Use Your Voice- Udyana Vayu

If you can walk you can dance.
If you can talk you can sing.
-African Proverb

Singing therapy, my latest kick. Can striving to be like Maria Callas create a change in the matrix of your life? I say 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 or enthusiasm and passion for life.

1. What if someone sees me telling my stuffed moose how adorable he is and pegs me as a wacko?

2. Damn, the waiter brought me chicken enchiladas and I have been a vegetarian since 15. Sigh, I’ll just eat them so as not to offend the server. 

3. Hmmm, that remark stung and made me regress back to a 5 year old crying in the elementary school bathroom. Eh, I’m just going to take it and avoid eye contact for the remainder of the day.

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 the throat up to speak one’s truth. But first- time to geek out with some Ayurveda theory, hold tight, this gets good.

These past few weeks I had the honor of assisting the Kripalu School of Ayurveda as they dove deeper into Vata management with Dr. Sunhil Joshi. For those who have never seen or read the teachings of this passionate Vaidya, please google him. Simply not to be missed, a real gem in the Ayurveda world.

At one point during the week Dr. Joshi marveled at the magical ability of some to sing for hours without fatigue. Sadly, he explained, most of us are “bathroom singers” and do not have the natural capability to serenade the masses.

Joshi proclaimed with a wag of his index finger People that can sing are coherent and in touch with the universe, it is effortless!

This statement was followed by an examination of the importance of something called udana vayu, (Yes Mom, it sounds like Born on the Bayou). Udana gives us the ability to bring out something from the inside to the outside. It basically allows us to speak our truth rather than keeping it under lock and key in our chest.

In the wild, wild, West it is commonly held that speaking begins with the form and shape of the tongue. However, Ayurveda reckons that the inability to speak is not directly due to the tongue, rather it is due to inhibited or weakened udana.

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. – Dr. Vasant Lad. Pg 114, Blue Text (Yes, that’s officially the new title of Volume 2- Textbook of Ayurveda-A Complete Guide to Clinical Assessment)

You may have heard of the five winds, or five vayus, that govern Vata dosha. For those not familiar with Vata dosha, Vata is 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 hay-wire. No joke, we go bonkers.

Vata is divided into 5 vayus, or subdoshas: prana, udana, samana, apana and vyana. Oye, so much Sanskrit.

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 primarily focusing 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. Prana is responsible for inhalation, so when you can huff the helium from hijacked birthday balloons to sound like “ALVIN!”…thank prana vayu.

Prana is responsible for some pretty heavy hitting stuff, such as the movement of:

  • Mind
  • Thoughts
  • Feelings
  • Emotions
  • Sensations
  • Perception

Go Prana!

Udana, ruled by air, sets up base camp in the belly and moves upward through Kapha territory- namely the belly, diaphragm and chest. Alas, 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- A person cannot speak without exhalation
  • Maintaining normal skin color and complexion due to oxygenation.
  • Bringing anything unwanted up and out of the body, such as Co2, burps, sighs, phlegm, whistles…

Because udana aids in keeping the Kapha territory  clear of clutter, if it is suppressed or gets congested, typical symptoms of vitiated Kapha will rear their head. Udana helps a person 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 like Mike Teavee from J. Depp’s version of Charlie and Chocolate Factory
  • Lack of memory
  • Dearth of creativity
  • No sense of goals or direction– Hello Lauren from the ages of 17-33!

Woah, that was a lot of heavy Ayur theory. Time for the remedy.

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. Brahmari Breath- Bubble bee breath- see link for instructions

3. Journal and begin to log your ideas and truth to find out what actually lies beneath. Perhaps there is an inner poet dying to go to a Poetry Slam downtown. Why not?

4. Yoga postures- Shoulder Stand, Cobra pose, camel pose will all work to bring udana up.

5. Buff up your acting skills. Join a local community production, hit the theater or start imitating foreign accents- my favorite is Dylan Moran.

Dr. Lad lovingly states that “If udana is weak, indulging in actions such as jogging or jumping is like beating a tired horse.”
Lesson? Sit yo arse down, dust off the old guitar and warm up the vocal cords- one black beetle bled only black blood, the other black beetle bled blue… Can you feel a bubble of excitement in your throat? That’s udana bursting to get up and out. Sing  your heart out…literally. The world is dying to hear what you have to say, step up to the mic. 

Over and out.

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