In most yoga classes the only time students engage in finding their yoga voice is at the end of class with the traditional “OM.”
In my years of practicing I’ve encountered Oms that range from lyrical, choir-like harmonics to guttural, off-key bellows, to barely audible whispers of sound from a room full of people.
In a practice where we can’t hide wobbling in balancing poses but we try anyway, we somehow become way crazy insecure about opening our mouths and letting sound out.
Sound and breath carry energy. They make our energy more tangible than it is simply in mountain pose or boat pose. Using sound and breath is a great way to access feeling your prana and creating a relationship with it.
Yes, a relationship.
Sound, through mantra and chanting, helps deepen our relationship with our spirit energy by bringing it to the forefront. We experience it as sound and vibration from within. We get to explore how “in tune” we are, and not in a melodic kind of way.
When we create mantra and chant practices we get to feel our vibrational energy and assess how open it is and cultivate it and its expression.
Expression is key.
We can engage and encounter our prana through asana. But it can be subtle or easy to ignore as we focus on the body and flesh and alignment and balance and all the things.
My relationship with sound is an old and varied one. I have been a musician since a child. Playing instruments in bands and orchestras and singing in choirs.
Creating sound with a group is a powerful and surrendering feeling. That synchronicity and unison is unique and special. But it’s different. We are trying to be cohesive. There is structure in the sound. The sound is trained.
I began exploring chanting and mantra when I became Buddhist. Finding Om with a group and independently, transformed my experience with sound from music to spirit. I found myself drawn to learning more and exploring more about the non-lyrical chanting of Tibetan monks. That deep, droning monotone that is somehow lulling and mesmerizing. The sound is its own. It comes from within. It’s authentic and raw.
It was something I needed. I had been a very structured person, deeply dependent on rules. Opening my mouth and letting a sound out without a goal of a note or being in tune was HARD! (I played oboe. Oboists tune the orchestra with a concert A.)
Practicing finding my authentic sound without controlling it or tuning it was valuable. I got to learn the sound of me and my sprit.
I grew to love my mantra practices, letting the chant find its own rhythm from within me and letting it roll, wave after wave, as I kept my focus on the intention (loving kindness, compassion, or protection, depending on the chant).
As I developed my yoga practice chanting transformed from pure spirit to connecting my spirit and my body. Using sound in yoga practice is deeply valuable in releasing energy and cultivating energy.
But I never wanted to give sound to something I didn’t understand.
I needed to know what “OM” means.
What the words of any mantra means.
Blindly following any practice is unwise. And the more I knew about what a mantra meant, helped me connect with that mantra and choose it, rather than just finding rote repetition.
Once I was able to connect to the deeper meaning of the chants and mantras, they were demystified and relevant in my everyday life. They were no longer some ancient practice from olden days. They weren’t something that only certain people of certain faiths and cultures did. They became elements the deepened and enriched my yoga and Buddhist practices.
I found and owned the sound of my yoga. My yoga voice.
This Sunday I will guide a workshop to explore this deeper connection with breath and sound and vibration. If you’ve ever been curious or uncomfortable about the Om, or the Gayatri Mantra or any kind of monks chanting, this workshop is for you!