by Robin Wilner
I came into the world with music in my veins. Genetics seemed to predetermine my future profession as a dancer/singer – grandma was a symphony pianist, grandpa was a cantor, mom played guitar, sang and taught music in elementary schools. So it’s no wonder that I was drawn to music as a means of expressing myself – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our family sang traditional prayers together during the holidays; pop music always bellowed from the car stereo or at home during dinner; a classical pianist accompanied my daily dance classes. From as far back as I can remember, music and dance were integral part of my life. Movement and singing were a means of connecting to the world from a very young age, making sense of the overwhelming feelings that accompany young adulthood, and articulating myself as a creative being as I matured.
Music is a universal language, it touches people of all different races and creeds and social backgrounds. The piercing beauty of an opera singer’s soprano can bring a room to tears; a rock and roll band can inspire entire generations towards creating change; a drumbeat builds anticipation, church bells signify joyous celebration, the cello may accompany a somber affair. What we hear has the power to affect how we feel, and music itself can break through barriers. And so it is that many spiritual practices seek higher states of consciousness through sound.
The “yoga of sound” or Nada Yoga, is a meditative practice that involves deep internal listening for the sacred sound of the Divine within – known as the anahata nada. Through purification of the mind, one might tap into the central energy channel (sushumna) and begin to hear this unstruck sound in the ear of the heart.
While this intense practice can be challenging, a more accessible practice for the modern yogi is the ahata nada yoga practice, which involves listening to external sounds. All life creates its own music – the whisper of the wind or crashing of waves, the chirping of birds and buzzing of bees, the rustling of leaves or a crackling fire, a giggling child. Whether we listen to nature or the soulful melodies of voices and instruments in harmony, we can strengthen our ability for internal listening and concentration and, in essence, experience more peace and tranquility.
Whether I’m feeling joy, sadness, anxiety, fear, anticipation, or exhilaration, music has always been my greatest companion. There are songs whose poetic lyrics force me to sing along. As soon as I hear a fierce pulsating rhythm, my hips start to sway and I feel the intense desire to move. Sometimes I simply need to be still and listen, and it’s the graceful harmony of bells and strings that bring me to a state of quiet calm. Other times, I come to sit at my harmonium and chant various names of the Divine in the spiritually charged language of Sanskrit. The droning of the chords creates a soothing vibration and the melodies somehow write themselves.
Sound is merely vibration….vibration is energy…and energy is life force, which connects all living things. A series of sounds in harmony can create a portal for our spiritual healing. Whether you croon, chant, play an instrument, clap, tap, boogie or rap, let your heart resonate with the rhythm of your soul. The more we can open our outer and inner ears to the vibrations of Life, the greater our capacity to enjoy it. As the late Robin Williams said, “You know what music is? God’s little reminder that there’s something else besides us in this universe; harmonic connection between all living beings, everywhere, even in the stars.”
Robin Wilner is a former Broadway dancer/singer/actress who took a leap of faith, moved to the west coast, and is devoted to teaching and practicing yoga. Mixing her dance background with a love of chanting, meditative healing, and philosophy, she strives to lead her students to a state of being that reflects their own inner radiance. Flow with Robin on Mondays & Fridays at 12pm, Tuesdays & Thursdays at 9am, Fridays at 5:30pm or Sundays at 10am.