Freeing the Tiger: Letting Loose with Authentic Sound and Movement

The growl emerges somewhere at the back of my throat, a shaggy bear lurking in the shadows of a damp, darkened cave.

I continue to summon the sound, pushing it forward with breath and support from my respiratory diaphragm, and like a fire fed with fuel and oxygen, it grows quickly in both intensity and ferocity. The corners of my mouth turn up in a snarl, something decidedly savage and unfriendly trying to break free.

It began harmlessly enough with a bit of easy movement to some music to wake up my body, which felt heavy and dense as an Irish bog in wintertime. As I moved and stretched, finding the tight places in my muscles and joints, hearing and feeling their old, limiting stories, I began to add sound—long vowels extended into tones to awaken the voice. After a while, feeling warm and loosened, I let my movement settle to a standstill and focused simply on the sound, supporting it fully with breath.

Ohm… ohm…. ohm…

The sound builds. For a brief moment, I fret about people walking by the cottage, or my neighbors across the camellia hedge, imagining them hearing strange sounds emanating from my little house behind the fence beneath the great grandmother Monterey cypress. Once again, my old patterns of containment want to keep me small, quiet and polite. Don’t be too loud, admonishes the inner Good Boy Scout of myself.

Oh, bugger off, I retort silently. Don’t hold back. Who cares who hears?

I begin to tone more loudly, a fully supported and resonant ohm that wakes my entire body with its deep vibration. It feels pleasurable, both energizing and expansive, as if all the locked wooden doors inside me have been suddenly flung open to the bright light of a spring morning. In a more complex manner than through physical motor movement alone, my bodysoul tingles and comes awake with the sound. It is freeing, like taking off clothing that fits too tightly and then being pleasantly naked.

As I continue to allow it, the vocal tone grows richer, fuller and more resonant. Experimenting with different pitches and octaves, exploring the lower range in particular, the growl unexpectedly begins. It initiates with a subtle tension in my jaw muscles, a clenched movement seeking to unwind. Curious about the sensation, I allow my mandible to begin to move slightly to the right, noticing an immediate shift in affect and sensation that ensues.

The resonant, growling ohm shifts quite quickly into something more guttural, ugly and raw. My abdominals tighten like a fist clenching, ready to strike or to crush whatever is held. Freed by the bit of movement, the corners of my mouth curl up further and the guttural growl intensifies while simultaneously a contingent of facial muscles unlock as my neck begins to move and rotate. For a moment or two, the rigidity in jaw and face feels welded in place like an iron mask, heavy with weight.

The motion of my head, the movement of unlocked jaw bones, and the loud growling are conspiring to release something held—something feral and too long restrained. A tremulous ripple of electricity grows in strength, coursing through my entire body, animating me to greater movement and freedom. Unbidden, a wave of anger rises up like a hot, searing flash of red, and I can feel it secured in the steel trap of my maw.

tiger_cageI surrender fully to the sound and movement, unleashing my controlling mind and any timid self-consciousness or shame. My face contorts into a hideous, raging howl—along with a palpable, extreme tension aching to be freed—and I roar with all my might, filling the room with deafening sound.

The seemingly tame tiger behind bars at the zoo lunges and strikes out, a hungry man eater, devouring his unsuspecting feeder alive with flashing yellow fangs. The taste of warm blood intoxicates. A quiet man, I morph into something wild and unrestrained, a hungry werewolf beneath the silver coin of a full moon. Swept up, I cast away any remaining concerns about being heard and surrender fully to the loud, howling snarl and facial contortions that now seem to have a feral life of their own.

The background music I was initially moving and listening to has disappeared in the unexpected storm. A river unleashed, my body burns and trembles with rage and power that I have long secured away in rigid tissues, bone and shallow breath. Movement uncurls rapidly in my core like a glistening ebony cobra and I yield to it, allowing my body to sway freely. Snakelike, my spine undulates, sending my entire body into wave upon wave as my voice transforms from human to animal. I hold nothing back, letting my body writhe, kick, and explode with expressive movement and unrestrained kinetic power.

The embodied eruption of sound and emotion lasts about five minutes, utterly consuming me. Slowly, the snarling and movement abate. My bodymind emerges from the whitewater rapids into an eddy of gently moving, quieter waters. The sudden squall has ravaged the landscape, leaving my throat roughened, tender and raw. My voice sounds distinctly hoarse, like a smoker after a night of too many cigarettes, or a rock star after belting through the stadium concert. The sound that emerges is now much lower in tone, richer, and full. Larger somehow.

Standing motionless as I gaze out the front windows at the small enclosed world of the front garden beneath the great Monterey cypress, I scan down my body with an internal awareness. Every cell reverberates with a gentle, humming current and sense of expansion—I am an open grassy field with the wind rippling through it in gentle waves of flashing silver green.

My face, neck and shoulders feel as if a layer of dense armor, previously camouflaged as skin and muscle, has been lifted away. I walk through the cottage, bare soles light upon the wooden floors, noting how my entire body feels lighter as it moves, as if I’ve dropped ten pounds of weight I was carrying. Subtle movement continues to ripple through my core and limbs like a somatic echo.

Even within the house walls, I notice a different sense of connection with my surroundings—I am more sensitive and intuitive, every sense heightened. Familiar boundaries between self and ‘other’ have shifted, become more permeable and diffuse, a sea of energy rather than the rigid material world.

What would it take to live more fully this way, every day? And what is the part of me that censors such authentic power, and what do I gain from doing so?

Energized and awake, I settle in at the old wooden table by the window to write, my breath open and full as I rest in an upholstered chair with well-worn cushions. My body is nothing but a prayer of fire and smoke. I am unrestrained. Unshackled. A wild soul, I am free to write honestly—dangerously, even—with an authentic, unashamed voice.

What will I dare to bring forward?


[the Good Men Project published a version of this: Unleashing the Tiger]