Body. Mind. Voice: An Exploration into the Psychosomatic Implications of the Emotions on Vocal Expression

Presentation by Grace Ng Ee Wern on 17 October 2015. Part of the Fringe Festival, International A Cappella Festival. Organized by the A Cappella Society Singapore

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for taking time out from your busy schedules to come here today.

Experiment: Speaking and Singing on a Deep Breath with Jin Shin Jyutsu Physio-Philosophy ®

Let’s do an experiment.

Bring the nails of the middle fingers of your right and left hand together. This is known as Mudra 8 in Jin Shin Jyutsu.

Sit and observe your breath.

This is how a deep breath feels like.

With the nails still touching, say ‘hunga-hunga’ at a medium loud volume.

That’s how it feels to speak with a voice that is clear and not stuck in the throat.

Now let’s extend that to a conversation.

With the nails still touching, turn to the person next to you and introduce yourself and how you got here using only ‘hunga’.

You have just conducted a conversation with a voice that is clear and not stuck in the throat.

Now let’s have that conversation in slow- motion. Imagine that you’re in one of those time- warps in sci-fi movies where everything goes really slow.

You have just sung in a voice that is clear, not stuck in the throat and on a deep breath.

How we speak affects how we sing

I believe most habits that hamper freedom in how we sing come from how we speak unless we are taught specific vocal behavior. Such behavior might be in the case of a student who is told not to raise his or her shoulders when breathing for singing and thenceforth sings with shoulders pressed squarely down.

The voicebox and the articulators need to move freely in singing. So what happens if you have a habitual speech pattern where you only use a limited range and have a specific way of speaking e.g. mumbling, and you try to sing?

The habituated muscles will not like it. They will resist by replicating habitual tension, which is what we hear as throat tension, nasality, tongue tension etc. My voice teaching involves slowing coaxing the habituated muscles out from what they like to do, and slowly introducing new behaviors at a rate that the body finds comfortable.


The problem

Why do we find it difficult to speak out and speak up?

I like watching little kids on trains scream, play and throw tantrums. They are so free. They run, around and scream at the top of their voices (high notes!). If you think that humans have a limited pitch range, listen to little kids.

Then these kids grow up. They stop yelling and screaming freely.

They start using less and less of their range until it becomes monotone.

They become more and more self-conscious of making the sound in public.


Because people have been socially conditioned not to raise their voices in public. “It’s not socially acceptable”. “What if you say something wrong?” “What if you get arrested?’

What if none of the above happens?

What if we’ve just spent valuable energy worrying about a situation that may not arise? What if there is no real reason to fear? We literally take fear into ourselves. Fear paralyzes. It paralyzes our minds, our bodies, our souls and finds its way into our voices.

There comes a point when people start to say “I have to express what I feel in my heart. This song, this speech, this is what I really feel in my heart. I can’t say or sing it the way that I want to.” This is when people take the trouble to look for a speech teacher or a singing teacher, to help them express themselves.

When they get to class, their conscious mind goes “yes, now I’ll be able to say what I want to say and get it out of my system.” However, their subconscious mind says ‘no’.

Worry says “no. What if we disturb the neighbors?”

Fear says “no. What if my voice cracks and people laugh at me?”

Anger says “no. What if we let people know how angry we are? It isn’t nice to be angry?’”

Sadness says “no. What if it makes me cry? Men don’t cry.”

Trying to/ Pretense says “no. I don’t want people to know the real me.”

Then the subconscious programming comes up with ways and means to stop you from expressing yourself through your voice.

Ways such as:

  • tightening your throat so that you can’t make the sound;
  • tightening your jaw so that you can’t open your mouth;
  • tightening the tongue so that you can’t say anything;
  • pulling the soft palate down so that all the sound comes out through your nose and you sound as small as you possibly can;
  • tightening your abdominal muscles so you can’t breathe deeply and make loud and/or sustained sounds;
  • limiting the movement in your ribs so that you can’t breathe and a whole host of other clever tensions to stop you from making the sound that expresses how you feel in your heart.


Finally, if you can make sound functionally say if you’ve been properly technically trained to do so, the subconscious moves the resistance to the vocal folds so that you can’t make any sound at all. This is when you develop things like

  • Gastric reflux (1st depth)
  • Vocal nodules (2nd depth)
  • Vocal bleeding (3rd depth)
  • Spasmodic dysphonia (4th depth)
  • Structural issues of the larynx & esophagus (5th depth)


I will talk about the depths a little later.

Jin Shin Jyutsu Physio-Philosophy® and the Voice

Here’s where Jin Shin Jyutsu can help.

Jin Shin Jyutsu is a form of holistic healing rediscovered by sensei Jiro Murai at the turn of the 20th century. In Jin Shin Jyutsu, the human body is made of layers of the energy of different densities. This has been proven by modern science in the discovery of atoms and other vibrating particles invisible to the human eye.

Jin Shin Jyutsu Physio-Philosophy ® recognizes 9 layers or depths of energy. 5 of these depths can be seen while the others are invisible. These 5 depths shape the human body. The 5th depth manifests as the bone. The 4th depth manifests as muscle. The 3rd depth manifests as blood essence. The 2nd depth manifests as deep skin and the 1st depth manifests as surface skin.

Each of these depths may be disharmonized by a certain Attitude. The 1st depth is disharmonized by Worry. The 2nd depth is disharmonized by Sadness. The 3rd depth is disharmonized by Anger. The 4th depth is disharmonized by Fear and the 5th depth is disharmonized by Trying-to/Pretense.

Each of these depths has 2 organ flows- specific pathways of energy. The organ flows in Jin Shin Jyutsu are the same as those in traditional Chinese Medicine. The organ flows in the 1st depth are the stomach and spleen flow. The organ flows in the 2nd depth lung and large intestine. The organ flows for the 3rd depth are liver and gall bladder. The organ flows for the 4th depth are kidney and bladder and the organ flows for the 5th depth are the heart and small intestine.


Energy shapes the body in an oval. It goes up the back and then down the front. If there are any blockages to the energy, the energy will back up, accumulate and/or get diverted from its path. It’s like what happens if there’s a traffic jam on the highway. Traffic will build upon the lanes behind the obstruction. Some clever folks will divert to the other lanes that are not blocked.

Indications of Depth disharmonies in vocal expression

I have noticed that there are specific physical markers that can be associated with disharmonized Attitudes as pertains to vocal production. These physical markers exist because of the nature of the depths, the organ flow paths and pathways of energy through the body.


When the 1st depth is disharmonized, there’ll be a lot of tension in the jaw because the stomach flow goes to the jaw. There may also be some tongue tension as well as the spleen flows goes to the tongue. Worried people may have issues in gaining independence of jaw and tongue in the making of vowels. Overall, the sound of Worry is muffled.

I get this a lot with the children I teach in private studio. From ages 0-9 years, the 1st depth is developing. This is also the age where they go to school and get exposed to the Singapore education system that worries them and you the parents, endlessly. So you wonder why our kids have bad diction. It’s not bad diction. It is repressed worry. Your kids are worried but they dare not or cannot express it. That’s what it is parents. Telling them to speak clearly is not the answer. Giving them the space where they can speak up without fear of judgment, criticism or punishment is.

To harmonize worry, hold your thumb. The right side of the body represents your current lifestyle. The left side of the body represents the past.

You may hold your thumb for as long as you like.


When the 2nd depth is disharmonized, the chest looks frozen. There is very little movement in the chest when the person breathes. There may be pallor in the complexion. The sound of Sadness is garbled. While the tongue may be able to pronounce short vowels properly, it has difficulty keeping its position when vowels are elongated.

Sadness is a particularly significant Attitude to me. Sadness becomes depression that may lead to suicide if unchecked. Sadness, being of the 2nd depth, is the root of cancer as the 2nd depth governs deep skin.

Examinations make school-going kids’ bodies sad. I’ve seen quite a lot of this in my studios. Fortunately all you have to do to harmonize Sadness is to hold your ring finger.


Anger is an insidious emotion. It is hidden. A person with repressed Anger in vocal expression will try his or her best to hide it. Anger shows up as a limited movement in the back of the upper ribs and a swallowed sound. In everyday speech, the person may be soft-spoken. He or she may mumble or decide to talk very little if at all. There may be some nasality as the sound is diverted through the nostrils.

Hold your third finger to harmonize Anger.


The sound of fear is throaty. The 4th depth governs muscles. 4th depth disharmony shows up as excessive muscular tension. The muscles in the throat contract to prevent the person from making sound. This may cause sharpness in pitch when singing. Fear paralyzes. There may be tension in the back of the body, tension in the abdominal muscles and muscular tension all over the body. In particular, shoulders may be pulled up. There may be limited movement in the upper back ribs and the back of the neck may be tight. The person looks like a deer in headlights.

Trying to/Pretense

5th depth disharmony shows up primarily in the chest. I perceive 2 C-shaped like movement limitations in the upper chest. The limited rib movement of 5th depth disharmony affects the production of loud sounds such as the mix and the belt. The sound of Trying-to/ Pretense is again throaty but now the tension is in the digastric muscles.

These Attitudes are sometimes stand-alone in a body. Sometimes they are layered like an onion. Right now in my studio, when I peel away Sadness, I get Anger as the Attitude underneath. Each body story is different. We all come from different places. The important thing is that we are in a place where we are willing to make change.

Up the back and down the front

Now we come back to the concept of energy going up the back of the body and down the front of the body as it pertains to pains, aches and soreness.

So energy comes up the back of the body and goes down the front. If there is a block, energy backs up, accumulates or goes somewhere else. Where energy backs up and keeps backing up, you get pain and accumulations such as fat deposits.

The source of the pain is usually not the cause of the pain. It is the effect of a cause that is somewhere else in the body. If there is a traffic jam, the obstruction is not at the place where traffic has stopped. It is further down the road.

In Jin Shin Jyutsu, if the pain, ache, deposit or soreness is at the back of the body, you go to the front of the body to release it. If the pain is at the front of the body, you go to the back of the body to release it.

To release energy stuck at the back of the body, put your thumb on the palm side of the middle finger of the other hand. This may be on the right or the left hand. I tell my students to keep the thumb there for about 2 minutes. You can keep it there for as long as you like.

How do you release pain in the front of the body? You go to the back. Place your thumb on the nail side of the middle finger of the other hand. Keep it there for 2 minutes or for as long as you like.

Let’s apply the principles to some everyday situations.

You have pain in your shoulders. Where do you go? The front. What do you do? Thumb on palm side of third finger.

You have a pull in your calf muscle. Where do you go? The front. What do you do? Thumb on palm side of third finger.

You have fat accumulating in your belly area. Where do you go? You can go to both the front and the back. The fat is accumulating in the front. The front of the accumulation is blocked. You can release it with thumb on palm side of third finger. You can also go to the back and release it with thumb on the nail side of the third finger.

Please note that Jin Shin Jyutsu Physio-Philosophy ® is complementary to Western medicine. If you need emergency medical help, please do not hesitate to get it.

Now we come to the part of the presentation where I show you all the above in practice.

Teaching Demonstration

Concluding words

Thank you so much for taking the time off your busy schedules to attend my presentation. I hope you take away some useful information for your every day lives. Be well!


  • The Touch of Healing: Energizing Body, Mind & Spirit with the Art of Jin Shin Jyutsu ® (1997, Bantam Books). Alice Burmeister & Tom Monty
  • Introducing Jin Shin Jyutsu ® IS books 1-3 (1981, Jin Shin Jyutsu ® Inc). Mary Burmeister
  • Health is in Your Hands: 51 Flash Cards for the Hands-on Practice of Jin Shin Jyutsu ® (2014, Upper West Side Philosophers Inc.). Waltraud Rigger-Krauser
  • Vocalising with Ease: a self-improvement guide (1996, Osterreuche Akademie der Wissenschaften). Linda Rammage
  • Character Analysis (3rd edition) (1972, Farrar Straus and Giroux) pp 10-20. Wilhelm Reich
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