Harness the Healing Power of Sound In Your Yoga Practice
Updated: May 27, 2022
Most people who practice yoga are familiar with asana (physical postures) and pranayama (breathwork) as these seem to be the most common tools presented in a yoga class. Another ancient tool of yoga, however, is mantra or chanting such as in making the sound of Om (sounds like "OHm"). Gently making long vocal sounds whether it be vowel sounds, singing, or humming will help to calm the nervous system. Why? You generally make sound only on an exhale. Making these sounds can lengthen the exhale. The IN-hale is connected to the sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, freeze). The EX-hale is connected to the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). This means that when you lengthen the exhale, you can activate the parasympathetic nervous system! Another reason why vocal sounds work is that the vagus nerve (10th cranial nerve) is connected to your vocal cords and the muscles at the back of your throat. The vagus nerve is responsible for sending messages to your body that it's time to relax. Singing, chanting, humming, and even gargling can stimulate the vagus nerve and improve vagal tone. As with any tool of yoga, I suggest you try this out at your own pace and listen to your body to determine what is right for you. You want to avoid pushing a sound to the point of feeling winded or like you're yelling. You should feel calmer and lighter. If you don't, you may have pushed it too far.
If you would like a practice tailored to meet your unique needs and breath capacity, or for respiratory issues in particular, feel free to reach out to me to schedule a private yoga therapy session.