by Diane Ako, posted on May 31, 2017
In a spacious studio dimly lit by the waning hours of daylight, a group of yoga practitioners and peace-seekers gathers. They’re here for a class in restorative yoga accompanied by a live crystal bowl music session.
This is not the kind of yoga class you are likely thinking of, which, in America, is popularized by fit women sweating through acrobatic poses in tiny, tight outfits. This is the opposite of Just Do It and No Pain No Gain. This is “I’m gonna meditate, connect with myself, stretch out a little bit, and relax on this floor, and this awesome vibrational music is going to help get me there.”
“The energetics of the yoga and the bowls complement one another very well, which is what motivated us to pair these offerings several years ago,” backgrounds yoga instructor Amanda Webster. Bryan Jordan is the musician.
“Bryan and I will usually coordinate a simple theme, such as equanimity, and I will structure the poses, breath work and intention around that idea while Bryan handles the musical aspect of the theme. Together, it becomes a much more whole mind-body-energetic experience than either of these offerings separately,” she explains.
Webster instructs the half dozen students, including me, to set up their mats and organize large yoga pillows, or bolsters, in a certain way. Over these 90 minutes, she leads the class through five different poses designed to open up certain areas of the body (the hips, the lower back, the heart, etc.)
We start with face-down grounding poses and segue into supported backbends and twists. “The intention was to calm the nervous system in the beginning, then gently stimulate the heart and abdomen for a sense of rejuvenation upon completion of the class. Spring Equinox was the theme,” details Webster.
Each pose uses one or two bolsters to support the body, and one or two yoga blankets (otherwise known as Mexican blankets.) You stay in each position for about 15 minutes. Essential oils are shared. To the uninitiated, we look like we’re awkwardly napping while smelling nice. This alone is so great.
Jordan adds to the relaxation by playing music from his bowl collection, which is a slight mish mash of crystal and metal Tibetan bowls, with some chimes throw in for good measure. The star of this show is a $2,500 quartz crystal set of nine bowls ranging from very large to manageably small. They’re frosted white, and he puts colored LED candles inside so they light up in different colors in the dark.
He plays the bowls in two different ways: by striking the sides with a mallet, or by running the mallet around the edge of the bowl. It’s similar to people playing water glass rims. “The sounds of the bowls helps ‘give people something to do’ or keep the mind engaged until the structure of the practice starts to take effect,” maintains Webster.
This music is wonderful. It’s soothing, powerful, intense, and calming- all at the same time. The moment he starts playing, I start crying. The vibrations penetrate me deeply and release something in me – tension I carried all day, sadness I wore all week, fatigue I shouldered all month. And that, thankfully, gives way to calm and joy over the course of the session.
Attendee Kendra Bourne calls Jordan “extremely talented, and I believe he truly believes in the power that vibration can have in one’s body and mind. Being so close to that energy made it all the more worthwhile.”
Sometimes Jordan’s music is light and cheerful. Sometimes it’s melancholy. He played a little stretch that sounded like a rock band guitar solo, the bowls yowling and pulsing and pushing their music right into my body. Trippy, dude. I like.
The whole thing, combined with the yoga, is incredibly relaxing. It’s mind-altering, without any substances. I lie there and feel my body. Webster helps keep our minds in the moment by reminding us to feel the breath, note if the inhale is longer than the exhale, see what parts of the body feel tight and need more attention.
“Sometimes restorative yoga is more confrontational than a stronger practice because we tend to resist slowing down, relaxing, and allowing ourselves to sit with our emotional or mental states. Consequently, restorative yoga becomes a mental practice very quickly, which challenges some people,” clarifies Webster on what, on the outside, looks like a very passive practice.
This was Bourne’s first time with crystal bowls together with yoga. She admits, “It was the most relaxed I had ever been… In restorative yoga, I find my mind still continues to wander all over the place. With the bowls, it was as if their sound, their vibration, kept my attention and allowed me to turn deeper inward.”
Jordan chimes in on how his portion of the session can impact people. “Sounds do different things to your body and psyche. The sounds of nature, like the wind, the birds, and the ocean, are calming to the nervous system. Jarring sounds like traffic and jackhammers activate the stress response. Sound is super important in our daily life,” he offers.
He says the bowls help activate the healing response, and quotes a study that found bowl music activate alpha and theta brain waves, which are associated with sleep. “On a metaphysical level, they’re made of quartz crystal, which is said to amplify and cleanse energy by making your cells vibrate at a higher level to heal the body,” he details.
All crystal bowls are said to be tuned to the major scale in C major: C-D-E-F-G-A-B. They correlate to the seven chakras, the yogic belief in seven centers of spiritual power in the human body. “C” resonates the root chakra, so on and so forth.
As it relates to themed yoga sessions, Webster describes how it all ties in: “If we select equanimity as a theme, I will incorporate shoulder and heart opening poses, pranayama (breathing) that emphasizes the expansion of the breath in the chest and upper back, and use words such as contentment and steadiness throughout the practice. Perhaps Bryan would use the F note (for heart chakra) more frequently than the other notes in order to stimulate this area of the body in a more subtle way.”
It’s a harmonious pairing: a yoga session that brings you inward so you can boost your energy and reflect that outward.
Amanda Webster and Bryan Jordan typically offer these classes once a month, near the beginning of the month. Jordan plays more often; either solo, or with other partners. For more on these events, visit Webster’s website at http://shivatreeyoga.com/class-schedule/workshops/, or contact Jordan at Bryan@SacredBreathHealing.com or (808) 782-9595.