The Yoga of Voice

Modern medical and physiological sciences study and monitor the measurable electro-magnetic energy in the body—such as the electrical impulses in muscle nerves and neural synapses in the brain. For centuries, traditional healing techniques such as acupuncture have followed and utilized the energetic map of the human body. It seems the body has certain hot spots of energy, or chakras. The medical and sacred teachings of both East and West describe them and often correlate them with specific thought patterns and archetypal effects.

Whether we interpret them metaphorically or literally, exploring the body’s energy centers through sound is a fascinating journey. As we learn to perceive the relationship of objective vowels and subjective energy, as we learn to listen to ourselves on every possible level, we enrich our understanding of the broad spectrum of energies and emotions within us. The simple act of toning heightens our awareness of our own inner energies and vibrations. Through that awareness we feel more alive and more connected with everything around us.

We can bring an element of this awareness into any singing we do. This is the Yoga of voice, the Yoga of singing. In the 1990s, I partnered with Don Campbell, a fellow musician and mind/body music researcher, because he had been  labeled “New Age” and he wanted to bring more legitimacy to his scientific and spiritual approach to sound. I wanted to bring the softness of spirituality and Yoga into my rigorous work in the professional music world. Now, each day I work with singers performing Mozart operas and all kinds of classical music, I’m constantly aware of principles like chest openers, erectness of the spine, keeping the subtle channels known as nadis flowing freeing. I may not use that language with 95 percent of my students, but these are the principles I am incorporating into my work as a teacher and vocal coach. I have an intimate relationship—similar to a Yoga teacher’s relationship—with my students and their bodies as I instruct them about the cervical spine, lumbar spine and keeping the knees soft. This has had a profound effect on my work in Western music and my own singing. A new student recently said, “I heard you were a good voice teacher and that you teach something else, but no one could tell me what it was.” I’m grateful that my students realize there is something else going on here.

I tell my professional singing and acting clients to practice a little silent mantra before they walk on stage or to an audition. When they audition and also when they perform, they have a tendency to feel, “Oh my God, I hope they like me.” This just reinforces a performance from a place of ego, fear or anxiety. I encourage my students to come from a place of: “I’m going to do something now I really love and I invite you to share it with me.” That states why you are doing it. It states an intention. Then you don’t give up your power and you are still in your space. The audience then becomes your partner.

I learned this from my spiritual work with sound: to stand in the place you want to be and invite others to join you. Then, all the sounds we make become about connecting, rather than putting them out there awaiting someone else’s applause. When we invite the audience to join us in the place of centeredness, oneness and unity, we are in Yoga. And, when we tone in a group or chant together during kirtan, though we each make a sound, we become part of the group; we breathe the same air. We connect through the sounds, through the breathing, through our toning, through our shared space. The connection is the thread that weaves all sound together.

The most beautiful and sublime way to make sound is with others. It strengthens our sense of our sounding self. When we go into a quiet space, there’s so much more there to vibrate in us. There’s a joy in toning, in singing hymns, opera, chorus, kirtan, barbershop harmony, bluegrass—you name it. It’s about sharing the sound space with other voices. The more aware we are of ourselves as sounding human beings, the more we can show up in that communal space, and that’s the greatest joy.

About the Author
David Gordon has appeared as featured guest soloist with virtually every major North American symphony orchestra and with other prestigious orchestras and music festivals on four continents. David is also an inspiring master class presenter, known for his solo voice workshops and his innovative group/choral vocal seminars. He brings his many years of personal experience and study of Kripalu Yoga and the science of the power of sound to his workshops, classes and mentoring. For more information about his work and his CD, Healing with Sound and Spirit, please visit his website,

Excerpted from Integral Yoga Magazine, Winter 2009 issue

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