Elenore W. is a Gokhale Elements alumna hailing from Canada. She kindly volunteered to share her experience with the Gokhale Method. — Editor
Elenore W., singer and Gokhale Elements alumna, with her trusty ukulele. Image supplied.
I lost my voice completely 5 years ago after singing a full out concert of Brahms’ Requiem. My voice came back, but never with the same resonance. The ears/nose/throat specialist said there was nothing wrong, but I knew something was. I couldn’t sing for long without having a sore throat. My speaking voice became raspy very easily. I couldn’t sing through a phrase without gasping for air. After a physio appointment, I’d have “my” voice back for a day or two and then everything would go back to “not normal.”
Voice problem...or neck problem?
Finally an Alexander Technique teacher told me: “Elenore, it’s not your voice, it’s your neck.” I took about 10 lessons with her and they did help, but I found the exercises tedious and didn’t experience enough success to stay motivated. Still I searched — acupuncture, chiropractic, reflexology — nothing helped for long. But I knew that if it was my neck and posture, there had to be something out there that would work for me.
Feldenkrais was another modality I tried. After a free summit I signed up for a course. It was lovely and gave me lots of new body awareness but was disappointing as an ultimate answer for my vocal issues.
Lots of women my age would just quit choir and singing, saying they must be too old. I was determined to show that a 67-year-old could still sing!
A new tack — that worked
I’d found the Gokhale Method online, ordered the book and tried following the instructions, but couldn’t seem to get it. After a free class with Esther, I was infected by her enthusiasm, convinced by her statistics, and decided to bite the bullet. Thank Goddess I did! I did the initial consultation with Esther and then the Elements class with Sheelagh Tobin. The results speak for themselves…
My husband and I put on three beach concerts from the balcony of our home this summer. This is what the distanced crowd looked like:
The distanced audience for our July beach concert. Our house is in the background, with the balcony visible. Image supplied.
The first of our three beach concerts took place in July when I had just started the Elements class. Notice how my shoulders hunch around the ukulele in the picture below and my neck strains toward the microphone. I was so disappointed to see this picture. I’d been determined to use my new learning. But I wasn’t surprised. This was a 30 minute children’s show and my voice felt strained throughout. Afterwards, I was vocally very fatigued.
This balcony concert with my husband Roland took place before I’d finished the Gokhale Elements class. You can see how I’m hunching my shoulders around my ukulele, with my neck straining toward the microphone. Image supplied.
The second show of about 45 minutes was much better, but still not what I’d hoped for. I made Roland do most of the songs, fearing my voice wouldn’t last.
Then we started planning the season finale. By the time of our performance on September 5, I had completed the course and looked like this while performing:
The air was a bit hazy from distant West Coast wildfires, but you can still see a noticeable change developing in my posture. Image supplied.
We put on a one-hour (!!!) program called Love and Dreams! Afterwards, I felt great. I’d sung lead or harmony in every song and afterwards my voice still resonated while speaking!
Just so you know, every muscle in my body (except my vocal chords) is a bit achy all the time right now. Maybe it’s having misused my muscles for 67 years, or maybe I want the results too quickly. I’m so new at this that I am always cautious to maintain my alignment lest the raspiness return. I keep telling my body that the challenge of re-learning movement is going to be worth it in the long run. I give my muscles sauna time, and lots of stretchlying or stretchsitting for relaxation. Every time I feel the power and resonance back in my voice, it’s totally worth it!
Wonderful! Hang in there
Wonderful! Hang in there (that's for me, too).
So happy to read this Elenore
So happy to read this Elenore!
I am also a passionate (hobby) singer and found myself without any voice left at all last November after singing Bachs Christmas Oratorio, a Schumann Mass followed by Carol singing in the freezing cold having not recovered from laryngitis. Not advisable and I would never be so stupid again.
After such abuse it has been a long haul to find a fantastic speech therapist and now my voice, like yours, is more resonant than ever before. I find it so freeing to find more volume in my voice with less effort - the key is the right level of relaxation and muscle tone and - you are totally right - good body alignment is essential to allow this to happen. With the Gokhale head cushion on my head, my voice becomes lower and more resonant and I am able to relax muscles around my larynx letting it fall deeper into my throat.
Congratulatons and wishing you many pain free years of happy resonant singing in your new, strong, relaxed and well aligned body :)
What a great story. The
What a great story. The before and after pics are subtle but so KEY. So well written. Thank you!
This is just what i need! I
This is just what i need! I've been having trouble with my voice too for several years. I've noticed that I tend to sound raspy often, and to sometimes lose my voice while talking on the phone (which right now I want to do MORE of, not less). I worked with an Alexander Technique teacher in NYC many years ago, which helped some, but my bad habits weren't completely overcome.
I took the Gokhale Foundations Course this summer, without thinking about my voice, and haven't noticed any improvement. But this account makes me want to revisit what I learned, and to put more emphasis on my head position and relaxing my neck (which is what the Alexander Technique tried to teach me too). Since I know that it has helped someone else with the same problem I'm having, that's really good incentive!
Thank you, Elenore, for sharing your experience!