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Yoga and Sound

(Click here for an article on The Joy of Purity in Yoga and Sound by Ming Lee)

Ramanand Patel, who was initiated into yoga practice by his father at the age of thirteen, studied from may different teachers culminating in finally becoming a student of the renowned yogacharya Shri B.K.S. Iyengar in 1968. He is a founding member of the Iyengar Yoga Teacher Training Institute of San Francisco, where he was known as the teachers’ teacher. As a senior yoga teacher he is highly respected in the Iyengar community. He is respected as an innovator in the use of props and working with students who have special needs. He combines this vast technical expertise with knowledge of Vedanta philosophy and sarcastic sense of cynical wit in his instructions on various asanas.

Pandit Mukesh Desai, a disciple of Pandit Jasraj, and world-renowned classical Hindustani musician accompanies the yoga asanas with his wonderful vocals, his immense knowledge of Indian Classical music, and his inspiring musical ability. His talent is enhanced by his goofball wackiness, which makes him one of the most beloved teachers of music around the world.

The five senses are conduits, connecting the present moment of the outside world with the inner world of thought, emotion and memory. The sense of smell is the most primary of the five. However, ability to work through smell for deeper penetration is not available to the human mind. Of the five senses, the sense of hearing is perhaps the most penetratingly sensitive, the most capable of inciting transformation. It reaches to the core of being and triggers vibrations of subtle resonance with various organs and memories. In the Yoga and Sound Workshops Ramanand Patel and Pandit Mukesh Desai, both leaders in their respective fields, combine their expertise, playfully, lovingly and joyfully guiding students on an insightful journey which encompasses the sincere self discovery, subtle and deeper penetration of yoga as well as the delightful pleasure of music and singing.

Ramanand’s specific directions and Mukesh's singing have a symbiotic relationship. Together they have developed a method of utilizing sound as a yoga prop to promote deeper non-aggressive penetration into the asanas, into the breath, and through the senses into the self. As in other yoga workshops, Ramanand and Mukesh attempt to teach inward movement starting from the most external levels, the physical (general alignment) and physiological (working through the bones). Proper understanding and use of the senses (“being receptive”) is necessary to move from these external levels to first the organic stage (channeling the effect towards particular organs), then the pranic stage (use of five major pranas) and finally into Self –discovery. This necessacity is emphasized in Yoga and Sound Workshop with meticulous care.

Each workshop includes lecture and discussion segments, group listening, correct vedic chanting, and learning about Hindustani music segments, asana practice segments that are accompanied by Mukesh whose love and devotion is evident in everything he does but never more than when he shares his music and himself. Students learn to observe the depth of the inner ear and to increase the receptivity of hearing; they discover that hearing happens effortlessly. Then, just as the sound penetrates the ears, students learn to allow the sound to penetrate the flesh, as if each cell is as receptive and as deep as the inner ear and each act as effortless as the act of hearing sound. Students experience the impression of moving inwards both mentally and physically; the mind becomes more compact, the asana felt deeper within the body.

Sound is also used to provide insight into the rhythmic flow of vinyasa and to facilitate harmonious breath and movement. Students of every level find the experience extraordinarily beneficial, as it helps them learn to avoid additional strain or stress while working more deeply. The sound catches the listener and increases the ability to move through resistance by transporting the past deep-seated blockages. Supported by the sound the body/mind/senses are carried past the resistances such as weakness, tiredness, pain, stiffness, emotional binding, tightness in the breath or tension in the eyes throat or brain. The sensation is one of gliding, the sounds tenderly scooping a person up like a ski lift gliding forward and gently resting down.

At times the sound slides so deeply and completely inside someone that their mind cannot distinguish a difference between it and self, for there is no real difference between the sound and someone’s perception of it. When this happens students often enjoy the remarkable comfort of acceptance and emotional resolution. The silence that follows the intense listening turns out to be truly profound; the overall experience is often life transforming.

What do we listen to: When evaluating the audio equipment we listen to sound. This is critical listening. We do it in two ways, one by technical measurement and two by human hearing mechanism. The latter is vastly superior to the former. Many of the better-known professional authors on the subject agree further that there are some dangers in critical listening. They are briefly:

a. Any signal put into an audio equipment never comes out better at the other end. In comparing commissions and omissions, it is agreed that those that add to the signal are far worse than those that remove from the signal.

b. Critical listeners, once they start on the path, tend to "listen to the hardware" rather than the music.

c. Expectation of the sound quality becomes so high that listening for the sheer pleasure disappears.

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