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NADA YOGA - The Yoga of Sound

Two articles by David Gordon

Part Two - Meditative Toning         Follow this link to Part One


What is Toning?

Toning is the creation of extended vocal sounds on a single vowel in order to experience the sound and its effects in other parts of the body.

No melody, no words, no rhythm, and no harmony - just the sound of the vibrating breath. Its a simple yet powerful technique, accessible to everyone regardless of vocal ability or training. Through toning you can immediately experience the effects of sound on your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

By literally massaging body and mind from the inside out, meditative toning can help you focus and relax; release negative emotions; reduce stress; and improve stamina and concentration.

Toning synchronizes the brainwaves and helps relieve tension within a few minutes. Toning is also a wonderful technique for developing your voice-ear connection and enhancing your power of listening to everything around you.

Most of all, toning restores balance and harmony to the mind and body. It can help you awaken and deepen your sense of self, and align you to the deepest vibrations of soul and spirit. On the path of toning, you move toward the source of your own inner balance, creativity, well-being, and freedom.

Since the early 1980s, thousands of people have discovered toning, and found it useful for their own health and mental clarity. Doctors, nurses, psychologists, therapists, body workers, teachers, and business professionals have affirmed the benefits of toning in their lives and work.


Company is stronger than will power

You don't have to "OM Alone!" Toning with others is supportive and fun.

Get together with like-hearted toners and make vocal sounds as a group. Create an informal toning meditation circle with a few friends. Look around you for companionship, help or guidance. Whether you're with an organized group, a casual friend, or an experienced toning "guide," you will deal better with resistances, physical difficulties, and uncertainties if you have companionship.


Vowels and the Energy Centers

The power of toning lies in the vowels (like "ah-eh-ee-oh-uu").

Vowels are much more important in toning than the "pitch" (high or low). Most people experience each vowel as unique in energy, emotion, and effect. .

Modern medical and physiological sciences study and monitor the measureable "electro-magnetic" energy in the body - such as the electrical impulses in muscle nerves, and neural synapses in the brain. And for centuries traditional healing techniques such as acupuncture have followed and utilized the energetic map of the human body.

It seems the body has certain "hot spots" of energy. The medical and sacred teachings of both East and West describe them, and often correlate them with specific thought patterns and archetypal effects. (Some ancient spiritual and medical sources depict these energy centers as Chakras.)

Whether we interpret them metaphorically or literally, exploring the body's energy centers through sound is a fascinating journey. As we learn to percieve the relationship of objective vowels and subjective energy, as we learn to "listen" to ourselves on every possible level, we enrich our understanding of the broad spectrum of energies and emotions within us. The "simple" act of toning heightens our awareness of our own inner energies and vibrations. Through that awareness we feel more alive, and more connected with everything around us.


Vowels and Energy

There are many vowel sounds in the human language.

For toning we begin by focussing on several principal sounds. Remember, this is not a list of universal truths, just some traditional suggestions for you to begin with.

Vowel Possible Attributes or Related Perceptions
UU
("who")
grounding, calming, relaxing, awareness of
physicality, gives sensation of depth, base of spine
OH
("go")
conscious self-image, identity issues,
solar plexus self-confidence, individuality
AH
("car")
centering, expanding, pleasant heartfelt emotions,
gives sensation of breadth, heart area
EY
("pray")
self-expression, communication, listening throat and neck
EE
("knee")
energizing, awakening, mental and physical stamina,
gives sensation of length, head
MM
(humming,
lips closed)
balancing, harmonizing and integrating,
the subtlest and most powerful sound

Examples of vowel combinations for balancing and centering
(to be vocalized as one continuous full-breath tone exhalation):

"UU-AH-EE-MM" Balance and energize. Morning wakeup.

"MM-EE-AH-UU" Balance and relax. Before bedtime.

Note: this is a list of just a few traditional suggestions to begin with. Your own awarenesses may be quite different; that's fine! These are just starting points. There is no "normal" toning experience, only "your" experience! With practice, your inner wisdom will guide you and tell you what vowels you need.

Try this for starters: let your intuition choose a vowel for you. Spend several minutes toning it. Begin in the comfortable middle of your vocal range. Then try a lower pitch, then higher, always with moderate volume and without straining. If the vowel feels physically or vocally "wrong" right now, leave it and choose another. Be open to inner experience and sensation, without seeking a specific "result." Explore the sensations of each of these vowels and their total effect on you.

Toning engages your entire being, not just your voice. Whatever specific vowel you may be toning, open your awareness to all physical or energetic sensations, without judgement or analysis. Listen to the vibrations with your whole body, and don't just "hear" with your ears. For example, place the palms of your hands at various places on your body as you tone and allow your hands to feel the sound vibrations.


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Enhance your toning with different postures and movement

Whole body involvement deepens and enriches the toning experience.

Explore different positions and movements while toning, such as:

    •   sit on the floor or in a chair, with your spine expanded vertically
    •   stand, either motionless or using intuitive movements of any kind
          (expansive arm motions are particularly balancing)
    •   lie quietly on your back with your hands at your sides
    •   experiment with eyes closed or open, focussed or gazing softly
    •   tone while walking, working, driving, doing everyday tasks
    •   make intuitive, expressive tones while doing yoga or tai chi
    •   express the tone in movement and express the movement in tone

Let your inner Self respond, free from outer expectations

While toning, pay attention to everything the vibrations may be awakening in you.

What is the effect of the tone? Is it soothing? Agitating? Balancing? Focus on the here and now. Open your awareness, and let your intuition guide you to insight.

It is very natural to experience physical sensations or emotions while toning, and it may not always be pleasant. At times you may feel boredom, anger, or any other emotion, positive or negative. Similar experiences are also well known in meditation, yoga, or any contemplative activity! Know that these feelings are natural, and that they will pass. Don't analyze the feelings or judge yourself for having them. Persevere with open heart and mind, and you will begin to see results, sometimes subtle and sometimes surprising and amazing!

Honor your uniqueness

You are a very complex and unique bio-chemical, electro-magnetic, and spiritual being.

No two people experience toning in exactly the same way. Honor and trust your own experience. Experiment, and seek tones which work for you. Allow your voice and tone to bring you into the present moment, and toward self-awareness!

It is very natural and appropriate to experience energy, physical sensations, or emotional releases while toning, and it is not always pleasant. At times you may feel boredom, anger, fear, or any other emotion, positive or negative. Similar experiences are also well known in meditation, yoga, or any contemplative activity! Know that these feelings are natural, and that they will pass. Do not judge yourself.

During and after toning, be open to everything the vibrations may be awakening in you. Simply trust that whatever toning produces it will ultimately transform and heal your body and mind in the most appropriate way. Don't seek a specific outcome or explanation while you tone, just focus on the here and now. Open your awareness, and let your intuition guide you to insight. Persevere, and you will begin to see results, sometimes subtle and sometimes surprising and amazing!


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The physical guidelines for toning are very simple:

1) Do not tone for more than 20 minutes at any one time.

2) A little bit goes a long way. It's often more beneficial to tone more frequently for shorter periods.

3) Relax, especially the tongue and jaw;

4) maintain a comfortable and moderate loudness, don't force your voice;

5) be always mindful of healthy posture and deep, full breathing;

6) yawn, stretch, swallow, and move occasionally to release mouth and neck tension.

7) Have water and some tissue handy; the energy and physical activity of toning can make your throat dry, or produce excess saliva and mucous. This is common and harmless.

8) If you feel tension or discomfort in your mouth or throat, stop for a few moments, breathe, stretch, yawn, and resume. Sip water.

9) Do not force your voice. Stop whenever you need to. You do not have to endure physical or vocal strain.


One final word:

Learning any art takes time, patience, and regular practice. It's more beneficial to tone daily, even for a few minutes, than to tone only infrequently for longer periods. With regular daily practice your body and mind will quickly learn to respond to the tone and vibrations. It doesn't need to be "pretty." If it's real, it's beautiful.

Toning is not "singing" and there's no aesthetic judgement involved. The sound you make does not have to be pretty; the point of toning is not the quality of the sound but your experience of the vibration and its results. Listen with your whole being, and be open to the total effect of the sound. Link your voice, breath, and awareness together to enhance your appreciation of your own true power in life.

Remember, there's no "right" way or "wrong" way to tone, only your way! Your natural wisdom and intuition will guide you. Your sound is unique, and the experience is uniquely yours!

"You are safe and protected in the sound of your own voice."

If you have comments or would like to share your experiences, I would enjoy hearing from you.

David Gordon


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Related material here in this website:

*  Meditation on Music  *   AUM-Silence - the ancient sound of "OM"

* Audible Prana: the Vibrating Breath   *  Toning and Yoga: Sound and Movement


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