college years, I followed in Judy’s footsteps. I spent hours upon hours in the practice rooms repeating note after note trying to force myself to “get it right” until I was hoarse. I ran from studying to class to practicing to work to the gym in an attempt to be everything and do everything. I spent countless nights sitting on the floor of the practice rooms or in my bed with tears falling down my cheeks because I wasn’t “good enough”. My health declined; I was constantly ill; and I always had a stomachache from my endless anxiety. And yet, I kept pushing. For many years, I lost the joy of singing. And still, I wanted to be a performer. I wanted to sing. I wanted to be adored and live a glamorous life. 

When yoga entered my life, it was a true game changer: not only for my body and mind but also for my voice. I learned not to push so hard and to just let myself be. I learned to find joy again in my life and in my voice. I learned to be at peace with where I am and not play the comparison game. I learned that my identity is more than just my voice and my worth is more than how many “likes” I can get on my YouTube videos. My life has changed drastically; but, I often find myself reverting back. There are moments when I feel that I’m not living up to my potential–that I should be performing, practicing, and doing more. I see the number of likes on other singers videos or recordings; I see the amazing performances and opportunities others are getting and that evil little guy jealousy rears his ugly head. In those moments, I have to breathe deeply and remember that fame is not everything. I am making a difference in my tiny, yet musical, town. I am living a life filled with music, yoga, singing, and teaching amazing students the power of this combination daily. My life is so much happier now that I’ve found a balance. Yes, I’d love to perform more and to find more opportunities; but, for now, easing off and giving myself space to “play” with my voice again and recreate that childlike joy is where I need to be. Judy Garland, I love you and you were an amazing singer, actress, and perfectionist; but, I wouldn’t trade lives with you. I’m doing a pretty good job being me, imperfectly. 

Tuneful Tuesday Week 26: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” 

Tuneful Tuesday Week 11: “Watch Duet” memorization dance party

In two days I leave to teach a Yoga For Singers courses and perform with the Redwoods Opera Workshop. It is such a blessing to learn from and be inspired by an amazing faculty and to work with such talented singers each summer. Unfortunately, the program always begins just a few days after my voice studio has its end of the year recital performance, so my own personal practice and memorization time is always severely limited…… that’s why this crazy dance party is absolutely necessary. 

I actually learned this technique from a yogi who was working on perfecting her dristi “focus” in balance postures. She would perform the poses while her friends ran around trying to distract her. The point is, if she could maintain her focus through that, she could handle anything. I started taking this idea into my own vocal practice when attempting to memorize quickly. I would stare at myself in the mirror acting as ridiculous as possible and constantly trying to distract myself. If I can keep the words in my head while dancing around the room, then those words are going to be seriously locked in there. It sounds nuts, but it works! It gets me out of “thinking” mode and into muscle memory mode, which is where the real memorization happens. Plus, it’s fun to dance around like no one is watching…. well, except you are watching. Ah well. Enjoy my ridiculousness and try it yourself. It’s fun! 

A big thank you to this video of the Watch Duet I found on YouTube to sing along with. In the middle the Rosalinda makes a few sounds which are interesting…… but that way you could hear how the two parts of the duet go together.

Tuneful Tuesday Week 10: I Can Sing A Song

This Sunday my vocal studio has their annual recital. 25 of my students, of various ages, styles, and levels, will take the stage to share their progress and their love of music with the community. As their instructor, I am both excited and nervous for them. Performing is such an intense experience. When you’re successful, it can lift you up and make you realize you have a strength and courage that you never thought possible. However, if you’re performance is not as successful as you’d like, it can break you down, make you feel inadequate, and make it difficult to keep the drive to move forward. This week, I am doing everything in my power to prepare my students both technically and emotionally so that they’ll enjoy the process and continue to love singing. In honor of their performance, here’s a silly song I wrote to help my youngest students remember the meanings of various musical terms. Can you figure them all out?

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14 till I’m 30

As I reach a new decade and a new phase in my life, I give gratitude for the fact that I’ll continue to grow as a teacher for another 10 years. 

I never planned on being a teacher. It sort of just fell into my lap. When I was completing my vocal pedagogy course at the University of Southern California, we were required to offer 10 voice lessons to a friend or aquaintence and report back weekly. I found a fellow student in my school choir and, when she and I met for our first “lesson,” I think I was more nervous than she was– wondering if I would have any information to offer her. As soon as we started working together, my intuition kicked in and my mouth was going a mile a minute: sharing stories, confessing my own vocal experiences, correcting her technique, coming up with ideas for fixes, and offering guidance. We were only supposed to meet for 20 minutes, but those 20 minutes turned into an hour as she and I learned from eachother. I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having and how easily teaching came to me. At the end of the semester, the girl I worked with created a giant giftbasket for me and wrote my first testimonial which is still on my website to this day. She made me feel, for the first time, like I was making a difference in the world. 

When I moved on to grad school, I was given the opportunity to be assistant opera director at West Virginia University. With that position came the responsibility of teaching acting classes to the entire vocal student body as well as directing the opera scenes program. With knees shaking, I created lessons plans, answered questions, and started to use my own imagination to problem-solve and make something new. I was teaching students who were older than me, and yet, I still felt like I had something to offer. So, here I was, the quiet girl with low self-esteem, who finally found her voice by using it to help others. 

After moving back to California, I instantly set up a private voice studio, as I went through the audition circuit in search of a performance career. I thought I’d take on 2 or 3 students to help supplement my other jobs, but word-of-mouth in this small community brought over 10 students to my studio within the year. After 6 years of private teaching, I currently have over 25 students and a waitlist. It’s been a long process over the years of seeing what works for me and for my students. So much has changed about my teaching style as I continue to do research, learn, and try new things…yoga being one of them. I am so grateful I get to fill my days sharing, learning, and helping others grow. I may be a big fish in a little pond, but I care about this little pond and I love each and every one of my students. Their progress, joy, and vocal journeys give me purpose and I am excited to see where the next decade of teaching brings me. 

Time Will Pass Anyway

Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” -Earl Nightingale
This past year, I’ve been debating putting my vocal aspirations on hold. My vocal journey has been a long, difficult struggle filled with tears, frustration, and exhaustion. After all this time, I thought that since I haven’t “made it” as a singer, maybe it wasn’t worth it to continue pouring thousands of dollars and hours of practice into my voice. So many artists find themselves in this situation time after time. We put such high standards on ourselves. Our dreams and aspirations seem beyond our achievement and the pressure becomes too much to bear. It’s in these times that I stop and reflect on my connection to music and its place in my life. 

This year, though, I was forced to take a break from my vocal career through a more than two-month hiatus due to injury and illness. All that time away from the art form which I had poured my heart and soul into for most of my life made me realize how much I missed that aspect of myself. Without being able to sing, I lacked my emotional releas. I missed that catharsis, that challenge, that creative outlet. Without singing, I did not feel like myself. 

As I slowly pull my body and my voice back together, I return to singing with a new understanding of exactly WHY I am doing this. I don’t need to “make it” in order to consider myself a singer. I need to sing to feel like myself again. I need to sing because, through all the frustration, the tears, and the fear, I find that I enjoy it. It is such a freeing realization that I don’t need more from my voice than to enjoy the act of singing. So, here’s to my dreams and the time it takes to achieve them.