To those not familiar with bodywork, the concept of deep muscle release will be a foreign one.
The concept that the body “holds” or remembers trauma goes back to Wilhelm Reich, a student and later, a colleague, of Freud’s, who believed that the best way to change the mind was to change the body. Many different types of bodywork emerged as a result of Reich’s work including Bioenergetics, one of the first, (created by John Pierakas and Alexander Lowen). After Bioenergetics other kinds of bodywork sprang up, and now, there are dozens and dozens of offshoots with various points of view about body energy and physical freedom.
In Western “first world” countries, we like “hard” bodies, that are “solid”. This model can work, but it can also make the body deadened and less alive, even while making it look “better” in terms of muscle development. People who push through pain, who force the body to the point of exhaustion and abuse, who would treat it as a stupid robot, do not, for the most part, have the philosophy that the body has its own wisdom and should be “listened to”. The idea that there is a consciousness or intelligence in the body itself is fairly unusual here in the USA but it is not unheard of. It is certainly more widely held now than it was 40 years ago.
Reich got himself into trouble a few times partly because he believed that unexpressed sexual energy or tension built up in the body as “armor” and stiffened the muscles, causing them to “lock up”, lose sensation and eventually drop out of a person’s awareness. He had other ideas about “orgone” energy that were odd and thankfully by now they have been more or less forgotten. Fortunately, where he left the most lasting impression was with the idea that any trauma (emotional, physical or psychological) which is not processed through some kind of acknowledgement and catharsis would stay in the body until it was addressed consciously. The “unconscious” holding would block feeling, emotion, expression, and ultimately, satisfaction. Armoring would suppress true sensation in a specific area and limit the capacity of the body overall to take a full, deep, free easy breath and release it in the same manner.
There is much validity in these ideas. The various kinds of bodywork that developed from them has helped thousands over the years recover in a deep and lasting manner from all kinds of maladies including physical pain. These various approaches address the body in different ways, and specific ones may indeed be better for certain people, certain situations or certain times in someone’s life, but all of them can be useful, especially in the hands of a skilled and generous practitioner. Further, they are not unrelated to the ideas of acupuncture or shiatsu or some types of Eastern approaches where the body and the mind are not split as they are in the West.
Why is this important to those who sing?
Singing is supposed to be about expressiveness. If you are a rock hard robot, how do you think you will sound? If you are hellbent on singing as loudly as possible, how do you think you will touch people? Would you even be interested in touching people? If you do not even know that physical freedom and emotional depth are possible and that having a strong, free body that can breathe deeply and easily is one of the greatest pleasures in life, how could you contemplate ecstatic musical communication?
Somatic Voicework™, my method for training the voice, is based upon conscious use of the body with love and respect for its wisdom, and with trust in the power of music to transform those who sing and those who hear the singing. It rests upon the principles that “unprocessed” or “unacknowledged” trauma will get in the way of truly beautiful singing and that the process of learning to sing, if done properly, will cause that very stimulation towards freedom. The singing will provoke movement and that, in turn, will promote emotional depth, spontaneity, and heartfelt communication. What more is there than that?