If you’ve been experiencing ongoing vocal fatigue or dealing with long-term muscle tension, chances are it’s limiting your voice use. You may feel like you have to give up singing, stop attending social gatherings, or even change your career.
When we don’t trust our voice - and especially when it hurts to make sound - it deeply affects the choices that we make and our overall happiness. But the good news is, if your voice issues are related to muscle tension, there are many exercises and techniques that you may not yet know which can help you recover your vocal power.
I’ve dealt with my own case of muscle tension dysphonia since 2007.
I am a lifelong performer and have always been interested in the human voice. What an experience it was to lose my own voice fourteen years ago due to vocal overuse and abuse! It's been a real journey to find my way back to vocal health, but throughout the process I made a career of teaching how the voice works and how to heal it.
If you’re ready to learn all the information I’ve gathered, I invite you to join me in this robust 20 week class!
Eight years ago I was in a really challenging place in my career. My businesses were struggling and I was extremely stressed. And I started to notice tightness in my neck and a change in the sound of my voice. My voice issues continued to get worse but I didn’t know what to do about them. I was both grateful and frustrated when a voice clinician finally diagnosed me with muscle tension dysphonia.
I started searching on youtube and found Elissa’s videos. Even the things she was recommending for free were amazing and helping me. So I bit the bullet and purchased enrollment in Release Your Voice.
One of my biggest realizations since starting class has been that even before my acute voice issues started, I was experiencing tightness in my neck. I remember having it as a kid and in high school. My nervous system really does have imprints, as Elissa says, and whenever I come across a stressful situation I have a habit of tightening my neck and holding my breath. These memories are helping me understand that my diagnosis of MTD is not just a purely physical issue. I realize that the work to heal my voice is going to be as much mental as physical.
So that’s what strikes me most about the approach in Release Your Voice... it’s giving me the tools to work on my voice physically, but also to work on my mindset. I haven’t found this approach anywhere else, and I’ve looked! All the steps are in the right place in this class, and I’m so grateful to be getting the help that I’ve really needed.
Over the past few years, I noticed my voice had been feeling pretty drained. Every time I sang my voice felt tight and tired. It was definitely frustrating, but I didn’t do anything about it because I didn’t feel I needed to.
Then I got laid off of my job and the severance package paid for me to take a job search class. In that class we would write, memorize, and present three-minute positioning statements. Every time I got up to speak, I felt like I was freezing up in my throat. It was like a car engine seizing. I found myself thinking: “Wow I’m not going to be able to get through this.”
I signed up for the Release Your Voice course and dove right in. With the support of what I was learning, I started being able to say the positioning statement all the way through without hurting my voice. I was also able to control my breathing and be loud enough.
I now feel that I have all the tools to protect and project my voice easily. And the story has an awesome ending: I got a job - a really good job! - and I feel that that was in large part because I took Release Your Voice. I don’t think I would have had the confidence to really put myself forward or start singing again without the support I got from Elissa and the other students. Help like this really does make a difference.
I’m a singer. And during a stressful time where I had to perform, I pushed myself. I realize now that I was afraid to show vulnerability and therefore I shut my voice down.
I went to go see multiple doctors. They told me there was acute swelling but other than that, nothing was wrong with my voice. So then I tried going to a speech pathologist, but it wasn’t enough to just have ten sessions.
I signed up for Release Your Voice because I saw that Elissa’s business name was “Voice Body Connection” and I knew the issue had to do with my body. Plus I heard Elissa talking about things that were so important to me, like speaking my truth and being in alignment. I've found the class so helpful, especially as we started working on making easy sounds and aligning our body. Before I hadn’t understood why it was so important to have good alignment. But Elissa explained how the voice will compensate if there’s not good alignment. Now I’m more mindful about being aligned and in my body… I notice it all the time and I know how to adjust.
When I do all the exercises I’ve learned, my voice is perfect for the rest of the day. I have good stamina and good volume, and I feel really integrated and powerful. Release Your Voice has helped me understand so many new things I didn’t know about my voice. This class is a resource I know I can always come back to.
The annual live cohort begins each year in early February. If you've missed the opportunity to join, you can still enroll in the class on independent study and work through this year's recordings on your own time. When next February rolls around, you'll be able to participate in the next cohort for no additional cost.
For an overview of the curriculum, scroll down to refer to the full class schedule below.
Included in the course is enrollment in the Learn Vibrant Voice Technique online course, with instruction on how to use vibration for your voice. This is a $189 value.
And this is the huge one: Once you take this course, you can repeat it FOR FREE over and over in future years!
Our class is fully online. The live cohort meets on Zoom, and the recordings can be accessed in our Kajabi portal. We also have a facebook group that you can participate in year-round. The relevant links will be sent to you upon registration.
Your access to the class recordings never expires... as long as the internet keeps going, they're there for you!
Will there be homework?
Yup! But in fairness, I often like to call it “home-play!” I will never give you busy work, but I will give you assignments to self-reflect, practice all the exercises we’re covering, and share your thoughts and progress in our online community forum. Habits only change with consistent, repeated practice.
You’ll learn how to energize your voice to be strong and powerful. We’ll cover posture, breathing, and optimum patterns for strong vocal support. If you don't have a healthy breath support pattern, it's impossible to untangle your vocal tension issues.
You’ll identify where your muscle tension is causing the most rigidity, and learn exercises to release tension in those areas. We’ll specifically focus on the neck, chest, jaw, tongue, and larynx, and use approaches that include self-massage, movement, and Vibrant Voice Technique (vibration for your voice).
You’ll learn how to create space through your vocal tract for a more resonant tone. We’ll play with acoustics and intoning to enhance your resonance, and you’ll learn how to articulate with increased space, freedom, and ease.
You’ll apply all of your knowledge to real-life situations. We’ll discuss how overall health and diet tie into your vocal health. We'll chant and sing (and yes, you can do this even if you're not a singer!). And we'll explore speaking, so your voice can feel strong in a loud restaurant or while delivering a presentation.
|Week/Date||Module & Details|
|✪ WEEK 1
Wed, Feb 3
> This is a big deal
Today we’re going to talk about the emotional component of your voice, and why reclaiming it is important. We’ll also set the tone with meditation and anxiety-reducing techniques, and some theory about habit-changing.
|✪ WEEK 2
Wed, Feb 10
> Clinical considerations with Melanie
Our resident Speech Language Pathologist Melanie Tapson will join us as our guest instructor to cover what you need to know about your vocal medically, and when it’s important to head to the doctor.
|✪ WEEK 3
Wed, Feb 17
> Your voice and your overall health
We’ll have a comprehensive conversation about how your overall health wellness, and especially your digestive health, affects your voice.
|✪ WEEK 4
Wed, Feb 24
> What's your nervous system got to do with it?
Heard of Polyvagal Theory? It's a relatively new theory about the nervous system that will help us understand how to unwind "fight or flight" mode in our nervous system and our voice.
|Fri, Feb 26||Interactive feedback session: Questions about your vocal health with Elissa and Melanie|
|✪ WEEK 5
Wed, Mar 3
> What the heck is breath support?
An anatomical journey from the diaphragm to the larynx, and everything in between.
|✪ WEEK 6
Wed, Mar 10
> Why your posture and fitness matters with Claudia
Today our guest instructo will help us understand what “good posture” really means when it comes to your voice, and how to engage in an appropriate fitness routine.
|✪ WEEK 7
Wed, Mar 17
> Why an effortless inhalation is key
An effortful inhalation pattern is one of the primary reasons people’s voices remain riddled with tension. Today we’ll cover how to release your muscles while you breathe to allow for an easy inhalation.
|✪ WEEK 8
Wed, Mar 24
> Your belly and your voice
The gut/voice connection is HUGE. We’ll focus today on when and how to release the belly, and when and how to engage your abdominal muscles.
|Fri, Mar 26||Interactive feedback session: Your personal breathing patterns|
|✪ WEEK 9
Wed, Mar 31
>Tension in the shoulders and chest
On our first day of tension release and movement work, we’ll focus on releasing tension in an important zone: the shoulders and the chest.
|✪ WEEK 10
Wed, Apr 7
>Tension in the neck
As we focus on the neck today, we'll specifically look at the back, sides, and front of the neck so you can discern your own personal patterns of tension.
|✪ WEEK 11
Wed, Apr 14
> Tension in the jaw
Many people deal with jaw tension. Whether you grind and clench at night or over-exert your jaw during speaking, these exercises will help you release excess jaw tension.
|✪ WEEK 12
Wed, Apr 21
> Tension in the vocal cords
Today’s the day we visit the area around the vocal cords themselves! You’ll learn various versions of laryngeal massage that can help you release tension at the epicenter of your issue.
|✪ WEEK 13
Wed, Apr 28
> Tension in the tongue
Tongue tension is extremely common, and surprisingly difficult to overcome. Today we’ll focus on releasing tension the body and root of the tongue.
|Fri, Apr 30||Interactive feedback session: Questions about your personal tension patterns|
|Wed, May 5||NO CLASS - SPRING BREAK||Wed, May 12||NO CLASS - SPRING BREAK||✪ WEEK 14
Wed, May 19
> Resonance Day
We’ll start our journey into the “Space” portion of class with an experiential full-body exploration of how to change the shape of your vocal tract to change your quality of sound.
|✪ WEEK 15
Wed, May 26
> Expanding your resonance with David and Laurel
How to measure and change your vocal resonance with our Voice Science Works guest instructors David Harris and Laurel Irene (there will be technology!)
|✪ WEEK 16
Wed, June 2
> Articulation and speech day
We’ll focus on creating more space and ease with your vowel and consonant sounds and in the overall flow of your language.
|✪ WEEK 17
Wed, June 9
> Vocal health check-in with Dr. Gupta
We'll welcome our resident laryngologist Dr. Reena Gupta for a session about what to do moving forward when you encounter vocal health issues.
|✪ WEEK 18
Wed, June 16
> Singing with Stephanie
Our resident singing teacher and sound healer Stephanie Rooker will join us to explore why we are all singers and composers, and how to tap into our intuitive capacity for song.
|✪ WEEK 19
Wed, June 23
> Singing with Elissa
We'll apply our new vocal health habits to varied styles of singing, to be sure sound production in every genre can be done with ease.
|Fri, June 25||Final open Q&A session|
|✪ WEEK 20
Wed, June 30
> Wrap up day
It’s the last day of class!
Melanie Tapson is a professional singer, Singing Voice Specialist, and Speech-Language Pathologist based in Toronto, Canada. Her practice is specifically focused on voice assessment and therapy for professional voice users and performers. Melanie’s superpower is diving deep into clinical voice research and then translating it into fun, approachable language. She regularly gives workshops to voice users, voice teachers, and fellows SLPs around the globe.
Dr. Reena Gupta is an Ear, Nose, and Throat physician, Laryngologist, and Voice surgeon. Her practice is located in Los Angeles, California where she serves an array of performers and speakers at the top of their fields. Dr. Gupta is internationally recognized as a leader in the field of voice, with a unique practice that goes beyond traditional methods to truly address the needs of professional voice users and those experiencing vocal health issues.
Stephanie Rooker is a singing teacher and sound healer who leads those feeling they “cannot sing” to open their voices and liberate musical expression. Using simple practices and cross-cultural rituals, Stephanie helps students explore new realms of physical, emotional, intellectual, and metaphysical experience with the voice. As Elissa’s own singing teacher, Stephanie has been a sacred guide in helping Elissa access her own voice more deeply.
Claudia Friedlander is a voice teacher and fitness expert. After completing her doctorate in vocal performance and pedagogy at McGill University, she opened her voice studio in New York City. After a few years of teaching, she became frustrated with the inability to methodically address mechanical dysfunctions of some of her students. So she began studies in kinesiology and is now the author of “Complete Vocal Fitness: A Singer’s Guide to Physical Training, Anatomy, and Biomechanics.” In 2008, she also joined the faculty of the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall, where she developed, in collaboration with Joyce DiDonato, “The Singer’s Audition Handbook,” an interactive online career development guide for young singers that was published in 2019.
David Harris and Laurel Irene are the founders of VoiceScienceWorks.com, an astonishing website and resource for voice geeks around the world. Their teaching helps students understand the central aspects of scientific concepts about voice in an experiential way. Using vocological terminology where prudent, they introduce students to tactile concepts and technical tools to help measure and understand the voice. In their session, you’ll learn how the resonance of the human voice can be measured and how you can change yours.
David Ley holds an MFA in performance from York University with a diploma in Voice Teaching. He is a Professor in the Drama Department at the University of Alberta where he teaches Voice and Speech, Dialects, and Acting. David has extensive experience in private practice teaching vocal skills to a wide array of professional voice users from schoolteachers to politicians and has taught many voice workshops both across Canada and abroad. He spent ten seasons as a Voice Coach at Canada’s Stratford Festival and continues to be a regular instructor in Stratford’s Birmingham Conservatory.
You won’t find the comprehensive information I’m sharing with you in any other vocal coaching course out there. This is a compilation of fourteen year of research and practice. And with 20+ sessions over the course of five months, Release Your Voice offers university level material at a fraction of the cost!
Keep in mind that once you've enrolled in Release Your Voice, you can repeat the course over and over in future years for FREE. Vocal tension issues are not something that magically go away and never return. You'll need this support for as long as you keep using your voice. So once you're a member of the 2021 Release Your Voice cohort, you can repeat in 2022 and beyond for no additional cost.
For this course, we offer an Economic Scale Scholarship. This scholarship allows qualified students from non-Westernized countries with a lower economic scale to apply. The commitment for the Economic Scale Scholarship is 9 monthly payments of $29 USD.
If you live in a developing country and would like to apply for this scholarship, please click below and thoroughly fill out the application.
Please keep in mind that though there are clinical guest instructors in this course, the primary curriculum is being offered by a voice coach, not a clinician. This class is not meant to replace clinical treatment, nor is Elissa qualified to diagnose or advise on medical conditions. The course is offered for educational purposes only, and to share tools and techniques that may help you release vocal tension. There is no guarantee of results.
If you are concerned about whether you should participate in this course, you must consult your doctor.
I’ve always been a singer - a soprano - but when I came into Release Your Voice class I was a couple years into some severe vocal issues.
Over the course of time, the pitch of my voice had dropped significantly and I couldn’t really hold notes without cracking. It was really frustrating… singing used to come easily to me, so it sucked to go from being able to do something super proficiently and then suddenly be at negative 100. I went to get scoped at the laryngologist, and the doctor said that though my vocal cords weren’t moving quite correctly, they looked “fine.” No one explained to me what the problem was or how to fix it. I did a bunch of weekly speech therapy but I just wasn’t getting better. And it was months before one of my speech therapists mentioned the words “muscle tension dysphonia” to me.
With that new information, I started researching and I found Elissa’s videos on youtube. I decided to join the Release Your Voice class because I felt like I’d discovered the only person out there that was even addressing this issue.
Release Your Voice has turned out to be great. There are so many exercises that have been changing things for me… in particular, it makes a huge difference to do tension release work on my neck and practice taking easier inhalations. Now I can sing with the hymns in church on Sundays about 90% of the time. And much of my range is coming back... I even sang a song around a high C/D area the other day! I am so grateful.
I went through radiation. My voice was normal but then about two years later, I started sounding like Mickey Mouse.
I went to tons of clinicians… ENT's, swallowing specialists, and speech pathologists. Their general thinking was that as soon as I started to 'plateau' during the sessions, they would say we’d done as much as we could. But I knew I could heal my voice more.
My wife found Elissa’s work and told me I needed to check out her Release Your Voice course. Reading the description really got my attention... I felt that I had finally found someone out there who understood! And sure enough the class has taught me exercises that no one, and I mean no one, ever showed me before! I have never experienced this deep type of training.
Now I no longer get winded anymore when I’m expressing myself. And I’m finally finding that I still have strength in my voice after talking over loud background sounds and noises. I can even sing to myself and not get hoarse later on! It is truly a gift. I am so, so grateful for this course.
There can be a variety of different sensations connected to muscle tension in your throat. You may feel habitual tightness, clenching, a block, like it’s hard to swallow, or like it’s an effort and you have to push to get sound out. You may also feel tension in your jaw and cheeks, or in your shoulders and the back of your neck. If you find yourself feeling vocally fatigued at the end of the day or refraining from using your voice as much as you’d like to, chances are you’re experiencing some muscle tension issues.
If you experience a sudden change of voice - either total voice loss or onset of hoarseness - then it is imperative that you make an appointment with an otolaryngologist (ENT). Two good resources for finding a clinician near you in the United States are: the Johns Hopkins database and the UIowa voice team locator. We are also compiling our own database of recommended clinicians from around the globe here at Voice Body Connection, which will become an additional resource for you!
If you have experienced a sudden change of voice - either total voice loss or onset of hoarseness - then it is imperative that you make an appointment with an otolaryngologist (ENT). A good resource for finding a clinician near you in the United States is the Johns Hopkins database. We are also compiling our own database of recommended clinicians from around the globe here at Voice Body Connection, which will become an additional resource for you!
If you are experiencing clinical voice issues, you must see a laryngologist and/or speech therapist (SLP) before enrolling in this course.
Our students report feeling more vocal freedom and power after following the routines and exercises shared in this course. To check out some student testimonials, scroll up on this page!
Most students find that it takes some time to untangle vocal tension issues and to create new habits. This is often proportional to the length of time since the issues started. This is the reason the Release Your Voice course is twenty weeks long… to give you a really solid foundation and enough time to truly start re-programming your muscle tension issues.
The more often you practice, the sooner you’ll start to feel more freedom in your voice. It's recommended that you spend ten to twenty minutes a day doing exercises when you’re first starting. As your body and your voice start to re-pattern their habits, you can practice less often. But more repetition at the beginning is always best for re-programming a habit.
That’s a great question! It’s hard for me to say exactly, because I was thinking about it all the time, and studying and practicing non-stop. But it wasn’t until I encountered the information I’m sharing in this course (which was five years after my voice loss episode) that I started to improve more rapidly. I remember a day seven years after I lost my voice when I suddenly thought to myself: “Wow! I have more vocal stamina now than I did before I lost my voice!” That was in the middle of graduate school and I was performing in a play again for the first time 😊. And even to this day, my vocal health continues to improve. Everyone’s story is different and there’s no prescription for how long it will take. But I can say from my own personal experience that finding vocal freedom again is totally possible.
Yes and no! I will give you homework assignments (I like to call them “home-play”), and you have the option to submit them in our community. If and when you do, I will absolutely look over them. However the assignments are not required.
Even though I like to joke that this is the equivalent of a university class on steroids, it’s not happening at a university for a reason! I want you to be the primary evaluator of your own progress. I am here to reflect for you, to respond when you share your work and questions, and to coach you when you volunteer for spotlight coaching. But there are no grades in this class and at the end of the day, your learning belongs to YOU ❤️.
Upon successful completion of the course and all “home-play” assignments, participants will receive a certificate of completion (it’s a PDF that looks like a diploma and you’re welcome to hang it on your wall and be super proud of it! 🤩). However this course is not a certification program. We do understand that certifications can be important for people, especially in certain professions. However at least for the time being, the Voice Body Connection courses are geared towards self-education and edification.