For the past two years the Haaga-Helia staff has been welcomed to join Voice Pilates workshops offered by Katri-Liis Vainio, one of the most inspiring and insightful trainers I’ve come across over the years. The purpose of the workshops is to help the participants to find their own voice and to become more embodied speakers. Katri-Liis is both a certified Pilates Instructor and a professional classical singer, a wonderful combination for understanding how the body and voice works at a deeper level. Currently she is working on a PhD thesis, thus her method is also very much based on scientific findings on the mechanics of the human body. Yet, Katri-Liis’ teaching is always very hands-on, she is experienced in spotting the particular needs of each individual participant and she gives a lot of good tips in class.
I attended the first Voice Pilates workshop in November 2011 and found myself immediately implementing Katri-Liis’ teaching in my everyday work as English teacher. With my professional ballet background I have a tendency of tipping on my toes instead of being deeply rooted to the floor when speaking. Thus, I have been working hard on finding my roots. And when my voice gets tired, I make my vowels “long”, as advised in Voice Pilates. This autumn I was overjoyed to discover that there would be a Voice Pilates Part 2 course in October and I immediately signed up for this wonderful occasion.
This morning I finally found myself on the beautiful Vallila Campus, a building representing the understated beauty of Finnish functionalism. What a joy! The tables had been pushed to the side and there was empty space. (For those who don’t know me, I should mention that I am allergic to rooms stuffed with tables, on Porvoo Campus I mainly teach in the Fatboy room where there are no tables at all). Due to the hectic timetable of teachers and some cancellations, we ended up being a small group of six people only, all thrilled to be back in Voice Pilates once again. After some lovely warm-up exercises, Hele Aluste, TRE –body therapist and psychologist, joined Katri-Liis in teaching. TRE stands for Tension and Trauma Release Exercies, a method of stress release developed by Dr. David Berceli.
TRE involves a set of simple exercises, mainly lying on the floor. The following briefly summarizes the principles of the method: “TRE is a set of six exercises that help to release deep tension from the body by evoking a self-controlled muscular shaking process in the body called neurogenic muscle tremors. The uniqueness of this technique is that this shaking originates deep in the core of the body of the psoas muscles. These gentle tremors reverberate outwards along the spine releasing tension from the sacrum to the cranium” http://traumaprevention.com/2009/12/31/what-is-tre/
To me the TRE exercises brought back vivid memories of giving birth to my third and youngest child on New Year’s Day 2008. When the new-born was lying on my chest I experienced similar autonomous shaking for half an hour. It was the natural way of the body to release the stress of giving birth to a four-kilo infant. Significantly, this type of stress release seems to be the core idea of TRE. Needless to say that the experience of this morning was very powerful, ending in deep relaxation: body melting into the floor.
Notably, after TRE exercises it was very easy to speak as the body was so warmed-up. Yet, I noticed that I’m still occasionally tipping on my toes and pushing my chin forward in an attempt to push my message forward, moreover, now when I have found the power of vowels I need to use less force when producing them. So, obviously there is a lot to work on. Our group will meet again in two weeks for a second session where we will practice presentations and convincing speech. Finally, it was wonderful getting to know colleagues from different campuses through body movement rather than rational speech. Once again I noticed that all cooperation should start from body and emotions, since it is so much easier to relate to three-dimensional people embedded in space than to decapitated talking heads. Why are we explaining so much verbally? Why don’t we just move and breathe together?