Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sound Signage

This snap was posted in the media recently and my partner giggled and suggested I should post it in the room where I teach my yoga classes.  I figure this is the next best thing! 

I've blogged about this before, but when I first began taking yoga classes, chanting used to make me extremely uncomfortable.  It sounded so cult-y and just weirded me out!  Now I have come to enjoy that camp-fire spirit, and how the act of singing or chanting in unison brings people together.

That is, of course, in the ideal setting.  Then there are those other times...  The times when you, leading the chant, fail to hit the right key, falter and croak... The times when that one person in the front row seems to think that the louder they scream "OM" the better...  There are the times when everyone in the room picks a different key, and it sounds like you are all participating in a giant cacophony rather than a symphony of voices!

But then, there are the moments when it seems that everyone in the room is on the same wavelength... When the chant is neither too quiet nor too loud, when voices meld perfectly until you are not even sure which one is yours, and you lose yourself in the unity of sound.

Maybe some pointed signage would help to encourage those harmonious moments?  What do you think?  ;)


  1. I sometimes wonder how many people have ever been given any pointers on how to chant "Om" or any other Sanskrit-y words. Sounding out A-U-M, where to place the vowel in the mouth, the external shape of the mouth and how to pace the use of your breath.

    I suspect that if you've never been given any help with pronunciation, then people are just picking it up as they go, and going off how it sounds to them.

    For sure, chanting can sound so lovely when everyone is tuned into the same vibe. That's why I love kirtan!

    I'm still organising where I'm going to start teaching yoga but when I do, I will be including a few little tips on Sanskrit pronunciation in class. :)

  2. @Svasti - you think that would help more than my sign?! ;) Yes, I totally agree, it can all seem very daunting at first. I like to emphasize WHY we chant and that it's not a religious commitment to open your mouth and say Om!

    @Babs - :D

  3. Nicely put! I love the melodiousness and timeless sensation chanting can result in. And the sweet knowledge that you're a part of the whole :).

  4. That sign is classic! Thanks for sharing!

    I was in a class the other day where someone towards the front overwhelmed the rest of the room with very loud Oms. I was trying not to judge or be annoyed, but it was so distracting - I just wanted it to end.

  5. @Juliana - Yes, it can be so wonderful when it goes well...

    but @Tiffany - so awful when it doesn't...

    Maybe instructions really are the key?

  6. Oh man, there's always one person who has to be the loudest. Why is this? OMing is not a competitive sport! :P

  7. sometimes, when the yoga classes are a bit too heavy on the yogini and not enough on the yogi... it's a bit... shrieky. high pitched. baritones and tenors help smooth it out. another good reason for diversity in the yoga class!

  8. We don't touch much on spirituality in my classes, so I suspect just about any chanting we would do would be confused noise. But I know what you mean when everyone hits the right note and you totally get the sense of a "universal vibration."

    I love the sign's tone of polite scolding...

  9. Since I teach through a hospital and two universities, I don't chant in my classes. But, I love it when I take a class and there is chanting. When its at the right tone and harmonious, its so lovely and inspirational! And, yes, the sign is very funny ;-)

  10. @YifY - Yes!! What IS with that? I love the passion, but not the volume...

    @Emma - I know, it just doesn't sound the same without the bass. ;)

    @Brenda - You should give it a go and then post about it lol! Maybe you should print out the sign first and have a little chat like Svasti suggests...

    @Heather - I can imagine this would be a tough crowd... Maybe worth a discussion though, to open those young minds to new experiences? ;)

    I never used to chant but once I started I got loads of positive feedback. I never oblige people to participate but judging from voices (I keep my eyes closed) I reckon about 90% of the students join in nowadays.

  11. yep I was totally weirded out my first few "ohms". as a singer- not really an issue for me to stay "on key" except when the actual teacher is completely off. that makes it tricky- like having men try to ohm on a tone that is too high...

    i think svasti is completely on the right track. if you give people a bit of guidance as to "why" we ohm and how to think about chanting, it makes more sense and is less "wonky". :)

    Now, I ADORE ohms.