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RaMafications...

October 13, 2016

 

“The posture needs the dual quality of the firmness and the softness”. (Yoga Sutra II.46)

 

This passage from the yoga sutra is an example of the need for opposite forces to come in place in the making of something, in this case, a body pose.

 

In mantra meditation, the word RAMA is often used to invoke spiritual power, blessings, but mainly, balance. Ra refers to the sun and Ma to the moon. According to yoga philosophy there are two opposite nadis (“body energy channels”) that when balanced help the kundalini flow up through the chakras thus helping with the awakening of a higher consciousness. Ida is the left channel – it is white, feminine and cold. It begins in Muladhara chakra (the lowest one) and ends in the left nostril. Pingala is the right channel – it is red, masculine and hot. It originates in the same chakra and ends in the right nostril. RaMa meditation helps balance these nadis and bring us into a state of equilibrium. And so does alternate nostril breathing, another yogic technique.

 

This state of completion by approximation of the opposites has been discussed for ages, in various contexts, predicaments, in the small and in the big picture of the cosmos. These antipodes have been referred to as the feminine and the masculine, or the negative and the positive, or the yin and the yang, and so on. This natural occurring opposition of forces also exists in vocal production both at a subtle and a physical level.

 

On the physical level, for example, Barbara Doscher nicely explains how there needs to be an equilibrium within the extrinsic muscles of the Larynx for optimal vocal production. The suspensory mechanism with elevators (muscles) and depressors (muscles) works exactly with this same opposition of forces. As an example, the muscle that connects the sternum to the thyroid (one of the main cartilages of the larynx) which is a depressor helps to keep the larynx in place by working in opposition with the muscle (a primary elevator muscle) that connects the thyroid up to the hyoid bone. And why does the larynx need this optimal position? Because this is the only way the space in the pharynx is increased (our main resonator), tongue tension avoided and optimal adduction and stretch of the vocal folds.

 

There are many more examples of this alchemical balance that comes into place when singing. These anatomical aspects are hard to put in practice, though, since we cannot see our own vocal tract or command these muscles. Imagery is usually a good aid in teaching. When teaching I personally love to use something i call "arrows of movement." 2 of these are dynamic opposing energies that always counterbalance each other, either vertically (counterbalance a relatively low, but not depressed, larynx with a lifted soft palate), and horizontally (counterbalance vocal strech with the pivoting of the larynx).  

 

The stable larynx is, I believe, crucial to be talked about, since it is the primary brick for vocal technique. Without a stable larynx – I’m calling it the RaMa larynx - there is really no vocal technique to be built on anything and no tree to blossom in the spring of singing!

 

 

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