It was 1999 when I walked into my first Kripalu yoga class. It had all the familiar components of the other yoga styles I'd tried—but with an added element of organic sound.
The students were making noises on their mats.
There were multiple variations of sighing, audible breathing, and the occasional moan. I didn’t know sounding in a yoga class was even a thing.
I was good with Om. I also liked the strong “ha” sounds in boat pose because it felt like martial arts. But when the teacher encouraged us to let out natural, organic sounds, it felt wrong.
At first I told myself it was weird, but the truth was, I didn’t even know my body had natural sounds.
I’d spent so much of my life trying to discipline my body to do what I wanted, trying to contain my voice, power, passion, hunger, and drive. As someone who started dieting in grade eight, I’d spent decades attempting to shrink, tone, push, manipulate, and fix my body in so many ways.
The Kripalu teacher was telling me my body had a voice of its own—and it needed to be heard.
I wanted to understand. During that week at Kripalu, I gave myself permission to use my voice on the mat. By combining non-scripted, subtle sounds with movement, something started to shift in my practice.
I started making up new (to me) variations of classic poses. My fingers flowed into mudras in warrior, goddess, and triangle. I started playing with soft “huh” sounds in my core-work as I pulsed. My cat/cow undulated like seaweed in the ocean, and transitions became more seamless and graceful.
In a short time those few sounds, initiated from the inside, brought waves of freedom. Off the mat, I noticed it was a little easier to speak up for myself in difficult situations.
The combination of sound and movement helped clear my throat chakra.
The throat chakra represents our ability to speak our truth and listen to the truth of others. This chakra is directly related to our expression of creativity, originality, and freedom.
As babies and toddlers we have the freedom to express ourselves spontaneously. We squeal, coo, grunt, growl, chuckle, babble and sigh. Before we learn the rules of formal language, our body has its own language. We cry out when we need help and grunt when we’re learning a new motor skill. We giggle for no reason, and belly laugh when we feel good.
As we get older and take on the expectations of society, we lose the memory of our body’s organic sounds.
It would be strange if adults were cooing and babbling in the lineup at the grocery store. But the mat can be a safe place where we can express ourselves, while still being respectful of the students around us. When our yoga teachers knows how to encourage expression, it can help us clear blockages from the throat chakra.
Here are five simple ways to bring sound into any yoga class:
What’s your favourite sound or noise in a yoga class—or do you prefer to keep your sounds to yourself? I’d love to hear from you, in the comments below.