I am currently developing resources for my voice care members and I realised that I have yet to include the power of the hum!
Now in yoga there is an exercise called ‘the humming bee’ which is ideal for calming and focusing the mind. It is an internal, mindful practice and I would highly recommend it to relieve any stress or anxiety and therefore give the immune system a real boost. I often demonstrate this to my clients.
And there is so much more; humming comes in a variety of flavours and it is utterly brilliant for maintaining a healthy voice, without the buzzing sensation. You do not need to even sing a hum or have a good singing voice to achieve a successful hum. We can use a simple hum to warm our voices up and then to warm them down again. Plus it can clear your sinuses and even stop you from snoring! (see this report from Sweden – Humming Greatly Increases Nasal Nitric Oxide by Eddie Weitzberg and Jon O. N. Lundberg)
Have you ever found yourself humming gently under your breath? You are not consciously following a tune or a thought so you haven’t ‘set your voice up’ as we can do before a long speech or song. You are relaxed and the hum is flowing freely without force or inhibition.
This is actually a fantastic way to warm up your voice before a long day of speaking as the larynx (voice box) is working at a gentle level. The folds are meeting but the vibration is soft and you can hum up and down your range to wake it up.
The idea of the humming down after a long day of speaking or singing is that you prevent stiffness or cramp from forming in the larynx. You would do the same if you went for a run. You would stretch your muscles after your run to prevent build up of lactic acid, causing cramp or severe aching. If you suffer with a sore throat after stopping talking or singing the following day then this could be due to a lack of warm down and all you need do is hum for a few moments to cool the jets.
I must note that it is more of an mmm than a hum as the h can make this too breathy and strain the voice so think of something delicious that makes you exclaim “mmmm” and you have your ideal hum workout.
Voice therapists like myself use humming to heal a damaged voice rather like a vocal version of physiotherapy. We are gently building up strength and allowing you to recognise what might have caused the damage in the first place and it is often misuse rather than overuse.
I am all about the hum, so simple and yet so vital in maintaining a healthy, happy voice. It may even help a better night’s sleep if snoring is the cause of insomnia!