Sound Yoga is an established path for using sound to attain wholeness. Sound Yoga is the main sound modality I practice and share, because for me, the most important thing in working with sound is connection: connection to oneself, to others and to the Ultimate Reality – hence also the name of my company. Sound is a very powerful tool in strengthening that connection, and connection ultimately leads to the realization of oneness. Which is yoga. Sound Yoga.
THE APPROACH(ES) OF SOUND YOGA
The word “yoga” refers to wholeness (healing!) that happens through joining the individual self to the Ultimate Reality. The path of yoga has been researched and practiced for thousands of years and this ancient tradition of India has always considered sound as one of its essential elements, sound itself being a legitimate yoga, or “path”, just like hatha yoga (the familiar form of yoga for many Westerners). The classic term for the yogic use of sound and music is Nada Yoga which literally translates as Sound Yoga. However, if we want to be more precise, Nada Yoga can also be considered as one particular stream of Sound Yoga while also others can be identified, each of them with their distinct qualities and practices. Following this idea, Nada Yoga is essentially about the internal experience of sound through meditation (music, sound and silence) and deep listening whereas Shabda Yoga (“word yoga”) focuses on combining sound, word and meaning with Vedic mantras, Shakti Yoga on releasing, channelling and transforming energy with tantric mantras (“seed syllables”), and Bhava Yoga on devotional music and chant. This is one way to distinguish the different streams of the immensely rich tradition of Sound Yoga*, and others may exist, but I myself find this one clear and practical. In the sessions I offer, I use practices from all the above streams of Sound Yoga.
The concept of Sound Yoga does basically refer to the Hindu tradition and that way leaves out all other traditions of the world. I myself have taken a liberal approach and consider any sound practice with a yogic approach (that is, using sound and music for self-realization) as part of the system, no matter where it comes from. So for me, a yoik from Lapland, a medicine melody from the Amazon or African inspired drumming are all Sound Yoga in its broad sense. I don’t think this takes anything away from the sophisticated, ancient Sound Yoga practices of India. Rather, I think it reminds of the fact that everything is essentially about the same sound (anahata nada).
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO PRACTICE SOUND YOGA?
Practicing Sound Yoga involves active participation in meditation, listening, sounding and/or chanting. It can be very soothing and meditative, but also bring up other kinds of experiences: when you really go into it, sound, especially your own voice, brings you very close to yourself, allowing you to face everything there is - also your insecurities, fears, shame, and resistance. However, with patience, trust and persistence you can go through anything and reach great rewards: the more you put energy into any practice, the more it will also give you fulfilment and joy. For example, working towards being and expressing your authentic self (in this case, through your voice) with acceptance and love, is something incredibly powerful, perhaps one of the most rewarding things you could learn in this lifetime.
So I truly believe that in sound yoga, like in any other kind of healing or transformative work, creating deep and lasting change requires your own attention and energy. It is the same as with physical pain: going to get a massage every now and then can be nice and beneficial but for any enduring improvement to happen, you need to do the work to realise the habits that are causing you pain and stay aware and active to continuously keep your body healthy. Massage has its place too, but your own involvement should be the part your transformation and wellbeing ultimately rely on. I warmly encourage you to come and find out how Sound Yoga practices can support you on your path towards your deeper self.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)
Does Sound Yoga refer to a regular (=asana) yoga practice done with sound or music?
– No. It is true that many Hatha Yoga sessions include music and sound, some even a “sound relaxation” at the end with Tibetan bowls, chimes or other “sound healing instruments”. Also it is true that at least in my Sound Yoga sessions, we do use some physical movement and breath work from the yoga tradition to open up our bodies for sound. However, Hatha Yoga and Sound Yoga are two separate streams of yoga: the former is essentially a science of physical health and balance, the latter is a science of consciousness.
What is Sound Yoga like in practice?
– In Sound Yoga, you actively explore your inner world with meditation, deep listening, sounding and chanting. The sessions I offer typically include movement, breath work, humming and toning, vocal meditation, mantra, dhrupad and sound journey. Sometimes self-exploration is supported by journaling and/or self-inquiry work.
Is Sound Yoga about relaxation?
– Essentially, no. Relaxation is an important part of the process, because for healing or transformation to happen, energy needs to be able to flow and so you need to be relaxed. But relaxation is not the ultimate goal, this work goes beyond relaxation.
Is Sound Yoga about singing?
– In the traditional sense, no. We do use our voices, because the voice is an incredibly potent tool for purifying, healing and exploring ourselves. Your voice is a very intimate part of yourself, and if your voice is somehow blocked, your energy doesn’t flow which means YOU don’t flow. Toning and chanting can also effectively nourish our souls and increase wellbeing in many ways. Even so, I wouldn’t call this singing in the traditional sense. It is more about listening and getting in touch with your inner voice, through your voice.
Do I have to know how to sing or play an instrument?
– Absolutely not. We are all born as sound beings, and music is our nature. If you have a voice, you can use it to connect with yourself. You don’t need any prior musical skills to benefit from this work. All the practices are simple and you only work for yourself, safely in a group.
Do I have to know yoga or meditation?
– No. We are all learning and the practices used are very simple yet effective.
I don’t understand anything about what you are saying, but I’m interested in experiencing this. Can I come?
– Perfect! Come as you are, you are warmly welcome <3
*Source: “The Yoga or Sound” by Russill Paul