Mar 12, 2017
By Judith Barrass.
Teaching classes takes its toil on the old voice box. It doesn’t matter if you’re teaching one-to-one classes back to back, or teaching a big class where you have to raise your voice — all teachers suffer in some way, even if it’s only a dry mouth.
There are many ways to remedy a dry mouth. For example, try keeping a bottle of water to hand. Water is much better than tea, coffee and alcohol as these can all contribute to dehydration.
An opera singer also once told me to chew gum before class as it relaxes the voice box. It can also help if you vary your tone when speaking.
But there’s one thing you can change to really protect your voice — and that’s your posture.
Posture has a big impact on how you project your voice. Fredrick Alexander, founder of the Alexander Technique, realised the importance of correct posture and relaxing your muscles when he kept losing acting roles due to losing his voice. So, he devised this technique, which has helped many since.
In other words, taking a bit more notice around how you stand can have a knock-on effect to preventing fatigue, headaches and stress, not to mention helping you to project your voice and make sure you are being heard without undue strain.
So, let’s take a look at your posture.
Your head should be floating up to the sky and lengthening the neck. Don’t force the ‘stand tall’ stance — just think ‘float’.
Shoulders are back and down to give you lots of chest space so your lungs can take in the air they need and the air needed to project the voice.
The space between your ribs and hips should be lengthened, so the spine is also lengthened. This will, again, give space for the lungs and help you use your diaphragm correctly.
All this upper body is stacked on top of your hips, so try to bring them under your shoulders so the muscles of your lower body don’t have to work so hard, gravity is assisting.
Your weight should be through the heels of your feet with some also slightly forward through the balls of the feet. If you’re all forward then everything above gets shifted and your muscles have to work in a different way to the optimum.
Watch this video to give you a better idea:
If you adopt the good posture detailed in the video above, it’ll bring benefits to your teaching too. Your throat will be more open and your lungs can push out your words, carrying your message to the back of the class. In this posture position, you will also look like someone who’s in charge and with authority.
If you need to raise your voice and you’re using this posture, then the muscles of the rib cage and the diaphragm can force that sound out of your body without any undue strain on the vocal cords or without you tensing any muscles in the neck and shoulders.
How many of us try and get the point across by forcing the chin forward as we speak? It’s not a good look or helpful to the poor muscles connecting the neck to the jaw. Even if you teach in a seated position, then you need good posture — and remember to think about your upper body position.
So, if you are suffering from a sore throat or headaches after a long day teaching, then try adjusting your posture as above. I am sure it will help.
Judith Barrass is a sports therapist with 30 years experience in the fitness industry, which includes health promotion and wellness.