This November at Harlem Yoga Studio is about Satya: Truthfulness.
Isn’t it ironic that this time of year we start bundling up, covering our skin, curling our shoulders inward and directing our faces down to shield against the cold. Layers protect, yes, but they also hide the truth of what’s beneath. So, as much as I lament the passing of t-shirt temperatures, before I bundle myself too thoroughly, I celebrate one beautiful truth about Autumn:
I watch the leaves.
They are literally about to die. To die! To fall from their source and be swept into awkward piles, trampled on by muddy little kid shoes, and – if they’re lucky – turned into mulch in some Harlem community garden. And yet they reach their end singing out the most fearless brilliance and colorful hues. They attract spectators and secret admirers. They do not hide nor go quietly into the dark.
We all have times we hide. And that’s ok. Some of us are very good at staying hidden all the time. A huge lot of us hide our voices.
We all know the enticing sound of a clear, confident voice. Do you say good morning to your neighbors with that voice? Do you OM at the beginning of a yoga class with that voice? Every First Fridays Kirtan at Harlem Yoga Studio is a chance to practice using your voice to represent your confidence and willingness to speak your truth.
Award-winning composer and music therapist Silvia Nakkach says in her book “Free Your Voice: Awaken to Life Through Singing”:
The voice is an instrument made of muscle and breath…. It is something [you] can learn to play and learn to take care of… Common emotional impediments of the voice include fear of not being perfect, of making a mistake, of failing, of being judged, of being out of tune… When we gently approach our instrument as yoga, we can release the story. The voice will then naturally fuel from, reveal, and clear deep emotions instead of being compromised by them.
Whether at the kirtan, in the shower, or on the subway, I encourage you to try singing, humming, and speaking with confidence and flair this month. Exercising your voice actually does quite a lot – it tones your diaphragm and abdominal muscles, and activates a deeper breath, filling your belly and avoiding the more shallow “chest breathing” that can aggravate asthma and signal stress and anxiety to the brain. Opening the throat while relaxing the jaw and shoulders stimulates the 5th chakra and thyroid gland to help with metabolism, energy, and keeping warm as the temperature drops.
And the best part – “buzzing.” Sustained sound vibrations of a long singing session, especially in a group, penetrate deep into the body’s tissues, softening tension and encouraging us to let go… in a subtle way, this causes an energetic shift that can help with digestive issues (intestines letting waste pass through freely), mothers in labor letting their cervix dilate to let a baby pass through, even letting go of anger and worries. In a safe space, we can “buzz” our way to letting go of hiding and instead let our sound shine. After our kirtans, many people mention this sense of “buzzing” that gives way to clarity and openness.
If you choose to join us, First Fridays Kirtan is a safe space to learn fun vocal exercises, laugh at the variety of sounds we make, practice singing harmonies, and sing songs and chants across many cultures according to each month’s theme. No matter what your background in singing and whether you sing “on key,” everyone brings a unique sound that is valued in our circle. Every sound is vibration and gives the same “buzz.”
Enjoy practicing Satya this month, and don’t forget to watch the leaves.
Ihotu Jennifer Ali is a women’s holistic health practitioner and educator specializing in wellness through the creative healing arts. She holds a masters degree in global public health from Columbia University and certifications in therapeutic massage, hatha yoga, holistic health coaching, and labor and birth support as a doula. Ihotu has studied under Cathy Calderon and the Samnyasin La Finca Retreat Center in Puerto Rico, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, DONA International, and the Finger Lakes School of Massage. A former rhythmic gymnast and choral singer, Ihotu infuses a playful focus on breath, body awareness, healing touch, and multicultural music into her classes, kirtans, and workshops. Visit Creative-Rebirth.com for more information.