The ultimate aim of yoga is union with our true nature. In Nāda (also Nād or Naad) Yoga, this union is approached through a process of deepening consciousness and inner transformation by means of Sound.
WHAT IS NĀDA?
“In India, it is said the universe hangs on sound. Not ordinary sound, but a cosmic vibration so massive, subtle and all-encompassing that everything seen and unseen (including man) is filled with it.“1
The Nāda of Nāda Yoga is Primal Sound – the fundamental vibration of the universe. According to Tantrik philosophy, this vibration is the creative principle from which existence itself arises. The primal Nāda vibration is said to be present within all sounds, to a greater or lesser extent. As Nāda yogis, we utilise various sounds of increasing subtlety to attune ourselves to the Primal Sound that is is the source of all existence, including our own.
NĀDA YOGA PRACTICES
Nāda Yoga is an ancient form of yoga that originated in India around 200 BCE. Classic texts, such as the ninth century Shiva Sutras of Vasugupta and the fifteenth century yoga manual, The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, contain instruction in Nāda Yoga.
The practice of Nāda Yoga takes a variety of forms, so the practitioner can choose those which suit their own disposition. The use of mantra repetition, toning, chanting, singing, playing musical instruments, dancing, listening and contemplation can all be incorporated into a Nāda Yoga practice. In fact, one of my teachers told me that you can do Nāda Yoga any way you want, as long as it takes you inwards. Therefore, Nāda Yoga can also include focusing with deepening awareness upon the vibratory aspects of our lives, including our thoughts, words, emotions and the rhythms of our daily, seasonal and yearly activities.
LEARN NĀDA YOGA WITH ME
These are some of the practices that we cover in our classes.
TONING AND CHANTING
Each class includes some form of toning – the repetition of vowels and basic syllables – or chanting. Toning and chanting are for everyone. They do not require any singing ability and it is immaterial whether or not we think we have a “good” voice. They are simple, gentle and direct ways to experience how sound can enhance our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. We explore Tantrik chanting techniques to balance and energise our chakras and help us develop a more resonant physical body. Toning and chanting also connect each of us to our own Svara – our unique tone or signature sound, our self-shining voice that is perfect as it is.
“Put very simply, a mantra is a sound vibration through which we mindfully focus our thoughts, our feelings and our highest intentions.”2
We chant mantras from both the Tantrik and Vedic traditions. Bīja (seed) mantras are elementary syllables from the Tantrik tradition. They carry pure consciousness, rather than linguistic meaning, and can be associated, among other things, with the chakras. From the Vedic tradition, we chant four different types of Sanskrit mantras, each with its own distinctive vibration: Saguṇa (evoking qualities associated with Hindu deities); Nirguṇa (evoking awareness beyond form); Mahāvākya (statements of ultimate truth) and Śāntipāṭh (evoking qualities of peace).
We practice mantra in the form of Japa Yoga – the repetition of a mantra either aloud or inwardly. We also chant mantras in the Vedic style and sing them, with heartfelt devotion, as Kirtan.
In order for our mantra practice to be effective, we need to take correct Sanskrit pronunciation seriously. This is also a necessary part of having due respect for the tradition and for the Nāda itself. The classes take a slow and gentle approach to learning pronunciation, as well as the philosophy behind the Sanskrit alphabet. We don’t expect to be perfect but we aim to refine our skills over time.
Hindustanī classical music is founded upon the principles of Nāda Yoga. Whilst it takes a lifetime to master Indian music, even non-musicians can benefit from incorporating aspects of it into their own practice. We study the basics of Tāla, (rhythm), Sargam (scales) and simple Rāga – not to become Indian musicians, but as a foundation for heightening our own connection to the ever-flowing stream of sacred sound and music.
“If you listen, you can hear the sound of Om inherent in and underlying all sound. It resonates in the rushing waters of a stream, it roars in the thunder, whispers in the rain and tugs at one’s heart in the lonely cry of a loon.”3
Listening is a fundamental aspect of Nāda Yoga. We use a variety of sound sources, including vocal, musical and natural sounds, as a focus of our listening, aiming to expand our experience of sound and deepen consciousness.
The concentrated listening that we practice in Nāda Yoga is a form of meditation through sound. Sound is an accessible tool of meditation for many people, as our minds find it relatively easy to concentrate upon and become absorbed by sound. We begin with Passive Meditation, which involves focussing on the external sound of a bell, gong or singing bowl.
Over time, concentrated meditative listening to outer (āhata or “struck”) sound prepares us to become conscious of the inner (anāhata or “unstuck”) sound. Inner Listening is also known as Shabd, Surat Shabd, Laya Yoga, or meditation on the sound current. These forms of yoga aim to absorb the mind in discerning and listening to the “inaudible” sound that lies within audible sound. Thus we come to hear and ultimately merge with the primal Nāda sound of creation.
TRADITIONS OF SOUND
We will gain an overview of some Hindu-based philosophies as they relate to sound, including Tantra, Bhakti, Kashmir Shaivism and Ayurveda. We also consider and honour other traditions that have their own yogic approach to sound, or have made significant contributions to the field of sacred, transformative sound. These include Sikhism, Theravada, Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism and certain Indigenous traditions.
Our classes are suitable for beginners and experienced practitioners. No other form of yoga practice is needed. Any level of fitness is welcome.
Our classes may not be suitable for people who are hearing-impaired, who suffer from tinnitus, misophonia (decreased tolerance to specific sounds) or auditory hyper-sensitivity. However, people differ on a case by case basis, so please feel welcome to contact me to discuss your individual situation and together we can discern the suitability of the classes for you.
Classes to resume Autumn 2021.
1David Reck in Music of the Whole Earth, 1977, quoted by Jill Mattson, The Lost Waves of Time: The Untold Story of How Music Shaped Our World, 2015
2Girish, in Music and Mantras: The Yoga of Mindful Singing for Health, Happiness, Peace and Prosperity, 2016
3Divya Prabha, Kirtan in The Art & Ecstasy of Chanting, 2015