I have lived alone for many years. Every now and then I catch myself making a bevy of bodily sounds that I imagine would be highly off-putting to a beau, roommate, or guest. Sheepishly, I move away from air vents or doors that may act as conduits into my neighbors’ apartments: Then, however, I continue whatever throat-clearing, belching, or emotional sighs or grunts feel the need to escape.
Part of my refusal to cease and desist when it comes to these flagrant expulsions comes from one of those horror-tale myths that school-age children like to tell each other. One of my top recollections of these tales suggests that if one prevents a sneeze from erupting, the brain will take the impact of the force: Your head will explode.
With the above words, readers may wonder if Silent Sunday has taken on a new persona—one geared toward the inane and gauche. But no: Ancient healing traditions have long espoused direct and initially discomfiting techniques to rid the body and mind of disease and dis-ease. Further, Traditional Chinese Medicine denotes specific sounds associated with each of the organ systems. Sounds are fundamentally energetic vibrations; the quality of energy that initiates the reverberation effects that which we ultimately perceive as sound. Therefore, impulsive or unconscious vocalizing can lead one to unlock emotional congestion, which often is linked to physical stagnation.
Ironically, I chose today’s Silent Sunday practice as the time to walk full-force into the realm of seemingly “impolite” sounding. Although I suggest specific sounds to begin, give yourself freedom to allow whatever noises arise: Your own physical and emotional circumstances will dictate what vibrations need to be emitted in the form of sound.
This practice begins standing, rooted and tall, yet relaxed. With eyes closed, begin to tune in to the sounds around you: ticking clock, traffic, hum of a furnace, chug of an appliance, distant music or voices, beep of a device. Then, start to breathe deeply in and out of your nose as you stand: Focus on the sound and feel of your breathing.
As you continue to breathe, begin to exhale through the mouth: Experiment with the shape of the lips and with tongue in or out. These small adjustments will signal dormant emotions to begin their rise to the surface. If a groan, grunt, or sigh emerges, consciously repeat the sound with your next few breaths. Essentially, you are giving permission to repressed or stuck feelings to make their exit.
After 1-3 minutes of the standing pranayama, begin to shake your limbs while bouncing in place; if you want to hop around more actively, using more space, go ahead. Use the physical vibration to awaken and invite further sounding. If it feels right, tap your skull and rub your ears as you move your body; this will help free your mind from any need to suppress bodily sounds or vocalizations. Be it gibberish, ferocious roars, or mournful wails, let the sound go.
When you begin to discern that your body needs to slow and still, stand quietly again. Inhale as you lift your arms straight overhead, rising onto the balls of your feet. As you exhale, forcefully drop the arms as you drop onto the heels: Aloud, sound, “Huh” or “Hah.” Repeat twice more as a means to clear the channels of stagnant qi that you have stirred.
Next, come onto all fours for a vibrational version of Cat/Cow. Begin with a few rounds of the traditional form: Inhale as you extend the spine, creating a deep arch as you open the chest and curl the tail upward; exhale as you fully flex the spine to round, bringing the pelvis under and guiding the chin toward the chest.
When you are ready, join the movement with the suggested sounding: The deep inhale is replaced by a snore, and the exhale becomes a long “Ehh,” or “Aah” as you stick the tongue out as far as possible. The snoring stimulates glands at the rear of the throat that are prone to collect mucous, or congested qi. The tongue extension helps to relax the alimentary canal, which will encourage digestive elimination. Continue for a full minute.
Now, lower yourself onto the belly. Place your head and arms in whatever position feels natural. In this position, begin to pummel the floor with your hands (open palms) and feet. (Bend at the knees to kick, rather than lifting the entire leg, which could strain the low back.) Feel free to place extra blankets or pillows on the pounding area, so that you can deliver full-force blows into the earth. As you may imagine, this activity releases any residual anger or frustration: If you feel the need to vocalize as you pound the ground, give it your all. Continue for 1-3 minutes.
From your prone position, press back into Baby Pose to soothe your entire nervous system. Breathe deeply in this posture for a minute or so, and then lie on your back in Corpse Pose. With eyes closed, begin a “check-in” of your entire energetic body: With arms on the ground, slightly away from the sides of your body, inhale as you touch the thumb tips to their respective index fingertips: As you exhale, release the mudra connection, and emit whatever sound naturally occurs. For example, after the active clearing of the entire practice, I often hear myself sounding a smooth tone of relief: “Eeee.” Whatever emerges from your energetic self is exactly the sound that is meant for you in the moment.
Continue the pattern for the remaining three fingers: Inhale to make contact with the fingertips, exhale to sound. You may or may not make the same sound each time; further, your sound may be simply a deep or gentle rush of breath. To close the practice, inhale as you make tight fists; exhale to release the tension, with or without sounding. Settle into svasana for 3-5 minutes.