If there is any real trace of miracle, of phenomena, of wonder, it is the voice.
Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Mysticism of Sound and Music
Who among us hasn’t struggled in certain contexts to authentically speak our beliefs, needs, or desires? Maybe your words stick in your throat, seized by tension; maybe your voice chronically trembles and you cover it with laughter; possibly you fly off the handle, protecting yourself with a torrent of sound; maybe you assume a voice of strength, burying your deep-seated sensitivity and need; or worse, you just go mute, on automatic shut-down.
It starts in childhood.
What child hasn’t suppressed
cries for connection,
As we grow older we suppress
our opinion, our vision,
our pain, our disdain,
our ecstasy, our joy,
our need for love,
or our vulnerable outpourings of love.
To heal your voice is about integrating deep levels of your being in order to communicate authentically and live authentically. To reclaim your voice is to reconnect with the most core aspects of your self (and the Self) and send this out into the world.
Within Yoga, the capacity to skilfully speak our mind and feelings is a capacity of the throat chakra, which is also known as the Vishuddha chakra. Shuddha means “pure” and vishuddha means “very pure”. But as the Sanskrit term suggests, the throat chakra is more than just a center for communication and expression, it is a center of purification.
There is an esoteric aspect to this purification for advanced yogi(ni)s having to do with mystical secretions being purified in the throat. But there are other aspects to the voice as an instrument of purification that are accessible to even beginner yogi(ni)s.
We all appreciate how we express and release emotions vocally: cries, grunts, screams, sobs. Laughter, shouts, moans, cheers! But when we suppress these feelings they leave an energetic imprint in the body. Yoga presents us with vocal practices to systematically release and purify these imprints. It is believed that we can not only purify the throat chakra using the voice but the physical and subtle bodies, in addition to our psyche. So let's learn how Yoga uses the voice as a mystical tool.
The throat chakra is envisioned as having 16 petals, each with a specific vibration. These vibrations are the vowels of the Sanskrit alphabet. They are also known as the Matrika Shakti or the "16 Little Mothers" whose energies are thought to birth the universe itself. Working with these vowels is a powerful way to open the throat chakra. Of course, correct pronunciation and tongue placement are important in this process.
Not only does the throat chakra resonate to specific vibrations, the entire body is considered to be a garland of sound! The Sanskrit vowels and consonants stimulate specific points and pathways within the body. Many of these correspond to the Ayurvedic marma "pressure" points used in the Indian system of healing and specifically massage
By chanting the Sanskrit alphabet we can clear the energetic pathways throughout much of the subtle body. (I have personally, at times, experienced the sinuses opening, ears popping, back cracking, shaking in the legs due to muscular release, in fact, a variety of effects. This is of course anecdotal but for me mantra, more than even asanas, has resulted in the powerful release of tensions and/or emotions.) And these primordial mantric sounds not only allow us to create a "sound body" they also contribute to a "sound mind".
When we combine the vowels and consonants into more complicated, "linguistic" mantras we are configuring powerful patterns of energy which, with repetition, can create new structures within the psyche. These new "samskaras" or "grooves" help replace useless or negative thinking. Some sounds stimulate feelings of ecstasy, others fearlessness, yet others feelings of love. A steady practice additionally focuses and strengthens the mind and ultimately should lead one to the realization encoded within the sounds: a sort of communion, if you will.
"Communion" means oneness: "com" signifies "with, together" and "unus" means "oneness or union." The word communicate is derived from communion. Mantras are communicative tools which allow us to connect to the original insights and communion that the Rishis experienced with aspects of Nature and the Cosmic Mind.
Vāk was described as "the wife of Vision, the mother of Emotions, and the friend of Musicians". Vāk later became Saraswati, the Goddess of music, poetry, and the arts. "She" allows one to connect to subtle vibrations and to transform these subtle vibrations into inspired communication. It is due to her power that one can perceive and understand a thing and then communicate it's essence.
In fact, it is said that for the adept Yogi(ni), having gone through rigorous purification and centered in a deep state of consciousness, all their speech becomes mantric: their voice becomes an instrument of vibrational creativity. Each word they utter creates a strong vibrational field, crystallizing intent into form. Woah.
But for most of us, opening the throat chakra and connecting to our deeper feelings and intuitions will play out in our lives as more inspired speech in our relationships, promoting greater alignment and harmony with loved ones. Or it may manifest as an increased capacity to communicate our visions and dreams thereby increasing the opportunities for realizing them.
Healing the throat chakra results, ultimately, in a greater flow of awareness which translates into a true sense of empowerment. It allows us to express our most essential nature. It means more connection, vision, and spontaneity. It means more joy.
Interested in reconnecting to your voice and healing at the level of the throat chakra? Learn to chant the vowels of the throat chakra (or even the entire Sanskrit alphabet!) and take your meditation practice or chanting to the next level! Just fill out the form below and contact me for a few live virtual lessons. I'll get right back to you.
Interested in joining us to chant live? We'll be chanting and meditating for the Winter Solstice with Inner Transitions NDG on Dec. 21. More info here.
Here are my "musings" on mantra and sound as a transformative path.