The Vocal-Vaginal Correlation

Did you know that your vagina and your voice are intimately connected?

*This article first appeared on The Baby Chick*

The relationship between a woman’s vagina and her voice is at once subtle and obvious. Beginning with the fact that “cervix” comes from the Latin word for neck, the vagina and the throat are remarkably similar structures, each supported in function by a hammock-like set of diaphragmatic muscles which also happen to move in tandem with respiration.

A FEW OTHER SIMILARITIES INCLUDE THE FACT THAT THE VAGINA AND THE THROAT ARE PATHWAYS INTO THE BODY FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD, AND INSTRUMENTS OF SELF-EXPRESSION IN RELATIONSHIP.

The creative acts of singing, orgasm and childbirth are all powered by rapid and rhythmic muscular pulses. The vagina and the voice are inextricably linked, and to be disconnected from one is to shut down the other. The separation of these regions of experience may be a cause for increased emotional stress, physical discomfort and dissociation, and through simple techniques of sensory perception and vocal exercises you can enhance sexual pleasure, build stronger personal boundaries and even facilitate easier labor.

Based on the study of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system structures, we know that the body is responding hormonally at all times to external AND internal stimuli. Most of the time we are unconscious of the processes taking place internally, but more concerning is the fact that many of those internal processes are influenced not so much by our external environment but our perception of said environment, which in turn affects our physical body. Nervousness, uncertainty or anxiety are almost always embodied through tight, lifted shoulders and shallow breathing. Ever had a knot in your stomach? A lump in your throat? Tight diaphragm and shallow breath lead to a collapse in the glottis (the throat’s diaphragm) and more than likely, the pelvic floor.

The physical thread between the vagina and the throat is the vagus nerve, which is the largest nerve in the body, connecting the brainstem to the sacral nerve plexus. 80-90% of the vagus nerve is sensory, meaning that is responds like skin, meaning to movement and pressure-based stimulation, not just electrical signals. “Vagus” means wanderer – the nerve wanders through the body. Previously, it wasn’t thought that it goes as far as the pelvic region. But our research and that of other laboratories is showing that it does in fact go to the cervix and uterus and probably the vagina. It carries the impulses from those regions, travels up through the abdomen, goes through the diaphragm, through the thorax (chest cavity), up the neck outside the spinal cord, and into the brain.” (source)

The respiratory diaphragm massages the vagus nerve with each and every breath, and the quality of those strokes is determined by the quality of the breath. (source) Breath powers your voice, and the combination of the diaphragmatic stroke and the vibration of your voice stimulate the vagus nerve in such a way as to send a big sigh of relief throughout the nervous system. Steady, sustained breath-powered vocalization, as in singing, can soothe and balance the entire nervous system, resetting patterns of chronic tension and emotional anxiety or dissociation that often keep us not only from enjoying sex, but being able to ask for what we want with confidence.

The physical response to unease is to pull in and up in a kind of knot propped up on legs. This excess tension in the respiratory diaphragm and pelvic floor are going to restrict oxygen intake and carbon dioxide output, creating a kind of “starvation” response in the muscles and a feeling of fatigue throughout the body. Sensitivity of the peripheral nervous system is diminished, the vagus nerve receives no massage, and the body as an alive sensory resource quite literally dies down. We become “disembodied.” As a result the voice becomes disconnected–high, shrill, whiny and either too low or too loud.

It’s not always easy to tell if we have a tight pelvic floor, but noticing a shy, shrill or off-pitch voice can be a starting point to bridging the gap between the physical body experience–really, our reality–and vocalization of our experience. Beginning to notice how often you say “yes,” when you meant “no,” or “I’d be happy to,” when you meant, “I really don’t have the time,” is another way to measure the degree of dissociation. Identification of this disconnect from self is a crucial first step to self-care and healthy relationships, as well as maintaining confidence in difficult situations, whether physical, emotional or mental.

The pelvis and sexual organs are the real seat of “appetite” in the body. We need food to survive, we need sex to thrive. We need choice in sex to truly joyfully, and the voice is the messenger of our choices, desires, needs and boundaries. If we are not able to honestly vocalize our own experience–either because of fear of another’s reaction or our own lack of sensitivity to said experience–we cannot get our needs met.

So use your voice! Tell the truth, let yourself be heard and sing! Sing your heart out as a daily practice. Singing your favorite song not only has the immediate psycho-emotional benefit of reminding you of pleasure, but the rhythmic stroke of the diaphragm engendered by more active vocalization is stimulating the entire sensory body. Practice humming, especially when you’re enjoying something. What’s your favorite taste? Savor it and hum the goodness throughout your whole body. Laugh OUT LOUD. Make some noise in the bedroom–at least on your own until you’re comfortable enough to share. And when you’re comfortable enough to vocalize your pleasure, your pleasure may just increase ten-fold.

when the walls are falling down, remember...

Yet again I am at a phase of profound changes, and while the walls are falling down around me and within me I feel a bizarre interplay of freedom and overwhelm.  How and what I practice, how and what I teach (and where and whom,) where I live, my priorities, the way I spend my time and think about myself, all of it seems to be under renovation, but I don't feel out of control.  And THAT is a profound shift from the past.

During times of big change and transition, consistency of practice can (and usually is) the first thing to be sacrificed.  There are, however, resources and reasons for prioritizing our self-care. I think that's pretty self-evident.  What may not be so clear, however, is WHY we lose our practice to begin with?  Well let me just speak for myself here: my practice hasn't been strong enough. My commitment to practice is and always has been strong, but what I was practicing wasn't strong enough to pull me out of my attachment to the chaos and the fatigue and the mental tail spin. Until recently. 

Over the course of the last five months I have been incorporating specific techniques into my dinacharya (daily routine) which have provided not only a stronger anchor for my practice, but much deeper embodiment and resilience.  Whether these techniques resonate or not for you is yours to discover, but if you're anything like me, why not give it a try, right?!

Breathe

As simple as it sounds, take a breath.  Becoming aware of the breath can immediately help you "relocate" to the present moment.  Then, after several intentional repetitions of breath you can reinforce your sense of stability (even if it's only at 50%) and gain clarity for making a powerful choice on your own behalf.  

Try this: sit or stand with even weight on both halves of the body (feet or sitting bones) and exhale with intention, even a little force.  Let the inhale happen.  Exhale intentionally again.  Sometimes I blow the air out of my mouth, but eventually you want to inhale/exhale through the nostrils.  Do this at least five times, or until you sense an evenness in the length of your inhale/exhale.  Relax your head and shoulders  (I usually wiggle my mouth around- tongue included!) and let yourself breathe for a full minute.  It is incredibly powerful to witness how capable we are of reestablishing balance and ease at the most basic level.  

Move

Generally, the nervous system responds to "threat" (upheaval, change, conflict, etc.) in one of three ways: fight, flight or freeze.  This is the animal in us attempting to survive.  In all instances, "stay alive" is the primary goal.  As humans, we have developed an intellectual capacity which allows us to override these instinctual responses, which makes it nice for saving face, but totally disastrous when it comes to dealing with stress.  Whatever the charge, it needs to be discharged, and the best way to do that is to move.  I HIGHLY encourage you to get out of any set sequencing or "cool" moves and just shake your ass.  Literally.  Shake, quiver, tremble, pulse, flail.  Your brain will thank you for it.  At some point in my practice I let my body move in whatever contorted, twisted way it pulls itself, often to discover that I am much more malleable than I thought.  I have a tremendous amount of space inside of me that traditional fitness and even yoga asana simply cannot touch.  It feels weird and even stupid if you think about it, so don't.  Just yawn with your every pore and let your animal out.

Express

Perhaps the most crucial part of this sequence is expression: saying, writing, painting or demonstrating how and what we feel, need, want, experience is the birthright of every human. We have needs, but so do animals and plants.  Humans need to externalize our internal awakening (even in private!) in order to come into right relationship with our environment.  If not, our emotional body gets suppressed.   The emotional body, as real and functional as the physical body, is more often vilified than praised in our culture, and the results speak for themselves (opiates, anyone?  alcohol?  how about television and junk food?)  I have a box full of art supplies, and while I don't fancy myself an artist, I have developed a deep passion for artistic expression.  Pastels, crayons, clay, pen, pencil, whatever your medium of choice, just start making stuff.  Let your emotional body "speak."

If these practices are of genuine interest to you, I encourage you to consider my eight week mentorship in the Fall.  Details can be found on my website under Mentorship.