Singing is one of the most joyful and calming spiritual practices for me. I can really feel it in my body when I go too long without allowing my voice to radiate sound through my body. Often if I am traveling lots, I will notice that I haven’t had privacy or space to sing and as soon as I get a chance, I notice how my body opens up and relaxes when I sing along to some music, bring out my guitar or practice the art of devotional song or bhakti kirtan (which we will explain further below).
When I was a young girl, I was incredibly shy and always very hesitant to allow my voice to be heard. I was always told to speak up, hated answering the phone and never sang in public. It wasn’t until I broke my arm at the age of 14 that I was forced to sing in music class rather than play the flute. For the first couple of years of singing in public, I was so incredibly nervous. My voice would become shaky, I wouldn’t be able to project much sound and my breath would get stuck in my upper chest. Thankfully I had a very supportive teacher who gently encouraged me to keep trying. Fast forward 7 years and I started a band with my beautiful sister Tess. We recorded a couple of EPs and had some incredible experiences singing to hundreds of people at some of our favorite music festivals, experiencing deep joy and liberation. You can listen to and watch the clip for one of our songs, The Air I Breathe HERE. This song was written about the connection we experience as sisters and is always such a powerful song for me to perform with her.
I am so grateful that I was able to keep pushing through my fear of having my singing voice heard and was able to find such deep freedom and joy in singing in public and on my own. It took time for me to find my voice, but now that I have, I find it continues to grow and expand and helps me not only to sing in public, but to also feel more comfortable and empowered to use my voice more powerfully in my life in all areas.
I now use voice in my daily practice, in my 1:1 sessions, for yoga classes, in my theatre performance as well as during deep integrations on the Embodied Awakening retreats.
Through working with Tantra I have been able to develop my authentic voice even further and find a way to use this in a practice of devotion and service. This can be different to the voice I use in a performance. When I sing in service, the song flows through my body and goes beyond the personal to something far more mystical or universal. Like all of Tantra, it’s about coming out of the mind and into the body. Getting out of the way and allowing The Song of Tantra to flow through me. I am excited that I will get to keep developing this practice as I travel with Embodied Awakening this year and support on their retreats.
If you are nervous about singing, but feel called to try, why don’t you start by introducing it into your daily practice (which we wrote about in our last blog, “Developing A Daily Practice”. You can begin as simply as a simple Om or find some inspiring music that lets your voice soar. When you get out of the way, out of the mind, your voice can truly flow from you.
Everyone has a unique song inside of them, The Song of Tantra, and to set that free is such a beautiful practice. Devotional song does not care what you sound like. In this blog, we explain the many benefits of sounding your voice through the body as well as the healing power that listening to various sounds can have on the body.
I am so excited for you to try this.
Embodied Awakening Academy Practitioner and Temple Dance Facilitator
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There’s no doubt that music offers the power to heal, activate, integrate, free the mind and liberate the spirit. We’ve all likely experienced how music and sound can evoke our emotions, alter our mood, and lift our energy.
For example, you probably won’t be able to fall asleep when you listen to a marching band, nor would you dance wildly around the room when you listen to a lullaby. Yet the exact mechanism of how and why sound affects us in certain ways is not exactly clear (although there are many theories).
Feeling off balance and/or sick often arises when we are “out of tune.” Music, and the healing sounds of voice, can truly harmonize the dissonance of your nervous system, connect you to your soul, and help you to come home to your body.
We are often taught that making sound isn’t okay. As we grow up, we are often told to not laugh too loud, and as we get older we learn not to not make love to loud, for fear of being heard or shamed. But if you think about a young child, they are usually so in their present moment experience that if they are happy or delighted you hear it in their cackled laughter, if they are angry they will yell and scream. If they are sad they will wail. These sounds are powerful when used with awareness.
Music and sound are a significant part of the Embodied Awakening teachings and practices. EAA teaches its clients a simple but powerful process of breath, sound and movement. When you combine these three things, it is one of the most powerful ways to express and release stuck tension, trauma, emotion or energy from the body. Our online course, “Ignite Your Power‘ goes even deeper into these express and release practices in powerful ways.
SOUND AND THE VAGUS NERVE
Our brain is wired in such a way as to bestow particular importance on sound. The Vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body. It originates in the brain and travels all the way down to the lower internal organs. It is a fundamental regulator of the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls all the involuntary processes such as digestion, heartbeat, respiration, etc. and is responsible for restoring relaxation after a response to stress or danger (the sympathetic nervous system’s activation).
The ear and hearing have a substantial effect on the rest of the body because of their proximity to the Vagus nerve. Basically, stimulating the ear means stimulating all the vital internal organs. The vibrations of sound tend to have a very significant impact on all the areas of the body reached by this important nerve by resonating very close to it in the eardrums.
This is one of the reasons why the use of sound in a therapeutic way such as through tuning forks or Tibetan singing bowls can be so instantly calming and relaxing, helping the body to come back to the nourishing “rest and digest” state that is the opposite of the “fight or flight” mode triggered by stress. In fact, long and sustained sounds tend to be soothing and relaxing (parasympathetic response) whereas sharp and abrupt sounds tend to trigger alertness and alarm (sympathetic response).
A simple practice of toning (producing long vocal sounds, usually vowels, or humming), such as an Om sound, can have tangible calming effects by virtue of its auditory stimulation of the vagus nerve.
Next time you notice yourself in a stress response, see what happens when you allow yourself to gently sound. Bringing deeper breath and some gentle movement to the body can enhance this even further. You’ll most likely notice that your parasympathetic nervous system feels calmer.
BHAKTI KIRTAN (DEVOTIONAL SONG)
Bhakti Kirtan or devotional song connects us to our embodied awakening, permeating our body, mind, and spirit with mantras that soothe and rejuvenate. In our retreats and with clients, we share this practice, led by Embodied Awakening Creative Director, Tara, who has studied the practice of Bhakti and Kirtan in India for many years and who’s beautiful voice inspires us all to lift our voices together in deep devotion. Kirtan is a very simple and powerful way to access effortless joy, devotion and meditation.
Often sung in Sanskrit, and often in devotion to a particular god, goddess or deity, these ancient chants contain powerful renewing and transformative energies that helps us reconnect with the Divine in all of us. When you sing and allow your voice to be expressed in Kirtan, no one cares what you sound like. In Kirtan, all voices merge together to become One Voice.
This practice can be experienced as simply as chanting a single Om on your own, and as powerful as a room full of people feeling the powerful energy of their voices in unity together.
“Kirtan is a means of finding our way back to the core of our Being, to our heart, and to our connection with each other.” – Ragani
What would be different if you lived and led with Soul?
People who lead with Soul are honest, kind and loving.
They are changing the world in some way, big or small.
They are courageous and bold.
They lead with love not ego, judgement, stress or aggression.
They share power rather than wanting power over.
They are confident and magnetic because they speak their truth.
They do not need external validation.
They trust themselves and so earn trust and respect.
They learn and grow from inner and outer conflict rather than becoming victims.
They make money without shame and share their wealth generously.
– Chantelle Raven
Xx Chantelle and the Embodied Awakening Academy Team
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