For years I worked as a 911 operator. I was trained to keep my voice even-toned and calm, because I could soothe a person’s fears or heightened anxiety simply through my tone, not my words. Often when communicating with people, it is not what you say but how you say something that has a deeper connection with that other person. Your voice is a way that you carry your unique energy into a space. Sages say when you are aligned in body, mind, and spirit, your voice resonates a spiritual vibration.
“There is no greater and more living resonator of sound than the human body. Sound has an effect on each atom of the body, for each atom resounds.” – Hazrat Inyat Khan
The use of sound to connect and align our mind, body, and spirit is called nāda yoga. Sound and music allow us to create space and add mood to an environment. There are said to be nine rasas, or feelings, and music can evoke each of them. Teaching yoga, there are various ways to bring sound into your classes, and each can have a profound and altering effect on the energy in the room.
Aum is said to be the first sound in the universe. Our bodies are the resonating chamber of the sounds we make, and aum is considered to be the manifestation of the divine in sound. As we chant aum, the sound moves together to sound like “ommm.” When we aum (or om) in yoga classes, we can utilize this sound and carry it through our bodies in a couple of different ways:
When we om in yoga class, we are not only establishing a connection to our divine self but also creating a meditative sensation throughout the body. This helps us establish a sense of grounding and peace. Although many of us spend our entire day speaking and communicating with others, in yoga class, some of us become shy and quiet when it comes to an om. Whether your students carry their om silently or aloud, remind them to open their hearts and connect to their deeper power.
The sages say that chanting—using your voice to recite mantras (sacred syllables or words)—can heal the body and the universe. Although chanting can be a devotional act, it’s also a form of meditation to awaken consciousness and steady the mind into a focused alignment with the body and breath.
If you choose to chant in your yoga classes, I recommend you become comfortable with the chant before you present to your students. Often students are unfamiliar with chants and will follow the energetic tone you provide. If you are confident and believe in the chant you present, this will entice your students to also embrace it.
If you are introducing a long chant, comprising more than five words, provide a print-out with the words written on it. This helps students who are new to chanting or mantras become more comfortable reciting a chant.
Introduce the chant word for word and translate its meaning for your students. Always let your students know they are welcome to join in silently. They can experience the peace and centeredness that comes from chanting by simply listening.
Music is a part of every culture. It’s said to evoke memories, soothe infants, mend a broken heart, and decrease stress. It’s also an amazing way to create an environment for your yoga students, but remember: Just as music creates space, so does silence.
When deciding whether or not to bring music into your class, first and foremost, take in the environment of your yoga studio. Is loud, popular music part of your studio’s culture, or do students enjoy the soft tones of ocean waves? After determining your studio’s dominant culture, turn your attention inward and ask yourself what music feels right for the environment you want to create? How does your music playlist align with your theme, sequence, and students? From the answers that arise, build your class playlist with the intention of creating a space for your students to breathe, unwind, feel, grow, and connect to the divine source within them.
Through music, om, and chanting, you create an environment where your students’ hearts can open into full expression, as they feel the pulse of their deeper power come through in their unique, beautiful sound. Don’t be shy about bringing the elements of sound or nāda yoga into your classes. It is truly spectacular to hear your om blend with all the varied oms of your students, as your voices funnel together to become one sound, one manifestation of the divine, a uni-verse.