The Power of Singing, According to Ayurveda

Kripalu School of Ayurveda

Singing therapy is my latest kick. Can striving to be like Maria Callas create a change in the matrix of your life? Yes, absolutely.

It is my personal opinion that the majority of us walk around with a constricted throat and chest due to holding back. Reigning in our utsaha—our enthusiasm and passion for life.

So often, I hear “It’s a dog-eat-dog world.” But is it? I firmly believe that it is against our nature to be crass, cutting, and hurtful. We are built on a foundation of love, and are here to love all, exclude none. After all, love begets love, right? Reap what you sow. Thus, let’s unlock that blocked energy and open up the throat to speak our truth.

In the West, it is commonly held that speaking begins with the form and shape of the tongue. However, Ayurveda teaches that the inability to speak is not directly due to the tongue; rather, it is due to inhibited or weakened udana vayu. Udana gives us the ability to bring out something from the inside to the outside. According to Vasant Lad, the Vedic concept of speech is that udana vayu moves from manipura chakra in the navel to anahata chakra at the heart and then to vishuddhi chakra in the throat, where expression can occur. 

You may have heard of the five winds, or vayus, that govern vata dosha, the biological humor comprised of the elements ether and air. It’s responsible for all movement and communication throughout the body. Vata is King Tut, and without properly functioning and harmonized vata, all goes haywire. Vata is divided into five vayus, or subdoshas: prana, udana, samana, apana, and vyana.

Each of these vayus has a governing element, primary site, function, and direction. Basically, they each have a job and a home, living the dream. Today I am going to be focusing primarily on udana vayu. However, I think it’s pertinent that you have a smidge of background on prana vayu, as udana and prana are BFFs; if they get upset with each other, then you are in trouble. Udana and prana work in tandem: When udana gets disturbed, prana gets disturbed.

Prana is governed by ether and dwells in the head and brain. Its main role is to bring information and energy downward and inward. Prana is connected with all our higher cerebral functions. It’s responsible for some pretty heavy-hitting stuff, such as the movement of

  • Breath
  • Mind
  • Thoughts
  • Feelings
  • Emotions
  • Sensations
  • Perception.

Go, prana!

Udana, ruled by air, sets up basecamp in the belly and moves upward through kapha territory—namely, the belly, diaphragm, and chest. Also, udana helps sweep the kapha house clean. The directional pull of udana is upward and out. It is important to note that fire is the only element that moves upwards, thus it can be argued that there is some tejas (fire) commingling with the air element of udana.

 Udana is responsible for our

  • Strength (or bala, if you want to impress people with your mad Sanskrit skills)
  • Stimulating our memory
  • Speech and expression (we cannot speak without exhalation)
  • Maintaining normal skin color and complexion due to healthy oxygenation
  • Bringing anything unwanted up and out of the body, such as carbon dioxide, burps, sighs, phlegm, etc.

Udana aids in keeping the kapha territory clear of clutter, so if it is suppressed or gets congested, typical symptoms of vitiated Kapha will rear their head. Udana helps us rise, like the phoenix, from depression, confusion, and attachment. 

Not sure if your udana vayu is weak? Here are some signs:

  • Difficulty with speech
  • Discoloration of the skin
  • Stuttering or muttering
  • Memory problems
  • Dearth of creativity
  • No sense of goals or direction.

Now it’s time for the remedy. Here’s how to boost udana vayu:

  1. Sing. May I suggest the NYC recording of Jesus Christ Superstar to get you going? The range of Judas is shocking. Imitate and play with the varying registers. You can actually modify the quality and sound of your voice in as little as a few months. It's a real thing: I have at least three friends that can testify to the miracle of JCS voice training. 
  2. Practice Bumblebee Breath.
  3. Journal—log your ideas and truth to find out what actually lies beneath.
  4. Yoga postures: Shoulderstand, Cobra pose, and Camel pose will all work to raise udana.
  5. Buff up your acting skills. Join a local community production, hit the theater, or start imitating foreign accents; my favorite is Dylan Moran.

Vasant states that “If udana is weak, indulging in actions such as jogging or jumping is like beating a tired horse." So dust off the old guitar and warm up the vocal cords. Can you feel a bubble of excitement in your throat? That’s udana bursting to get up and out. Sing your heart out. The world is dying to hear what you have to say, so step up to the mic.

Browse singing programs at Kripalu.

Lauren Gernady is the Academic Coordinator of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, an Ayurvedic Health Counselor, and a 500-hour Kripalu Yoga teacher.

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