Save Your Voice, Prolong Your Career
by Nichole L’vov
«…As Pilates professionals, we are very aware of the need to prepare our clients’ bodies for the upcoming workout and to protect them from injury with proper warmup and stretching. But in our efforts to help our clients, we often forget about our own health and wellness. One area that is often overlooked is the health of our vocal cords and protection of our voices. Many instructors teach 8-10 hours a day for more than 5 days a week. As Pilates instructors, we are constantly correcting and cueing with our voices. This constant strain on our voices is equivalent to a high level opera singer.
In addition, many Pilates teachers teach other group fitness classes like barre or spinning which is done to music. This increased need to “yell” above the music wreaks damage to our vocal cords without our knowledge. Even using a microphone may not prevent damage if we are teaching many hours a week and for many years at a time. Only with prevention and self-care can an instructor preserve his or her voice so that they can maintain
longevity in the industry.
First, we need to look at how our voice boxes work and what exactly does a vocal cord look like. The vocal cords (also known as folds) are formed from V-shaped mucous membrane and are locat- ed within the larynx (voice box) which sits at the top of the trachea. The folds open and close as we breathe and are there to prevent choking as we eat. When swallowing food, the folds close to prevent food from going into the trachea. In speech, the cords close but not as tightly as in eating so that some air can pass through from the diaphragm to create vibration that becomes our voices. With these adjustments at the vocal cords along with the help of our facial muscles, tongue, nose and mouth, we form and enunciate words that create speech1. There are several layers of vocal folds including the vestibular and vocal folds as well as Laryngeal ventricles. The vestibular and Laryngeal ventricles lie more shallow to the true vocal folds (cords) whose function is solely for tonal control. There are many intrinsic muscles which help to control the various layers of membrane. These muscles help determine pitch and sound of the voice as well as assist in normal breathing. One can think of the muscles like the ab/adductors in the legs. The adductor and abductor muscles of the vocal cords help to open and close the vocal cords as the body needs. In overuse or misuse of the voice, this constant adduction of the two sides of the vo- cal folds results in injury2. The adductors slam the vocal cords together and swelling can occur. Over time, if this habit is not fixed or misuse discontinued, the swelling can form into nodes or cysts that sit symmetrically on each side of the vocal cords.
Eventually, these can form into harden hardened polyps that may need to be removed surgically. Either swelling, nodes or polyps can inhibit proper voice production and cause pain and hoarseness. It can also make the voice more breathy with less projection. This creates a vicious cycle for instructors who then need to force more to project their voices which only causes further damage…»
Full text available in 'Pilates4you Journal «Pilates Plus Psyche»'