Dear yoginis and yogis,
This spring equinox (or autumn equinox if you are where I am headed), I was lucky to be surrounded by sounds: Tibetan bowls, a guitar, a Celtic drum and groups of yoga practitioners singing mantras together.
In traditional yoga lineages, this is called “bhakti yoga”, the path of devotion, aimed at opening the heart and allowing us to feel close to our “divine nature”. As Anne Malone said in the workshop I attended at the Life centre last Sunday, “we are all just stardust in human form”.
Apart from such spiritual considerations, the physical effects of singing and listening to music have been studied by science, and you can also experience them yourself – even if you choose to sing exclusively in your bathroom, or to whisper a lullaby to a child.
A friend of mine, who has never tried yoga but is challenging herself by learning to sing opera, shared with me recently how elated and liberated she feels after her class, she said it’s “better than drugs and therapy put together”.
Yogis know why: diaphragmatic breathing, taking deep inhales to maximise your oxygen intake and then controlling the exhale when you sing the notes – all of this works on your nervous system, especially the vagus nerve, which runs upwards through your torso from your belly. Humming, like in the bumble bee breath or the “M” of the Om, also gives your brain a “massage” and stimulates the endocrine glands in your head.
If you sing in a group, these effects are enhanced by the experience of togetherness, a community is immediately created, and if you repeat the same phrase, as in a mantra or a hymn, it can become quite hypnotic and create a state of trance, especially in the right surroundings (church, temple, yoga room, or around a camp fire for ex.).
So, it’s no wonder that so many religions use singing in their practices. It does help to make people feel better! But we can all benefit from the healing power of sound, religious or not, just by wholeheartedly singing along to a song we like on the radio.
Let’s join the birds who are singing their hearts out to greet the spring, and sing along!
PS: I will be in Australia (offline!) from the 22nd of March to the 12th of April to visit my partner’s family. See you when I get back! I uploaded new sequences on the “tips for your practice” page so you can have a yogic Easter break J