BE THE SINGING BOWL
If you even lightly touch any part of a singing bowl, it will immediately dampen the sound and stop ringing as fully, if at all. Every square inch of the instrument, all of its surface area, must be devoted to the task of ringing its unique sound. When we sing, the resonant space is within our head: the pharynx, which includes the throat, soft palette, and space behind the nose – but you could also observe that we sing with our whole body; perhaps every cell is involved (or at least affected)! In my approach to voice instruction, some special attention is given to releasing through most consonants and allowing each vowel to ring as fully as possible, so that we may efficiently project our voices and be like singing bowls ourselves, ringing our own unique frequencies!
Try these exercises to experience each vowel more fully. Remember to stay aligned and take truly deep breaths, in which the diaphragm drops, allowing the air to drop in passively. Hint: oftentimes a more relaxed and subtle approach to the vowel shapes is more beneficial – when it comes to muscular engagement of the extrinsic muscles of the neck, jaw, and tongue, less is more!
- Speak the text of your chant or song slowly and meditatively, staying aware of the relaxed inhalation and breath flow as you’re speaking. Observe the feeling of each vowel and see how quickly you can release through the consonants to the vowels, noticing if there are certain vowels that seem easier or more resonant for you, and whether there are certain consonants that seem to alter the surrounding vowels.
- Sing through the melody of your song with only the vowels of the words, not the consonants – if this is new for you, try “thinking the words but only letting the vowels out.” Once you get used to it and are keeping the breath flowing through consistently, focus your awareness on the feelings of the pure vowels, comparing this to when they were being altered by the consonants. Then add the consonants back in and try to keep that feeling of pure openness.
Through teaching ourselves these new habits in our voice practice and taking a yogic approach that focuses on the feeling rather than the sound (check out this article for more on that topic), we are clearing pathways that allow us to bring this experience of openness into our lives and invite each moment to ring more richly. Just as we open when we sing, we can cultivate an open-ness in each moment through the practice of gratitude and neutrality, observing without judgment and confronting deeper truth. And then integration is needed so that we may embrace all the parts of ourselves, inviting the wholistic song of each moment to ring!