As a yoga teacher I have been inspired to bring music into yoga classes, more and more over the years. I have always loved music and the gift it brings to everyone. As a 10 year old I was totally transported to a joyous place when singing with a group of children during a summer camp. To this day I carry some of the songs with me and immediately feel happy and light.
Sounds are all around us, some beautiful to the ear, some grating, soft, loud, melodic, harmonic, lively, slow and the list goes on. Music opens the heart and elevates the soul. It is a joyful opening of voice, body, mind and breath in the presence of spirit. Children learn to listen by having the experience of various sounds e.g. ringing a bell, hearing various animal sounds, different chakra sounds, or chanting the universal sound OM.
Yoga and Sound naturally fit together. When we are born we do not enter the world silently but with a cry and fill the air with our own voices. We are music from the first cry, humming, cooing, creating our own song of life. Every child has a unique expression of sound through his/her own voice.
Have you noticed that we lose touch with our own voice and rhythm as we get older and silence ourselves and quiet our children? So singing does awaken what we have let go or tucked away somewhere in the closet of our minds. Have you noticed that we do vibrate when we sing or speak and these vibrations are heard or felt?
So put simply there are four things that happen to produce a vocal sound.
1. Breath is taken
2. Sound is initiated in the larynx – Air passes over the vocal folds and like two plucked stings release a set of vibrations.
3. The vocal resonators (the larynx, oral cavity, sinuses) receive the sound and influence it. Imagine a temple at the back of your head with infinite space which magnifies the sound,
4. The articulators (lips, tongue, larynx) shaping the sound.
Singing is not only a release of energy but is also transformation of energy. Have you noticed your children singing for comfort if upset or hurt and feel better, happier after. They then move on freely in the moment to express themselves. I have seen children rock themselves and sing at the same time. They love to make sound effects with their mouths and bodies.
For example we can make our bodies sound like musical instruments e.g. gently slap top of head, cheeks etc., use the fingers, mouth and feet. Just emphasizing a sigh or yawn engages children. The list is infinite and kids love when the yoga teacher exaggerates a sound like a snore, whistle, make a buzzing sound like a bee. The sound brings a story alive whether making the sound of a frog, rabbit or lion. So a children’s yoga class becomes very fun just combining yoga movement with sound.
Mantras are used to bring children into meditation and combined with music they are called a bhajan, a devotional song. A mantra is a syllable, word or phrase that is repeated over and over in meditation. They are sacred and come from the yogis in India, the Vedic tradition and are in Sanskrit. They elevate or modify our consciousness using a certain rhythm and tone.
Of course we don’t need to know Sanskrit to chant a mantra. They are easy to learn and my experience is that children love them. Chanting the meditation Sa Ta Na Ma using the hand movements is a great example of how children naturally are devotional and focused. They naturally feel the vibration of the mantra with different mantras having different affects on the child’s psyche.
Children respond to many different words in English or French. I have noticed that parents/children also love to do energizing sounds like “HA.” Following the yoga teacher they raise there arms up and say HA as they lower their arms. They can make all kinds of movements throughout the body with HA which releases stress and calms the mind. Try doing this with your children at home for 3 minutes and see the effect.
Children love to experience the world through touch so respond to playing some music using shakers, small drums and various acoustic instruments. It also helps them to develop rhythm when they stand and shake a rattle, as an example. As the same time they are developing motor coordination as they move their body in rhythm to the sound of the shaker. It is also really easy to bring music into the class as an activity, meditation or with certain stories or poses.
Stay tuned to how music naturally provides opportunities to practice patterns, thinking skills, motor skills etc. and how it stimulates development of your child’s social-emotional, cognitive (thinking) and language skills.