What is Naad Yoga?
Naad Yoga is the yoga of sound. All experience has a sound – whether expressed aloud or not – and the mastery of that sound within ourselves enables us to shape our experience.
If we can hear the expressions of our own mind and soul, and what prompts them, we can go deeper to engage with that process as it happens and to direct it. When we communicate with our inner experience in its own language – the sound of emotion, with its pitch, tone and rhythm – it becomes receptive to our influence. By composing our inner experience, we determine how we express ourselves to the external world, and its consequences.
Naad Yoga is a continual process of going inward and outward through listening and expressing: it is sound that provides the map, the points of reference, by which we recognise our own experience and that of others.
If we follow the path of sound inwards far enough, we will trace its expression back to its origin in an essential energy before sound with the potential to turn into anything: the vibration that is in fact the source of everything – Creator and Creation. Naad Yoga uncovers that reality within consciousness and taps into that potential.
Once the soul has heard and known the oneness of self, universe and Creator, it has found its true nature and resonates with it. The soul’s remembrance of its full truth in this way gently reminds the mind to be happy, which in turn releases the body’s ability to be healthy.
This alignment with the oneness of everything allows a person to flourish because there is no stress. There is simply the truth of what is, and the person who has realised this can simply – and fully – be. Then there is need only to listen to the sound of life in all its subtle variation and to allow expression to act upon it where required to redress the balance towards wellbeing and success.
The Yoga of Sound
The fundamental nature of sound is indicated by its centrality to human awareness. As we are born and when we die, hearing is the first of the senses to appear and the last to disappear. Sound offers a key to mastery of our life by unlocking life's mechanism; Naad Yoga turns that key.
The Sikh tradition incorporates a highly developed form of Naad Yoga created by Guru Nanak (the first Sikh Guru). It embraces the ancient Indian musical system of raags (ragas). ‘Raag’ means ‘mood’, and each raag employs a particular combination of notes and rules of emphasis to evoke its characteristic emotional state.
The scripture Siri Guru Granth Sahib contains 60 raags, individually prescribed for the recitation of the shabads (sacred verses) that constitute most of the text. The title of each shabad instructs which specific raag should be used to sing it. This alliance of music and words gives access to a deeper message, absorbed beyond intellectual understanding.
The rendition of the sacred verses of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib in the prescribed raags is variously called Gurmat Sangeet, Kirtan, Sikh Music and Naad Yoga. The internal process is the same, whatever the name.
When all the instructions in their titles are applied, the shabads can be a pure and true medium for Naad Yoga, guiding the mind through the maze of moods towards the consciousness of the soul. Each mood is grasped in a positive context – the protective wisdom of the soul – and can be cultivated or released. The soul is the part of our consciousness that is ‘plugged in’ to the energy source of truth and love, and when it is allowed to sound, it leads the mind there too.
Yantra Tantra Mantra
Carefully chosen tools and techniques assist in achieving the goal of Naad Yoga.
Yantra means ‘tool’. A musical instrument is a helpful yantra, supporting the voice and reflecting the player’s state of being. Raj Academy teaches six instruments created or promoted by the Sikh Gurus: Rabab, Saranda, Jori, Sarangi, Taus and Dilruba.
Tantra means ‘knowledge’ or ‘technique’. It includes the skills of singing and playing an instrument, the knowledge of the rules of the raags and their effects on the psyche, and the pronunciation of the shabads.
Mantra means the power of particular sound to effect change – to re-mould experience in the moment: a solution. When yantra and tantra come together as instrument, musical technique and knowledge of the shabad, there is the potential for the mantra to be created if the person engages his or her soul and life experience with the making of the sound.
Misconceptions about Naad Yoga
Physical exercise: although Naad Yoga does benefit the body’s health, as well as that of the mind and spirit, it does so by means other than the physical poses that the word ‘yoga’ suggests to many people. Some physical exercises are recommended to develop the fitness that will help in the practice of Naad Yoga. These may overlap with some of those taught in other yoga classes, but they are only a small part of our training: the purpose of Naad Yoga is the experience of union with the Creator and Creation through sound, with all the possibilities that opens.
Musical entertainment: music demonstrates how sound communicates on a more universal level than words. All cultures celebrate it and use its influence for enjoyment and profit. Naad Yoga goes deeper to discover the even greater potential of sound and music, as an exact science and art to awaken the consciousness, master the mind and heal the body.
Religion: yoga is a technology for human capability through the realisation of truth; we are at one with everything. That truth is not exclusive to any particular religion (though they may all have originated in it). It is equally accessible to everyone. The truths of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib are timeless keys to living to one’s full, spiritual potential. They were experienced and recorded as such by the Gurus, and only later taken as the basis of the Sikh religion as an institution.