Had an interesting experiment with the theory and methods of the late Ted Andrews in his book, Sacred Sounds: Magic and Healing Through Words and Music. Specifically, the section “Musical Interplay with the Chakras” revealed a lot more for the practice of singing than I ever realized. (Check out the book, or see a background on the chakras.)
The first time I read it, I saw the correspondences that Andrews had assigned to each chakra. For instance: “Base Chakra…tone of middle C.” And I immediately thought, “How arbitrary is that? He sounds like every kid’s piano teacher, starting everyone off with middle C just because it’s middle C…” Then I went on in the discussion of this chakra: “Long U vowel sound.” I paused there for a moment and decided to simply test the correspondence: I sat and chanted a middle C on a long U vowel sound (“oo”) while focusing on the chakra at the base of my spine, and things started to happen…
Typically, when I work to open or free up the base chakra, I feel grounded, rooted, and solid. I connect immediately with the earth and all physical things. It is the chakra of survival, base impulses like eating and eliminating, things that only my brain stem would be concerned about. I experienced this with my
focused intoning of the “oo” vowel.
The same thing happened when I intoned the “oh” vowel for the second chakra (belly), and the “ah” vowel for the third (solar plexus), and so on, according to the correspondences in Sacred Sounds. Each chakra opened up, and a more relaxed energy flowed through.
The effect was the same regardless of the pitch I chose—when I formed the shape of a certain vowel, I could open and balance the chakra to which it corresponded when I intoned it. So I formed my own correspondence list based on this experimentation:
- Base chakra: “oo” (or “mm”) as in moon.
- Spleen: “oh” as in low.
- Solar plexus: “ah” as in father.
- Heart: “eh” as in let or make.
- Throat: “ih” as in sit or still.
- Third eye: “ee” as in sweet or breathe.
- Crown: “ee” as in sweet or breathe (or “ng” as in ping).
Now for the unexpected discovery: I had remembered a tip from an old friend and voice teacher, Dr. Lucyanne Georger: Any vowel you intend to sing should take shape from the level of the larynx. So if you are starting a musical phrase with the word “soon,” you should feel the “oo” vowel forming in the larynx as much as in the lips, so that the core of that sound is true and present all the way through the vocal tract.
I thought, “What if I took that lesson a step further and supposed that the same ‘oo’ vowel sound formed at the base chakra? If my entire torso formed that ‘oo’ shape all the way down to the base of the spine, what would that be like?” Try it: imagine your base chakra as a voice forming a round “oo” shape, and that shape continued all the way up to your rounded lips. Breathe in on that shape, and intone from it.
For me, the result in the sound was electrifying. It gave a totally new meaning to that old singer’s adage: “you are your instrument.” It was actually more like, “you are the Universe’s instrument.”
Because the heart chakra can be a sore spot emotionally and spiritually, I tested this theory further. I formed a nice, open “eh” vowel at the heart level, breathed through it, and intoned. My heart center opened like wings that had been pulled in too tightly for too long.
So now I look to the possibility of testing mantras with this same theory. How about a chant on the words, “Let go, let God?” Those vowels can open up those core centers of the body that too often tighten in reaction to stress. Many of us use these words to ease the mind, but we can ease the body and its energy centers just as well by consciously forming those vowels at the level of the heart, solar plexus and spleen chakras. Or, “Let it go;” with this chant we can open up at the throat level as well.
The idea is to intone each syllable slowly; breathe in through the vowel and release slowly through the same vowel. Just remember that the vowel shapes are formed at the chakras.
Anyone curious to try this on their own, please feel free to share your results!