How Singing Lessons in Controlled Relaxation will
Help Your Child Grow a Good Mouth
There is a “surprising link between your teeth, real food, and life-changing natural health” according to Dr. Steven Lin. In fact, the above quote is the subtitle for his book The Dental Diet. I am in constant pursuit for truth and knowledge, and in particular in this instance, searching for truth regarding dentistry and the care of my family’s teeth, especially my children. This book, recommended by a friend, has proven very valuable- one I would highly recommend. Not only is the book chock full of good anthropological, nutritional, and epigenetic science, it offers an easy to read, comprehensive, summary understanding of how the mouth and teeth grow and how to insure healthy oral health for your children.
Another surprising link for me was Dr. Lin’s emphasis on proper nasal breathing, strong mastication (chewing), and creating vocal sounds: all for optimal oral health. Why is this surprising to me? Because this is exactly what David Collyer’s Controlled Relaxation Vocal Technique emphasizes also! David was a master teacher in New York City for decades from the 60’s through the 90’s. I had the great good fortune of being one of his students. I had the further privilege of him mentoring me, both as a Broadway singer-performer and later as a teacher of his technique. Dr. Lin’s book felt like a strong validation of this technique that I have been teaching for twenty years.
In Controlled Relaxation work the singer is asked to breathe through the nose. This is extremely radical. When I first learned this from David in 1980, I was dumbfounded: no other vocal work I knew asked for nasal breathing; it was always emphasized to breathe through the mouth! Nowadays a small group of teachers are asking singers to breathe through their noses, but mostly it’s still mouth breathing that dominates. Dr. Lin is clear- breathing through the nasal passages “stimulates the maxilla [upper jaw] to keep growing outward and helps to lower and broaden the palate”. He goes on to caution that extracting teeth to straighten the dental arch can lead to “jaw joint problems, sleep-disoriented breathing, and a host of other issues, all in the name of a straight smile, or bite”. (p. 46)
Nasal breathing has been used in highly specific ways for optimal health since ancient times by the yogis whom developed tomes of knowledge on the subject. Books dedicated to nasal breathing exist that show how the yogis discovered the art of proper breathing as a path toward optimal health of body and mind, or as we call it today, the bodymind. David used this knowledge from yoga to base his technique. He also worked with highly regarded physicians from the hospitals in NYC to learn and expand his understanding of the vocal mechanism. He learned that the vegetative acts will induce strong, healthy habits if used in vocal work. David wrote, in his excellent, one-of-a-kind book Vocal Development and Communication for Singers, Actors & Speakers, “According to V.E. Negus, in his book Mechanism of the Larynx, the singing and speaking voice is based on primary or vegetative acts for the body, such as breathing, eating, eructation, regurgitation, yawning, swallowing, elimination, giving birth, . . . Man has superimposed the acts of speaking and singing on muscles whose original function were vegetative.” (p. 14)
The alignment of the dental principles with the vocal principles makes perfect sense. Dentistry works with many of the same body parts that singers use. Dr. Lin states, “The health of our jaw, facial structure, and airways starts with what we eat.” (p. 45) He stresses how the modern diet of processed foods has proven dangerous for our oral health. He recommends the common-sense foods that too many people overlook: whole foods (not the store, which is deceptive in their advertising and rides its reputation on healthy foods but still sells conventional foods right next to organic foods. But that is another story). David had this same philosophy and his kitchen at his home studio was always filled with wonderful aromatic scents from whatever he had cooking or brewing.
There is so much in Dr. Lin’s book to discuss that it would require a very long essay. Things like how breast feeding helps shape the jaw and face as well as habituates nasal breathing. He also reminds us that the breast milk has all the optimal nutrients for children to get a most healthy jump start to their lives. He makes links to behavioral disorders like ADHD, sleep disorders to mouth breathing and more. He gives vocal and breathing exercises to correct unhelpful habits and gain better oral health.
I submit that if your child studies Controlled Relaxation Technique they will get all that and more. So yes, study voice and increase your oral health as well as your over-all health! At least with David’s technique. Below is a link to both books if you feel intrigued. Here’s to your mouth! And to your talent!
Mark Ruhala, Artistic Director
Vocal Development and Communication for Singers, Actors & Speakers by David Sorrin Collyer: https://www.amazon.com/Development-Communication-Singers-Actors-Speakers/dp/1463785305/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1524588968&sr=1-1&keywords=Vocal+Development+and+Communication+for+Singers%2C+Actors+%26+Speakers