Going Deeper: Yoga of Sound Introduction

If you are introducing sounding to a new audience, you may wish to gently support students in noticing and releasing conditioned fears around using their voice in ways that are new to them.

Like asana and pranayama, chanting must be practiced to realize its benefits. But if before or after introducing it, you’d like to share some keys to *why* it has such effect, you can consider the following expert explanation describing five specific benefits:

  1. Association of memory
  2. Entrainment of vibration
  3. Slowing of breath rate
  4. Sonic effects of vowel sounds
  5. Intent to be closer to the Divine

Five Reasons for the Powerful Effect of Chanting

Gass points to five key elements of chanting that make it such a powerful and universally appealing practice. The first two, he says, are characteristic of all types of music: association (or triggering), in which one’s experiential memories, built up over time, invest a piece of music with ever-deeper levels of meaning; and entrainment, in which the body-mind is induced to align (or vibrate) with a melody or rhythm to which it is exposed. “If you’re in a room and there’s a heavy drum beat,” says Gass, “your body will almost involuntarily start to move.” The other three elements, according to Gass, are especially characteristic of chant: breath (the effect on the chanter’s respiration as it slows from the normal 12 to 15 breaths per minute to between five and eight breaths per minute); sonic effects, namely the pleasurable sensations and healing effects of extended vowel sounds typical of sacred chants; and intent, which reflects “our desire to be close to God.” Gass adds that chant derives its power from the synergy of all five elements working together. “It’s sort of like a secret weapon,” he says. “You’re not thinking about it; it just happens.” – Phil Catalfo

Recovering the Soul of Hatha Yoga

The Yoga of Sound, I believe, can usher more soul into yoga as it is transplanted to the West and can help Westerners achieve the deepest fulfillment possible through their yoga practice. This is already happening through the widespread use of kirtan, the call-and-response chanting of the names and attributes of Hindu Gods. However, kirtan is only one avenue of the depths of sound yoga—albeit an important one, since it reaches into the heart. Kirtan is the first step toward recovering the soul of Hatha Yoga, but much more is possible when all the streams of sonic mysticism are taken into account. – Russill Paul

The Power of Vibration and Sound

Many of us recognize the power that music has in our lives. It has the ability to deepen our journey, evoking both emotional and spiritual states of awareness. However, if we look a little deeper at the power of vibration and sound itself, we see that there are forces at play that can greatly enhance the power of one’s practice. Such is the underlying philosophy of sound healing, or vibrational therapy. – Yoganonymous

Chants and Song are Universal

When we encounter indigenous tribes, who’ve had little contact with modern civilization, they all have sacred chants that their oral history traces back to their earliest origins. And if you look into creation myths from different cultures, in almost every case the world is said to come into being through sound, through chant. It’s in Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Native American religions. And you can look at young children: Almost all young children make up repetitive songs—they lose themselves in the rapture of singing. – Robert Gass

Mantra is Not Exclusive

There’s nothing in the literal meaning of the word mantra that suggest you have to be fluent in Sanskrit or Latin or a certain sacred language, or vow to a life of celibacy and hide out in a cave in the Himalayas. It also doesn’t imply that mantra is something “exclusive,” a practice meant only for a special clique of yogis and saints who know a sort of “secret” language. On the contrary, I wholeheartedly endorse mantra as one of the most inclusive and egalitarian practices out there, one that serves anyone anywhere.  Girish

Vocalizing’s Effect on Breath Rate

Both the Buddhist mantra Om Mane Padme Hum and the Ave Maria prayer were used in the study and are generally recited in a single 10-second breath cycle, corresponding to six breaths per minute. In contrast, the average person’s breath rate is 16 to 20 breaths per minute, according to Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., a cardiac surgeon at New York Presbyterian Hospital and director of the Heart Institute at Columbia University. “When your internal metronome slows, you get a variety of beneficial effects,” he says, “and you also lessen the risk of catastrophic events like heart attacks and strokes.”  – Alison Rose Levy