Yoga - Music in Your Body
by Shameem Akthar
Yoga can teach you to sing, we kid you not
In yoga, no part of the body is left unattended. Several practices are designed to make the voice sweet. Interestingly, learning music and learning yogic poses have a lot in common. And both have a lot in common with mind-control techniques. This explains how nada yoga is a subtle but sublime branch of yoga, and begins to interest advanced practitioners deeply.
This column does not pretend to unravel classical training, but analyze the yoga of music from the point of view of a rank newcomer to this subject. The first important lesson you learn is that when you leave something unused, like your voice box, for decades, it becomes very difficult to make it obey you. We think talking is sufficient practice. It seems not: singing involves the delicate interplay of various parts of your respiratory system – the diaphragm, the lungs, the larynx, the pharynx and your capacity not just to breathe, but also to breathe with control. This again drives home the need to train your mind too, with some mindfulness meditation. When you do that, new things you wish to learn do not seem so intimidating.
Another amazing lesson you learn is that you cannot try too hard. If you try too hard to catch a tune, it becomes painful to sing, and even more painful to hear. You must just be. And you must just hear the tune, and allow that innate wisdom of your self, subconsciously working on your behalf, to come forward and take over. This letting go becomes very interesting to watch. Even more interesting is the great struggle involved in letting go. After all, you are trying hard. How can that be faulted? But apparently, that is not called for. And even worse, doing that is quite contrary to what must be done. For the call is for you to let go. You experience the truth of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra: “Yogsch citta vritti nirodah (meaning, yoga is that movement contrary to the movement of the mind).
If you transfer this metaphor to your yoga practice, you will also appreciate that when you wish to do a difficult pose very much, your relaxed awareness will reach you there faster than a contracted, passionate struggle. Then, when you learn this yogic lesson, you may transfer this metaphor to your own life too. Often, we cling where it is better to let go. In fact, even in affections and relationships, we cling for our own sake rather than the sake of the person we love. Again, we cling to our point of view where religion is concerned, often directly in contradiction to what the founder of the religion intended. To let go of our point of view is the call. This is true, whether it is a tune we wish to learn, or a yogic pose. I know this, not because I have achieved this exalted state of letting go, but because it comes, again and again, as a moment of epiphany when I struggle with a musical note. Then I realize that I must let go of the need to catch the tune. Then it comes, soft and tender, the tune. So also my poses. To let go of the struggle is the actual activity of a spiritualist. Though we can theorise this ad nauseum, it is only when we experience this while learning something new, that we make the lesson a part of our body. And our being. When you learn nada yoga, this experience becomes an intimate part of you.
Matsyasana (fish pose)
Lie on your back, hands beside the body, palms down. Breathe deeply. Inhaling, lift your head off the floor. Exhale deeply. Inhaling, drop your head backwards, to rest crown on the floor. Deepen the arch by pushing up chest, breathing normally. Hold for a few seconds, with sustained breathing. Exhaling, now lift head up, look at your toes, before you slowly lower your spine back to the floor.
Avoid: If you have neck problems, ulcers, or heart ailments.
Benefits: Uplifts mood. Removes depression. Improves respiratory capacity. Sweetens voice. Assists weight loss. Tones spine. Improves posture, which is also crucial for voice throw.