Since ancient times, people have been using sounds and music to bring changes in one’s state of being or to experience an altered state of mind. According to the vedic knowledge the expressed universe came into existence with an inexpressible sphota. This shpota has a word with the sound of Om. It is from the eternal Om that the whole universe is supposed to have been created. Thus, we can say that behind the expressed sensible universe there is sound in varying degrees of vibrations. Therefore, sound plays an important role in yoga to reach deeper and subtler levels of existence. There is also a complete science of Yoga based on sound known as nada yoga.
The Sanskrit word nada means sound or flow and yoga means union. Therefore, the practices of nada yoga can be understood as union through sound or the flow of sound. Hatha Yoga also mentions the practices of nada yoga after describing the practices of asana, pranayama, shatkarmas and bandhas.
Sounds that we use in yoga have a very soothing effect on brain and nervous system. Bhramari pranayama which is practiced by chanting MMM sound (the last syllable of Om; A-U-M) is classified as tranquilizing pranayama. There are many mantras which we can chant to experience a deeper dimension of our being. Transcendental meditation practice use short mantra comprising of a single word to transcend the thought patterns and settle into the most silent layers of mind.
In our Hatha Yoga Teacher training we use the three sounds of Om (AUM) in various yogic practices. Sound can act as an effective stimulant to break open the inner stagnations, knots and blocks. Different sounds like A, U, M and Om (AUM) are used during various stages of yogasana and relaxation techniques as effective stimulations. Such sounds are produced loudly and clearly so that they generate a fine resonance all over the body. Resonance occurs when the frequency of the generated sound matches with the natural frequency of the body.
Thus, resonant sounds are used in yoga as stimulants. The post-resonance silence deepens the awareness and releases even subtle tension. As we become calm and subtle, we use stimulations at the mental level. All our thoughts are in the form of sounds, ideas, images or combination of these. Therefore at the mental level we use mental sounds. Here we chant the sounds of A, U, M mentally. They are chanted mentally during various stages of yogic practices. These mental sounds act as subtle stimulations at the mental level which can bring a subtle resonance all over the body. After stimulation we experience relaxation which releases even subtle tensions and stress, resulting in great peace and tranquility. Therefore, by making use of sounds we can greatly refine our yoga practice and its experience.