Put the self in the sound and the sound in the self. When the self is sound, all else falls away. Gheranda Samhita 7.8
Roughly translating to “wheel” or “disk” from Sanskrit, chakras are centers of bioenergetic activity where the endocrine system and nerve plexus (network of intersecting nerves) meet. The seven most common chakra areas and corresponding glands are: Root (gonads), Sacrum (adrenals), Solar Plexus (pancreas), Heart Center (thymus), Throat (thyroid), Third Eye (pituitary), and Crown (pineal). Each area is represented by a color, element, chant, and sound. The chart below provides a brief overview of each chakra area as used in YogaVoice, including the vowel sound and bija mantra that it represents. In Sanskrit, “bija” means “seed.” The bija mantras are the “seed sounds” for each of the 7 chakra areas. When we tone or sing the mantra, LUM, for example, we are sounding the essence of the root chakra, and can learn to sense into sympathetic vibration in the corresponding physical area. The bija mantras are energizing/activating, and the vowel sounds are cooling/calming.
Whole Body Resonance
In this exercise, we learn to tune into resonance sensations along the seven chakra centers. The sensory effects of sound are not limited to the face; rather, the whole body is a tool for feedback. The vocal tract is the only effective resonator in the body because it has an opening (mouth) and adjustable empty space (the vocal tract); however, we can feel sympathetic vibration throughout the body. In addition to balancing the nervous system, allowing singers to experience sound moving throughout the body empowers them to sense resonance where they feel sound, rather than where the teacher suggests that they should feel sound. For example, many singers may not experience a feeling of resonance in the face. Instructing such a student to experience sensation in “the mask” may be counterproductive.
Before the practice, consider creating “energetic sounds” rather than “pretty sounds,” choosing any pitch that feels comfortable for your voice. Sense into how you feel the sounds moving in your body—can you feel the vibration in each of the physical areas? Even if you can’t sense vibration, can you imagine sound emanating from the area? How might the idea of whole-body resonance help connect your breath, body, and sound in a rehearsal or performance? YogaVoice founder, Mark Moliterno, suggests:
To get the most from this practice, cultivate the skill of listening first for a sense of the space and vibration in each chakra as you coordinate the breath gesture with the authentic vocal sound. Try not to judge your own voice or the resulting sound in any exercise. Simply listen, observe, and feel the connection to your authentic vocal gesture. In each of the exercises, pay close attention to the relationship of the breath to vocal tone. The two phases of the breath gesture are important to consider. The in-breath gathers your intention and prepares you for the sound you are about to make (this is a listening, preparatory gesture). The onset of the out-breath creates the vocal tone, which expresses your intention. The release of the tone (release of the out-breath) is coordinated with the beginning of the new in-breath. The vocal gesture is a natural extension of the breath cycle.
- In a comfortable seated or standing posture, begin by bringing the palm of your hand to rest gently on the top of your head, toning the sound [ŋ] on any comfortable pitch. Sustain the sound for as long as your breath allows.
- Bring your fingertips to the space between your eyes, fingers gently resting on the bridge of your nose to tone the sound [m].
- Bring your hand to the back of your neck, fingers and palm gently cradling the space between the base of your skull and the base of your neck to tone the sound [i].
- Allow your hand to rest on the top of your chest/heart center, toning the sound [ɛ]. You might also sense into your upper back/shoulder blades.
- Rest your hand on your abdomen and/or your lower mid-back as you tone the sound [ɑ].
- Bring your hands to your hips, sensing into your pelvis and lower back as you tone the sound [o].
- Finally, rest your hands on the top of your legs, sensing all the way down to your knees and the soles of your feet to tone the sound [u].
- Repeat the sequence from the bottom up [ u o ɑ ɛ i m ŋ ] to see if your awareness changes as you sense the vowel sounds moving from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head. Observe which sounds you can easily feel in your body and which are more difficult.
- Explore the same practice using the energetic bija mantras in place of the calming vowel sounds. Do the mantras create different sensations in your body-mind awareness? Were you able to sense into a physical area more or less with the mantras than with the vowel sounds?