Musings & Movement

A free monthly mind and body connection to help inspire and care for the writer.

February’s Notes

Lips and Teeth and Voices, OH MY!

Speaking is a full-body experience. Sometimes, it might feel like a true contact sport, pending on the audience and content. Many singers engage in a full physical routine of stretches to warm-up. We forget that our voice is made of vibration and breath – small bands of muscles inside the larynx – our lungs make these muscles vibrate with air when the edges of the vocal cords come together. This is what makes sound.

We forget, as writers and artists, the need to articulate sound and words and how this connects vibrationally and emotionally within our bodies. Here is a video from City Academy on stretching before singing and it’s interesting how much of the body is involved in vocal performance.

Here is a Video from City Academy on stretching before singing and it’s interesting how much of the body is involved in vocal performance.

What we might remember is that all animals “speak” – or vocalize – on some level. And each one of us has a unique voice, much like a blueprint.

When we vocalize, our head, throat, nose, chest, nasal cavity, and abdomen are all engaged.

The Movement

The Turtle Stretch

A simple stretch that can be done almost anywhere – even at a stop light (but please don’t drive and stretch).

  1. Stand or sit upright in a neutral position.
  2. Slowly draw your chin back in a straight line.
  3. Continue looking forward and hold up to 30 seconds.
  4. Now slowly jut your chin out as far as you can.
  5. Continue looking forward and hold up to 30 seconds.
  6. Return to neutral.
  7. Repeat.

Here’s a video of the Turtle Stretch by the Taurus Trainer


The Seated Side Neck Stretch

  1. Extend your right arm along the right side of your chair.
  2. Gently hold your seat with your right hand.
  3. Lean your body to the left.
  4. Drop your left ear towards your left shoulder.
  5. Continue looking forward.
  6. Place your left hand on the top of your head.
  7. Do not press or pull on your head. Just allow gravity to increast the stretch.
  8. Hold up to 30 seconds.
  9. Repeat on opposite side.

The Musings

Writing Prompt: Sketch a small “map” of your body in your journal or on a page. Locate where in your body you vocalize different topics or emotions. For example, when excited, you might “talk” with your hands. Or when listening, you might blink slower and nod more.

Note your “movements” of speech. This is a dynamic approach to gain insight for accurate visceral dialogue tags in your writing.

This is also a key opportunity to note where you might need more care in your body when engaging in challenging or intense conversations.

The Movement

Pursed Lip Breath Work

Lips control breathing. Pursed lip breathing is one of the simplest ways to control shortness of breath. When we breathe with our lips pursed, our breathing slows, enticing a sense of relaxation in the body.

There are numerous health benefits to breathing with your lips pursed including, improved ventilation, releasing trapped air in your lungs, relieving shortness of breath, and improved breathing patterns.

  1. Breath in through your nose.
  2. Purse your lips as if you’re blowing on soup or tea to cool. Or as if you’re warming something, like your hands.
  3. Release your breath slowly.
  4. The exhale should be longer than the inhale.
  5. As you exhale, think about releasing and emptying stale air.
  6. Repeat.

The Musings

Writing Prompt: Think about the breath unit and the sentence. Short sentence – short breath. Long sentence and a feeling of breathlessness. Allen Ginsberg, known for long lines in his poetry, and when read, the response feels much like a deep long breath.

See how long it takes to write a sentence during a long exhale. In other words, create a sentence to fit your long exhale.

Or perhaps, create a line that heats something up or cools something, as you might with your breath. A sense of blowing, kissing, whispering.

The Movement

Articulation Exercises

Until your mouth is numb from dental work, you might not appreciate lip strength. Lip competency. The strength and agility for the lips to hold positions.

If American-English is your native dialect, you might discover that annunciating other foreign languages and sounds feels challenging.

Like all muscles, the lips and tongue are trained, and can atrophy when not strengthened.

One method is to form words as best you can around an object held with your teeth. You can use a cork or your thumb. Simply bite the object with your front teeth and, holding the object firmly in place, try to read for 1-3 minutes.

Here’s a fun video for some lip competency exercises.

(We love the monkey face and recommend this while you drive)

The Musing

Writing Prompt: Do you have words that are taboo in your vocabulary? Words you refuse to speak aloud? Words you were taught were “bad?

Do you have signature words? Words that continuously appear in your conversations and writings? We think of Patricia Smith and her signature words, the way she pushes sound into whispers and roars.  For example, the word “spit” appears in more than one of her poems, such as, “Skinhead” and “Nap Unleashed.” This type of signature by Smith is her superpower, her method of bringing awareness and change.

And staying with our Lips-Teeth-Voice theme, in the second stanza of Smith’s poem, “Salutations in Search of,” the speaker addresses slavery focusing on the mouth with words that bite, snarl, and shout.

Of course, we’d feel neglectful (towards you) if we failed to mention Patrica Smith’s latest poetry collection, Unshuttered.

The Movement

Lip Exploration Through Vowel Chanting

The lip exploration – chanting vowel sounds – is a method with unobstructed breath. Here is video of the three primary vowel sounds and how to chant vowels from Elissa Weinzimmer.

Consonants are more finite. Certain consonants are more labial sounds.

Try saying these out loud and see how they feel, in your mouth and, vibrationally, in your body.





Here’s a chart of mouth positions when shaping words:

The Musing

Writing Prompt: Focus on the letters, P, B, M, and W – as you write. Have fun with these letters – these can be in the center of the word (or sentence), the end, the beginning. Just play. Try to remember that the way we play with sound in our work can impact the way a reader experiences our work. After you write, read your work aloud.

How did your consonant choices evoke you emotionally?

Where in your body, do your feel your words?

Next Class: March 2nd at 10 am PST / 11 am MST / Noon CST / 1 pm EST

Fitness is not just in the body. It is in the mind. In the heart.

Whatever your challenge, Musings & Movements may offer tools that open peace and help you continue to grow your writing practice.

Disclaimer: As with any fitness program, please use common sense when joining us. To avoid injury, check with your doctor before beginning this or any fitness program. Musings & Movement will not be responsible or liable for any injury sustained as a result of participating in these workshops, courses, series, or classes, including recordings, videos, or information shared. This includes emails, videos, and text.

Downloadable Workshop Notes

January – Gratitude to Glorious Glutes

In today’s culture, we spend more time sitting and less time moving, which creates muscular atrophy. Maintaining a firm body shouldn’t be about appearance or how your jeans fit, but the health and mobility of the body.

©Musings & Movements, All Rights Reserved, 2023, Gayle Brandeis & Rebecca Evans