I woke up acutely aware of my age today; Wanting to add to my life but feeling the pull of wasted time searching for something I haven’t found. I felt my dog lounging at my feet, possibly awake but graciously following suit in my morning rituals. I wake up and go back to bed several times, hanging my feet where my pillows lay so I can steal a snuggle from my pup. He lounges Continue reading


Tom Boy

I went to my cousin’s baby’s (let’s just call him my nephew) first birthday party yesterday. My mother was the last of 5 girls, my grandmother was the ultimate family administrator. My grandfather never changed a diaper.

I would not necessarily call me, my sister, my cousins, my aunts overtly feminine. There are times we laugh because we can’t help but cry, whether they are sad, happy, or just caring tears. My cousins and I have formed a bond over the conundrum that is distant sisterhood. We are just like our mothers, with mixed wishes within that fruition. We relate to each other accordingly.

My cousin Cassie has this friend, in a seemingly dysfunctional marriage. I have never met the man, but we all know the story. He is emotionally unavailable, she chases him, she excuses him, she serves him, she takes care of him, and he disappoints her. She feels guilty and “just wants him to be happy” while she is miserable but purposeful. She analyzes all the things she is doing wrong, and he, supports those conclusions. He may apologize and be honest with her every once in a while, but somehow the argument always later turns into her fault. And she accepts it. She accepts it because she knows she is strong enough to handle it. She wants to make him strong enough to handle it by supporting and showing him her love. We have always been taught, love should be enough.

Cassie’s friend, for all intensive purposes was considered a tomboy growing up. She was very good at sports, didn’t mind getting dirty, and would rise to any physical challenge. In high school, she turned devoutly Christian and let Cassie know she no longer approved of her choices. Cassie was a very well-behaved teenager and talked about everything with her mom.

These two situations are familiar to me. I have been in both places. I find my self wondering lately, is Cassie’s friend just trying to prove her femininity? Being a Christian and saving yourself for marriage is one thing, it sometimes works and sometimes makes a lifetime commitment mixing up love and lust. This situation is reminiscent of so many that I have seen. Relationships that affirm your own personal beliefs about your femininity. Her femininity is shamed by his lack of capacity to understand her, she accepts that shame and perpetuates it. Now she thinks having a child will help things.

It may help her relationship with femininity, but it will not help her marriage.

A Psychic told me to do it


I recently went to see a psychic with a couple of friends of mine. Despite how you feel about psychics, (it was donation based which may or may not make a difference) it was a positive experience. She told me to write a book.

I am sensitive to the power of suggestion…

In contemplating the relevance of my story, I realized the stories I love usually have a fable-like quality or irony. That type of writing requires being indirect, something I am not good at. I am good at big ideas and details but not connecting them. For example, I think in book titles. I fight with my mom about emotions (my overflow and her lack of) and all of a sudden I want to write a book about mother daughter relationships and call it “Womb Bomb”.

So, here’s to practicing a craft. Linking the big ideas with the details and not being too long-winded…

When Practice becomes Permanance


Everyday, I walk through the hallway of the assisted living / skilled nursing facility in which I work. I see Max (name has been changed) and cheerfully say, “Hello Max.” I can’t help but be cheerful because he has this delightfully surprised look on his face, like he’s meeting a long-time fan that he’s never seen before in his life. It makes my day.

Max used to be mayor and like his friend Joe (an old barber), they are a pleasure to be around in this stage of Dementia.

They seem to be in the blissful stage of not remembering.  My experience is limited and I have no expectation of either of these men’s kindness, history or personality. I have a fresh look at his spirit, I have the privilege of seeing him for the person that he is right at this moment. And that is what Dementia becomes, moment to moment.

Which begs the question, do we become what we practice? In our most basic representation of life and spirit; living moment to moment, without expectation and history, how do we impact the immediate world around us?  Is their demeanor part of their nature or is it in the time they spent being friendly and cordial in their daily lives?

In Dementia, Adaptation is the adventure. When you loose all your memories, all you have left is life.

Speech And The Five Elements (space, air, fire, water, and earth)

The glottis is the space between the vocal chords. We use the glottis to manipulate sounds and communicate. Space is the primary element where air, fire, water, and earth emerge, operate and interact.

Yoga And The Five Elements (space, air, fire, water, and earth).


Can certain sounds have different effects on your body?

Air Sounds

Air quality is defined within mobility: the ability to move freely, lightly, and effortlessly

  • Vowels: ipa_vowel_chart_2005s
  • Glides: /w/, / j/ as in “yellow”

Fire Sounds

Fire qualities are transformation, suddenness, intensity, radiance, and inspiration

  • Affricates: /t∫/ as in “ch” and /dz/ as in “judge

Water Sounds

Water qualities are softness, fluidity, adaptability, power, and feeling

  • Fricatives: /∫/ as in “sh”, “measure”, /s, z, f, v, th (voiceless and voiced)/
  • Liquids: /r,l/

Earth Sounds

Earth qualities are manifested in stability: the ability to maintain structural integrity under stress

  • Stops: /b, p/, /t, d/, /k, g/
  • Nasals: /m, n/

Breath Inverted

Breathing is the shape change of the body’s cavities. — Leslie Kaminoff and Amy MatthewsYoga Anatomy 2nd Edition

Breath coordination is central to the production of sounds, safety in swallowing and yoga. The topic of breath is far too broad to broach in one sitting, so I will focus on its expiration. Breath is both voluntary and autonomic, meaning it happens without you thinking about it but it can be stopped or started, and manipulated in rhythm and time.

Breath does not solely concern the lungs. Think of the core body in terms of 2 cavities: thoracic and abdominal. As the thoracic cavity expands, the abdominal cavity changes shape and vise versa. According to Yoga Anatomy 2nd edition, the abdominal cavity is like a water-filled balloon; if you squeeze one end, the other bulges in a different direction. The lungs are like an accordion expanding in 3 dimensions (front/back, wide/narrow, and up/down). In yoga, often times you hear instructions to “draw a little more air in to fill the upper chest all the way to the collar bones”, ” fill the belly up with your breath” and “draw the navel back towards your spine to make sure the belly is empty of air.” Essentially, these breathing exercises are designed to change the shape of your abdominal and thoracic cavities. They are contained within the same structure (your body), so changing your body’s position (i.e. laying down, twisting or sitting upright) changes the efficacy of your breath. Breathing techniques are many and can be found in yoga books and but are not often emphasized on many speech sites.

Exhalation is a process of expelling air juxtaposed by the pressure in the lungs trying to return to its original volume. In school, we learn how little of our lung’s volume we actually use in breathing and in speech. In addition, forced exhalation is often inadvertently associated with abdominal contraction. Without thinking about it, the same muscles we use to strain during a bowel movement are used in forced exhalation. With practice and training, we can learn to use different muscle sets for exhalation in order to balance the shape shifting of our system to healthier patterns.

It makes sense to me that one of those ways of balancing the volume change of breath with muscular coordination is inversions. This is where I go on my own in drawing conclusions. The information above is paraphrased from Yoga Anatomy 2nd edition. The ideas below are my own.

If an accordion sits atop a water filled balloon, I picture a heavy accordion on a constantly squished balloon. This insinuates therapeutic interventions beginning with posture changes to lighten the load. The most extreme posture change being handstands, head stands and shoulder stands. Kids do them all the time, somehow channelling their body’s need for pressure change. It is difficult to manipulate the posture of the elderly, especially without assistance by a trained professional (Physical Therapist or Occupational Therapist). Obviously, The elderly cannot usually manipulate themselves upside down. But they can lay at different angles supported in different ways (that a trained professional says is ok). The insinuations are endless in releasing tensions of the throat, strengthening of abdominals that can decrease the load of the lungs and in turn creating space in the throat for proper speech and swallowing.

The visual of an accordion and a balloon also helps explain the frequent incidence of Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) in the elderly. Poor posture, weak abdominal muscles, and slower digestive system makes the balloon unsustainable.

Throat Therapy

As Speech Pathologists, we are often looking to address difficulties of expression.  Expression is part physical or concrete in the anatomy of the oral, laryngeal, nasal and pharyngeal mechanisms, but it is also very abstract. For example, rapid naming shows us that although a person can say a word physically, the builded pressure of repetition impairs their ability to do what they have already demonstrated they can do.  In therapy, our first inclination is to address a breakdown in communication in a more concrete manner (i.e. oral motor exercises, worksheets) that foster concrete answers (% accuracy). The essence of successful therapy is in self correction and eventual generalization. Generalization in itself is the balance of the physical and cognitive because a patient, a person must be mindful of what they are doing to alter that behavior. Mindfulness is the fulcrum of yoga and it is the basic principle of executive functioning. 

I think a grounded but cerebral look at communication is healthy in doing our job, which is attempting to heal a breakdown that is a marriage of abstract and concrete. Yoga parallels that marriage by stating there must be space in the throat, physically and spiritually, for healing and mindfulness to occur. 


Sanskrit Name: Vishuddha meaning “to purify”.

This chakra controls the throat and the neck, and the arms and the hands. It is associated with the brachial or cervical plexus.

Element: Ether, as the crossover between the physical world and the world of Spirit. On the physical level, it corresponds to deep space as the most subtle physical element. From the point of view of the Spiritual, it represents the matrix on which physical reality manifests.

  • Color: Bright, light blue
  • Musical Note: A
  • Healing Flower: Morning glory
  • Animal Totems: Hawk, whale, and hummingbird
  • Herb: Frankincense
  • Endocrine Gland: Thyroid Gland
  • Sense: Sense of Hearing


Feeding the Chakra

  • Liquids in general: water, fruit juices, herbal teas
  • Tart or tangy fruits: lemons, limes, grapefruit, kiwi
  • Other tree growing fruits: apples, pears, plums, peaches, apricots, etc.
  • Spices: salt, lemon grass

Gemstones and Flower Essences that stimulate, cleanse and energize the throat chakra

  • Gemstones – Chrysocola, Lapis, Blue Opal
  • Flower Essences – Cosmos, Trumpet Vine, Larch

Healing Exercises:

  • Shoulder stand
  • Singing, chanting

Now, below is a meditation activity I am not suggesting we do in therapy. I do, however, think there is something to be gained by doing open sound repetitions to relax the throat, integrating resonance to help with sensations. In children, an occupational therapist once told me that until the age of 7, they are simply experiencing the world by sensation. They are seeking sensory experiences (touch, sound, smell, taste, sight) and reacting to those sensory experiences. With this reflex in development, repetitions of resonance and open sounds can be enriching to their speech experience. Approaching correction by teaching them that what they are saying is “wrong” can be very damaging. For geriatrics, open sounds and resonance can relax the throat and possibly realign cerebral connections to the speech mechanism through repetition, imitation and chorus. I do not think there have been any studies on this, but I think it would be worth a look…

Throat Meditation
Sit in Easy pose with the hands in gyan mudra (index touching the thumbs). Straighten the spine, drop the shoulders and tuck the chin in slightly to create neck lock.
Chant “Humee Hum Brahm Hum” without using the tip of the tongue at all. Use only the root of the tongue to chant. Chant for 11 minutes.

Guru Dev, Master of Sat Nam Rasayan said that Yogi Bhajan instructed students to chant this in the original class without the tip of the tongue. You only want to chant with the root of the tongue, otherwise do not move the of the tongue at all! This will stimulate the throat and will cause your tongue to get a workout. I have to warn you that you will sound really funny chanting this without the tip of the tongue, but you will experience an amazing effect.

Yogi Bhajan taught this meditation with the recording of Humee Hum from Nirinjan Kaur (Musical Affirmation Vol 2).

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Speaking Yogini

I am an Speech Language Pathologist, and a fairly typical speech therapist at that. I am engrossed in details and organization, constantly analyzing communication abilities on and off the clock. Under my  belt, I have 1 year in private practice, 4 years in the schools, 1 year of travel therapy (pediatrics and geriatrics) and 1 1/2 years in geriatrics.  My ear is trained to hear a cough in a crowded dining room, a deviation in tongue placement upon introduction to someone new, vocal intensity, pitch breaks, stumbling to find words, a conversation about missed milestones and when I order a tonic at a crowded establishment, I sometimes finger-spell key words.

I went to school in Boone, NC and have since settled in Asheville, NC.  I have become engrossed in yoga, surrounded by some of the best Yoga teachers in the World (I dare say). I find myself referencing my experience in Speech to the lessons of Yoga, connecting universal teachings to micro and macro details of my profession. In this blog, I want to explore the connections we can make between the two.