Voice Massage Therapy – A unique treatment in this country
A number of years ago, whilst working with The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, I had the opportunity to train with Ms Leena Koskinen – the founder of Voice Massage Therapy. This was an ideal way to develop my career as a Massage Therapist to those in the entertainment industry, as well as deepen my understanding of singing and the voice, which is a great passion of mine.
I trained in my home country, Finland, in a beautiful place called Kuopio. The training was intensive, thorough and ground-breaking. I really began to understand how this form of massage could make a difference to actors, singers and teachers, in fact anyone who uses their voice on a regular basis. Voice massage is a treatment which facilitates all muscle groups related to the voice as well as breathing. Our time was also focussed on studying occlusion, the manner in which the upper jaw and the lower jaw come together and how this can affect the voice. Continuing professional development is necessary every two years to be able continue as a Voice Massage Therapist.
Firstly, I assess the level of breathing and mobility of the rib cage; this will be done by placing my hands around the rib cage as well as simply observing movement, whilst asking the patient to breathe deeply. As with all massage, I treat the body as a whole and begin the therapy focussing on the back, mobilising the thoracic spine and muscles around the rib cage and activating the intercostal muscles. These muscles run between the ribs and help form and move the chest wall. The intercostal muscles are mainly involved in the mechanical aspect of breathing, which is all important in singing, by helping expand and shrink the size of the chest cavity. It is known that the more capacity someone has for full expansion of the rib cage, the better quality of the voice.
The patient is then asked to lie on their back so that the front of the rib cage, the diaphragm and top part of the rib cage can be mobilised. I then focus on the larynx, commonly known as the voice box, the function of which manipulates pitch and volume of the voice. The upper and lower muscles of the larynx are massaged carefully as well as the tongue from under the chin. Occasionally it will be necessary to treat from the inside the mouth, with gloves, to manipulate the ‘bite’.
By treating all muscles involved in voice production from the upper/middle part of the body, the chest, the neck, the face and the head incorporating breathing exercises and stretching – I aim to release the tension in the body and mind which is a prerequisite for balanced voice production. Many clients have been extremely satisfied with their treatments, some requiring only 1-5 sessions to really see a marked improvement.
Timo has been a life saver for me during long runs of eight shows a week, both during La Cage Aux Folles and Inadmissable Evidence at the Donmar. He is the only person I have found who truly understands that the voice is a muscle and needs working on like any other part of the body. His massage is expert, recuperative and preventative. I certainly always came out with a few extra notes at the bottom of my range! I'd recommend him to any artist who has needs their voice in top shape for every show.
(Winner of Olivier and Tony Award)
Monday, 1 October 2012