Nada Yoga By Soraya Oldfield
Nada Yoga is the exploration of consciousness through the vehicle of sound and the discovery of its source. Although a distinct path of its own, nada yoga can also include other aspects of yoga that relate to transformation through sound such as music, tone, and the art of listening. The Sanskrit word nadam means sound current or cosmic vibration. The aim of nada yoga is to
harmonise the gross and subtle energy fields and bring them into alignment with their natural vibration. This is in preparation for what we regard as the ultimate goal of yoga, the experience of blissful union with the divine.
FOR MOST OF US ON THE YOGA PATH, THE innumerable benefits that yoga brings along the way become more significant than this ultimate attainment. Through the practice of nada yoga, we aim to still the mind and listen, opening to an awareness of subtle psychic sounds until they lead us ultimately into a deep, restful, and healing experience of meditation. When our nadis (energy channels) are blocked through things such as poor diet and lifestyle, or emotional and physical stress, our health becomes compromised. The benefits from nada yoga can assist us in reclaiming our health. Healing through vibration, music, and sound have the ability to transport us into deep states of relaxation, where the body and mind are rejuvenated. Sound, music, and tone is believed to break up dense energy and disperse toxic emotions such as anger and resentment, allowing us to enter into a more peaceful state. We can use sound as a vehicle for our conscious awareness to dive deep beyond the surface distractions of the mind into a state of pratyahara (withdrawal from the outer senses). In this state of sense withdrawal, we can then enter into meditation where we can experience an environment that allows our mind and body to heal.
MANY STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THAT BRAIN waves are influenced by music, sound, and meditation. In daily life, we mainly experience beta brainwave patterns (13 – 30 cycles a second). However, if we listen to ambient music or enter into a relaxed state, the brainwave patterns change to alpha (7-13 cycles a second). When we enter into a deep state of meditation, we can experience theta brainwave patterns (4 – 7 cycles a second). The benefits associated with alpha and theta brain waves include a relaxed mind-state, enhanced memory and concentration, and improved immunity. These alpha and theta patterns can be invoked through meditation, relaxation and listening to certain music, sound, and tones.
HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED WHY YOUNG children are so ‘full of beans’, so eager and enthusiastic about life? It may be because they spend most of their waking hours in alpha or theta brain wave states; in their creative, imaginary world of make believe. As they become more ‘grown up’, children spend more of their waking hours in the logical and analytical states of mind that generate beta brain waves. Logic is of course necessary; however, when we spend too much time in the beta state as can happen in our fast and furious life styles then stress can become a contributing factor to physical, mental, and emotional disease. Next time you are stressed, reflect on the innocence, joy, excitement, and carefree experience of childhood. This can encourage us to crave a bit more alpha and theta states to bring us back into balance. Recent discoveries in the science of psychoneuroimmunology (the relationship between the mind, body, and immunity) have demonstrated associations between healing and brain wave patterns. Improved blood pressure, anger management, hypertension, relief from headaches, and minor aches and pains, are just a few of the benefits to be gained from regular periods in alpha and theta states. In the Rig Veda, the oldest of the vedic Sanskrit scriptures, sound is referred to as ‘nada brahma’ sound of the creation. It is said to be the seed of all that is manifest, from the gross to the subtle, from visible to invisible. Nada yoga embraces the notion that the primary material of the universe is vibratory, and therefore made up of sound waves. Modern physics is now discovering that everything is made up of infinitesimally small subatomic strands of energy. These strands are vibrating and moving in wave patterns at different levels of frequency and subtlety, creating manifest and invisible worlds both audible and inaudible to the human ear. Through the practice of nada yoga, we can access these illusive primal vibrations that unite us all.
HEARING IS THE FIRST SENSE WE ACQUIRE AS A FOETUS. OUR experience in the womb is one of both audible and inaudible vibration. Perhaps this is why we respond so readily to sound vibration. While growing within our mother’s womb, we hear and feel the rhythm of her heartbeat, the various pulses as the blood moves through her veins, and the sound of her digestive system swishing and gurgling. There are many aspects of nada yoga, but as a starting point we will look at two practices. The first is the simple, yet profoundly effective, practice of bhramari pranayama, which is an effective preparation for the second practice of nada meditation. In the practice of bhramari pranayama, our awareness is directed to a sound or tone we produce, which resembles that of the humming bee. By directing our full awareness and attention to this humming sound or tone, scattered mental energies can be stilled and calmed. Other suggested benefits include relief from cerebral tension, high blood pressure, insomnia, and negative mental states. This practice can evoke alpha and theta brain wave patterns. If practised prior to meditation, it can induce a state of pratyahara or withdrawal of awareness from the external senses. This allows for a much more settled and profound meditative experience.