Jill Camera, Teacher at Sacred Sounds Yoga
My friend is a witch; she studies and practices Wicca, a form of nature magic. As we walked together one day along a beautiful garden trail, she paused to smell a flower. Before sniffing, though, I heard her ask “the fairies” if she may. How did she know the fairies were there, I inquired? She answered simply: “Everything sings”!
As a Hatha Yogi*, I smiled and immediately understood.
In yoga class, we pay exacting attention to the breath, tuning into our own personal breathing frequency and tone. Its rhythm, cadence, pace, beat and tempo sings a music of sorts. And like all music, influences our mental states. Applying an even, rhythmic breath flow in class, the emotions are soothed, the moods lightened, the mind gently opened to new possibilities and adaptive strategies. Our entire “operating system” of body, breath, mind and personality harmonize, singing the same sweet, blissful tune.
This system tune-up may influence a deeper, clearer “tuning in” to:
- the frequencies of others around us
- the unseen forces that sing in nature (whatever they may be named, hence the “fairie folk”:)
- our highest personal references of potential and power – the songs of the angels, inner plane adepti, saints, gods, goddesses – even whatever our Ultimate Reference* may be
Yogis know that the entire Uni-Verse (“one -song”) is vibrating, singing energy. When vibrationional waves are slow, we perceive solid form and sound via our sense organs. Faster, subtle vibes are an invisible force, embodied as a matrix of thoughts, emotions and desires. Energetic vibration is like a whirling fan: the sight and sound of which, when slowed, reveals individual blades and a low hum. But as the speed and power increase, fan blades are no longer visible, and the pitch shifts to inaudibility. Yogis master techniques to fine-tune their operating systems, becoming in effect, a more powerful antenna, a more sublime melody.
The ancient hatha yoga techniques mastered the art of mapping these subtle, invisible, unseen vibrational forces (prana) within the body. The chakra (say “cha” not “sha”) system, is one of the most well-known. As well as these seven-whirling energy- centers, there are said to be invisible rivers of energy patterns throughout the body called nadis. Like the force behind a running brook, a flowing stream or roaring ocean waves, the nadis, when clear, can dissolve old, hindering emotionally held patterns in the body.
As the heart chakra (AnAAhata Chakra, which means “unstruck sound”) is said to be the alchemical center for transformation and transcendence, so the nadis running up and down the spine are of most import. In yoga class, as we manipulate the body and breath via their coordinated movements, these invisible energies along the central spinal channel re-generate and re-organize. This process re-rejuvenates our nervous system; the capacities for intuition, imagination, inspiration and revelation can sing.
On a fundamental level, as we practice our yoga poses, we listen and learn the musical language of the body. These SACRED SOUNDS are who we are: a masterpiece of energetic symphony!
CHANTING SACRED SOUNDS
Hatha yoga poses are, indeed, a valuable tool. But yogis utilize an even more subtle sonic power-tool: chanting. Chanting is not unique to yogis or Sanskrit: many traditions look to engage a broader reality beyond what is perceived via the senses, with the desire to awaken to meaning, purpose and value. And these spiritual traditions all use the powerful vibration of the human voice and word for transformation.
With chanting we find our groove, influence our mood and mind, open to the great potentialities of shared human existence. The most powerful of the Sanskrit mantras is the SACRED SOUND of OM!
Types of Sanskrit chanting:
- Vedic chanting – the oldest within the yoga traditions as it pre-dates Hinduism, Buddhism etc. It is prescribed and dictated by rules that govern its legacy. In other words, learned properly from a teacher, its recitation today sounds the same as it was chanted thousands of years ago.
- Kirtan chanting – these sessions are a jazzy mix of Bhajans (prayers of praise), legendary stories and emotional compilations of devotional expression.
- Mantra japa – using a set of mala beads, short, few- syllabic mantras are chanted repeatedly, counting the beads off one by one.
- Wisdom Text chanting – the yoga wisdom texts that were compiled after the Vedic opus may be chanted any way that works to have them easy to memorize. Used as a mind-training sonic practice on their own, one of the most popular is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
*A Hatha Yogi practices physical postures, breath focus and well-being practices
*Yoga Sutra 1.27 from Liberating Isolation by Fans Moors:
Tasya vacakah pranavah -The sacred formula is used to address It.