Sample from the Winter 2009 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine

An Interview with Russill Paul

Largely unknown in the West, yet developing alongside Hatha Yoga, Nada Yoga is a 2000-year-old spiritual system. The Yoga of Sound, Russill Paul’s comprehensive book on the subject of Nada Yoga, makes this ancient and mystical science accessible too all. In this interview he shows how Nada Yoga and Hatha Yoga compliment each other and, when utilized together, can greatly enhance one’s Yoga practice.

IYM: Is there a relationship between Nada Yoga and Hatha Yoga?

RP: As a tradition, Nada Yoga originates around the same time as the codification of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in the second century and closely parallels the development of Hatha Yoga. References to the use of sound in Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga practice are found in texts such as the Nada-Bindu Upanishad [see inside back cover] which is part of the Rig Veda and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika declares that the worship of Nada Brahma (the soundless sound that is God)is an essential practice for Hatha yogis. In the Yoga Sutras, we see the classic reference to the Omkara as a crucial aspect of yogic realization. Patanjali said, “Let there be soundless repetition of OM and meditation upon it for from that ensues the awakening of interior awareness and the removal of obstacles” (1.28-29).

While Hatha Yoga optimizes the performance of physical organs, the Yoga of Sound (particularly through mantras) optimizes the performance of energy vortexes known as chakras, which govern our emotional, psychic and spiritual states of consciousness. We encounter vibrations all the time as we go through our daily lives. We may practice Yoga but when we go into society—into the noise, traffic and bustle—we get ruffled, we get our buttons pushed. We are in the concrete jungle not the forests of India. Nada Yoga’s listening techniques coupled with sound-based meditations can help us deal with the vibrations of the environment in which we live.

Furthermore, however strong our Hatha Yoga practice is, if it’s not free from the tyranny of the thinking mind, we haven’t mastered Yoga. The whole point of Hatha Yoga is to master the body so it’s no longer an impediment; because, when the body is unencumbered, we can work undisturbed on the mind. What’s so wonderful is this rich complementarity—Nada Yoga is like a sister to Hatha Yoga, if we can understand the sonic element in life. Hatha Yoga primarily develops the infrastructure of the physical body and its nervous system. The Yoga of Sound works essentially with the transformation, restoration and reconstitution of the energies of the soul through channels known as nadis, which are subtle channels of the chakra system related to the soul’s infrastructure.

Nada Yoga uses certain Hatha Yoga practices to aid in the process of listening, concentration and absorption in sound as the medium of energy. Brahmari mudra and nadi sodhana are classic examples of such techniques shared by both approaches. Nadi shodanam is central to the Nada Yoga tradition. It’s about clearing the two nadis to enable the flow of energy through the sushumna. We can’t speak about the nadi system without Nada Yoga. Nada means not only sound, but energy, flow and pitch. It’s all about kundalini shakti, the subtle anatomy of Yoga practice, which is the essential and very powerful connection between Nada Yoga and Hatha Yoga.

IYM: Are we beginning to regain the connection between mantra and asana?

RS: When Hatha Yoga was first propagated in North America, there was a lot of prejudice against all things Hindu. So, naturally, mantra got left out of Hatha practice. Mainstream America and the environments—the YMCAs, gyms, adult education classes—in which Yoga classes were held, were not conducive to holding the Indian culture. Now, in the 21st century, there is a lot more freedom because Yoga is no longer seen as flakey. It’s gained some credibility in the medical establishment. Religious traditions find it harder to argue with the spirituality of Yoga practice because so many in those traditions are practicing Yoga. Since the environment is becoming more conducive, mantra is ready to reenter…

Read the rest of this article in the Winter 2009 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.