So often in our society we are taught to shut up and listen, yet we end up hearing the wrong voice and wrong messages; messages that make us feel small and insignificant rather than full of unlimited potential and strength. As a result we become inhibited, questioning whether we have something worthwhile and important to contribute to the world we live in. We may be dishonest in fear of upsetting others, and may even use words to manipulate intentionally or unintentionally to shield us from our own insecurities. Our throat and jaw become tight due to the stress of having an over-active, ungrounded mind.
Yoga is about learning to listen to the inner voice; watching the often turbulent sea of thoughts with our ear to the deep waters of our subconscious. We listen to our breath setting the pace of our movement, and through the steady inhale and exhale we stabilise and quiet the mental fluctuations that preoccupy us with the past or future rather than letting us remain truly present.
Sharon Gannon says we can see how our yoga practice is evolving by listening to the sound of our own voice. When we way what we mean and mean what we say our voice becomes more resonant; grounded. Compassion sweetens the voice, and awareness enables us to take the time that we need to find the appropriate words, enabling us to say less while conveying more.
One way of actively listening to own own voice and how it relates to others is kirtan. The practice of chanting sacred names creates a divine subtle energy; exercising the voice through repetition enables us to drop down into the depths of our tonality as a grounding force. By observing how our voice co-exists and intertwines with others we can connect energetically and feel more unified as a group. Physiologically, moving the jaw and relaxing the whole body through sound and rhythm softens the areas of held tension and releases past experiences that may contribute to blockages throughout the body.
A number of yogis I know dislike chanting and would go so far as to arrive late to class to avoid it; I dare say I can relate. About ten years ago I had my first chanting experience in a yoga class; the teacher had a harmonium and began the class with chanting. I was unaware at the time of the relationship between the practice and the chants, and I didn’t return for a full year. When I did return, however, something in me had shifted, and I felt the connection. From that point on chanting has been an important part of my practice to deepen my knowledge of the yoga sutras and as both a meditative and purifying tool. A wise man once told me the things we have an aversion to are the things we actually need to evolve. Though I wouldn’t like to take this too literally (for those of you who know about my aversion to mayonnaise, don’t expect me to start ingesting any time soon), there is some truth to placing oneself in an uncomfortable circumstance to detach from the (positive and negative) preferences of the mind.
A few years ago when I was pregnant with my son I lost my voice due to some traumatic events experienced at the time, including direct trauma to the throat. It took me months of working with a voice therapist to open this area back up, and through that process I found a new appreciation for the freedom of expression through the voice. How blessed we are to have a voice; may we use it to speak our truth, to live more openly and honestly, to have a positive impact on the world. Svaha!