The Sounds of Prana

As I race towards the final week of yoga teacher training, I have been madly writing essays, reflecting on my practice and prepping for the final practical elements of the course. This weekend I am scheduled to host a meditation session – something I have never done for a group of people before. Sure, I feel very cosy in my little yoga family bubble, however, this only inspired me to want to make the experience extra special. There’s been a variety of relaxation and visualisation practices in my fellow trainees sessions, but I decided I want to opt for something a little different. Step outside my comfort zone. I can hear my mentors’, Ari and Elina’s, voices in my head saying ‘You can’t control your students’ experience, Erin…!’ Yeah, yeah… I know! But it did make me reflect on when my experience was a little bit different – when I allowed myself to try something new. And loved it.

Back when I first discovered yoga, one late Sunday afternoon, I sheepishly walked through the door of my local studio  to what was entitled a ‘Sea of Om’s’ group meditation class. I felt like a total hippy – but not the calm, cool and collected ones you just want to while away the afternoons with, I’m talking the far-out-dude-I’m-totally-wacked-out-on-love-juice-bro(-wanna-toke?) ones. Yep. I went there. Judgement 101.

What I experienced though, was something really special.

I spent a lot of my childhood with music – either listening to it, singing it, bashing it out on a piano or tootling it on a clarinet – it was and always has been a huge part of my life.

I lose time with music. And I find my self.

So I have decided to take on The Sea of Om’s with my meditation session. I have been on an investigation to get to the bottom of why we chant in yoga and what it actually means to integrate this love of music and sound into my teaching and my practice.

What follows here are extracts from the Prana and Mantra chapter in Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati’s Prana and Pranayama. I believe it goes some way to explaining why chanting and music has such a profound affect on me.

An intrinsic relationship between sound and prana underlies all creation. At the beginning of creation, when the first movement arose within the field of dormant consciousness and mahaprana manifested, sound also came into being. With the first movement of cosmic energy the first sound manifested, which was Om. This transcendental sound is also called nada, the highest level of sound vibration. From nada came kalaa, the manifest universe of time, space and object. In scientific terms, this may be related to the event of the Big Bang.

In the Bible also it has been said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” In order to become manifest, the unmanifest and indivisible has to take on form. The first form was sound, and it came into existence through the medium of energy or prana.

Aren’t we all just looking at the same world through our own lens and making meaning out of the song that resonates deep inside our ‘self’?

Sound is a form of energy that has frequency, pitch, volume, and tone, as well as subtle qualities. Scientifically, sound is a vibration at a particular frequency, and it is able to produce physical changes in an organism. Some vibrations can be harmful while others are beneficial. Sound can be concentrated to such degrees of intensity that it can shatter and destroy objects. Holes can be driven into solid metal by using sound alone. It is thought that the great stones of Stonehenge, Easter Island and the Mayan monuments were moved into place using the principles of sound.

The principle behind the use of mantra in pranic practices relates to this intrinsic relationship between sound and energy. Every movement of energy manifests sound, and every sound carries energy. The pranas are activated with the chanting of mantras, and the orientation of existing pranic flows are altered or emphasised, so that the mind and perception changes.

Ever wondered why music makes us feel so good?

In scientific terms, mantra repetition regulates and balances the autonomic nervous system. It facilitates synchronous breathing, directly resulting  in cardio-pulmonary resonance, which is indicative of autonomic balance. The powerful and coherent electromagnetic heart field of one person can affect the heart fields of others, leading them to coherent synchrony. There is a greater concentration and the mind can be utilised for higher flights. Therefore, when pranayama is performed with mantra, the practice is more effective.

The best mantra is Gayatri, as it corresponds to the ideal breathing pattern of pranayama. It is comprised of twenty-four syllables which contain the entire form of prana. As it appears in the Rig Veda (3:62:11) is:

Om tatsaviturvarenyam

Bhargo devasya dheemahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat.

Om. We meditate on the divine light of that adorable Sun of spiritual consciousness. May it stimulate our power of spiritual perception.

Gayatri is created from Om. In the order of creation, this sound is further developed, and the developed state of the mantra Om is known was Gayatri.

According to Vedic philosophy, prana has three forms. So Gayatri, as the presiding deity of prana, is seen as a little girl, innocent and childish, in the early morning; as a charming young woman in full bloom at noon, and as an old woman, embodying wisdom or jnana, in the evening. The colour of Gayatri in the morning is red like the rising sun; at noon she is golden, and in the evening smoky grey. These are the characteristics of prana, represented by the different forms of Gayatri, and this is how Gayatri worshippers may visualise her during their thrice-daily worship.

Some believe that the Gayatri mantra is directed  towards the external sun, but ultimately it is directed towards the brilliance of the internal sun. The internal sun must shine so that the consciousness becomes enlightened. In the external firmament, first there is darkness, broken only by the flickering light of stars. Then a dim light shoots forth from the horizon, indicating the break of dawn, and finally the brilliant sun rises, lighting up everything. As it happens in the external horizon, so it is in the inner horizon. That breaking of light is called Gayatri. It represents the sun which illuminates the whole world and also the inner self which illuminates all the planes of existence and consciousness. The external sun only illumines the gross world, but when inner enlightenment takes place all the planes of existence become perceptible.

Gayatri is referred to as the Mother of the Vedas and the Gayatri mantra appears in the Rig Veda, the oldest written literature  int he library of humankind. Thus, human beings have been chanting the Gayatri mantra for a long time.

The Upanishads say that Om (or Aum) is the primordial sound. Everything has come from Om and, at the time of dissolution, everything will revert back to Om. The word Om is the universe. Everything that exists in the past, present and future is Om, and that which exists beyond the threefold division of time is Om.

And so there you have it. Our course it set. Come Saturday, I shall endeavour to set sail with my yogi crew as we take on the Sea of Om’s. Who knows where – or when – we will end up.


One (lyrics by U2)

The quiet beckons. It’s long, spindly finger outstretched towards us. Two warm souls sitting on a cold bench in the middle of the night. A blood moon watching over as we gaze back out at the world. Here we are one.

Is it getting better
Or do you feel the same
Will it make it easier on you now
You got someone to blame
You say…

Can you feel it?

One love
One life
When it’s one need
In the night

Sit here with me a little longer. It’s coming.

One love
We get to share it
Leaves you baby if you
Don’t care for it

There’s a rumble deep inside the earth. Deep inside my chest. The air is thick and pulsating.

Did I disappoint you
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without

The water stirs, starts to circle, to move. Something deep in my belly starts to swirl. The wind rises up, picking up a great wave of raging sea water. It hangs over us, lingering. Laughing and waiting. Rolling, tumbling in the sky all around us, threatening to crash down at any second. You take my hand. Our hearts pounding.

Well it’s…
Too late
To drag the past out into the light
We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

You look at me and I can see it all in your eyes. The blood moon bathing in your light, the raging waters, a burning fire running with the wind. We are awake. We are alive. The electricity sparking. Vibrations, sensations collide.


Ignition: I rocket up into the air and stop suddenly, dangling, just for a moment before crash landing on a mountain top. I pick myself up and find myself standing on the cliff edge. My feet planted on the ground but my chest pulling me over the edge. My body helplessly in love with gravity, I have no choice but to fall into you.

Have you come here for forgiveness
Have you come to raise the dead
Have you come here to play Jesus
To the lepers in your head

And I’m standing on your shore. The wave still rolling through the sky, the moon beaming down into my heart, the earth drawing me down, deeper. I can still hear it. The universe brimming with sound. It ripples all around me igniting my skin, buzzing through me and around me. It gets louder. And suddenly the wave in your eyes crashes down on me. I am drowning. I am gasping. Rolling, tumbling, tossing, turning. Lost somewhere inside you.

Did I ask too much
More than a lot
You gave me nothing
Now it’s all I got
We’re one
But we’re not the same
Well we
Hurt each other
Then we do it again
You say

But there ahead of me is a rope.

Love is a temple

I reach out and grasp on tight.

Love a higher law

As soon as I do, it splinters into a billion threads.

Love is a temple

It shoots up to the sky, down into the earth, out into every corner of your world.

Love the higher law

I stand at the centre,

You ask me to enter

the threads now locked into me,

But then you make me crawl

holding tight to every part of me.

And I can’t be holding on

The universe bristles with the hum of time standing still.

To what you got

And I can breathe again.

When all you got is hurt

One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should
One life
With each other
One life
But we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

For this moment we are one.



Day 2 YTT: Vitality

Today I woke to an unintended but inspired flashback to my graduating year of high school. As I wandered, bleary-eyed into the kitchen, my muscles pained from the day before, my housemate greeted me with Baz Luhrmann’s 1999 hit ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen‘. Take a moment. Listen.

1999 was a good year. And yes, I was making myself my acidic morning coffee (I’m a Melbournian at heart, what can I say?). But rest assured I followed it up with my newest ritual of my alkalising hot lemon water chaser.
Everybody’s free…to feel good!

A baby chick develops the strength and vigor it needs to survive in the world by the very act I pecking, pushing, and twisting it’s way out of its protective shell. If you broke the shell open for the baby chick, it would not survive, because it did not go through it’s own process of struggle and freedom. Remember, the prize is in the process!

– Baron Baptiste on Parivrtta Alanasana (Revolving Crescent Lunge) from Journey into Power