Sound, Vibration, and Yoga

I have always been very musically-oriented and musically-sensitive. I’m sure it has something to do with the sheer volume of musical experiences I had when I was young, including my mom’s vocal talents, a plethora of musical toys, and my daily sing-along to the Wizard of Oz, followed by The Sound of Music. The right beat or harmony can completely alter my mood, but it wasn’t until recently that I began thinking about music and sound in terms of how it can connect us to our inner world.

It all started with the seasonal shift toward fall. In Texas, temperature doesn’t necessarily indicate a seasonal shift, but even without consistently cool weather, the presence of fall is unmistakable. There is a certain energy, a vibrational shift, that occurs in the fall season, and this year it has been particularly acute for me.

The shift became particularly evident to me when my family and I attended a high school football game at my alma mater, where I spent four years attending every football game as a member of the marching band. I truly loved spending Friday nights in the breezy stadium, watching the game, cheering, dancing, and playing, but I noticed that for the first time, I didn’t feel a lot of nostalgia, because I am so far removed from that part of my life. What I did feel, though, was the sound that permeates a football game – sound from a variety of sources vibrates in the air and through the seats and across my skin, and it feels like perfect conditions for meditation.  

The experience at the football game got me thinking a lot about the vibration of sound, and I started noticing it in other places. Some were obvious, like when I attended concerts, chanted in a Sanskrit workshop, or laid in savasana while a singing bowl was played. Other times, I think I only recognized that vibration was affecting me because my awareness was piqued. For instance, I have always loved seeing movies in the theater, and when I went recently, I realized that one of the things that draws me to that experience is that you can really feel the sound in a theater.

It’s easy to feel the vibration of sound at a concert or at the movies where sound in focus, but there are subtle sounds everywhere that contribute to the overall vibration of nature, and when we pay attention, we can feel this vibration and begin to align our breath, mind, and movement with the world around us. If we do this on a regular basis, we learn how to ground, and how to work with natural rhythms instead of expending the energy it takes to fight them. It turns out that vibration is a powerful way to connect with our inner selves and with our natural world because it is audible but also tactile. The more senses we can use to experience something, the more it can be used to turn our focus inward.  

It is this journey through vibration to our inner world that allows sound to become therapeutic. In yoga practice, we practice sound therapy through gong meditation, singing bowls, chanting, kirtan, and one of my personal favorites, the didgeridoo (I’m not kidding, it’s excellent). When I practice at home, I often choose songs with great harmonies, a great beat, or powerful instrumentals, and turn the volume up to help me ground and focus my practice. Other times, I challenge my awareness by practicing without music and see if can connect with the vibration of the space around me, or even the vibration of my own physical body. There is no one right way to go about the difficult practice of self-exploration and self-discovery. This is why one of the first steps in the practice of yoga is the practice of enhancing our awareness, so we begin to learn what catches our hearts, opens our minds, and moves us to connect more deeply with our own Truth.