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Toning and Sacred Sounds


Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates."

"Everything flows, out and in; everything has its tides; all things rise and fall; the pendulum-swing manifests in everything; the measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left; rhythm compensates." Two of the Hermetic Principals from The Kybalion

Sound and Creation

“The world is sound!”

Sacred sound and vibration were part of many ancient mystery traditions around the world, including the Pythagorean Music of the Spheres and the Surat Shabda Yogic Audible Life Stream. Vowel sounds have been sacred in many languages including ancient Sanskrit, Hebrew and Chinese as they are the flow where as consonants break up the flow into words. Sound is often part of creation stories, the divine dreaming us then singing or speaking creation into being. Scientists like Dr. Hans Jenny have devoted long study to how the vibration of sound can move inert substances, like blobs of powder or paste, into organic shapes.

What is Toning?

Like cats purring, our bodies often react with sound to balance our natural energy flow without our conscious mind thinking about it, especially when we encounter tense or painful situations. We may cry out “ouch” when we are hurt, laugh, cry, hum, groan or moan to balance ourselves or to help ease others.

Toning is simply the creation of sustained vocal sound, the audible vibration of breath, often nonverbal and based on vowel sounds. These sounds are a generative force, and can be used for energizing, balancing, release, creating community, expression of joy, and to facilitate healing on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels. Though there may be principles to use as a guide, toning is a very personal expression so feel free to experiment and feel out what works for you. Toning requires no vocal training or singing ability and can be profoundly helpful in re-establishing the natural flow of energy through our bodies, opening us to the ability to deeply listen, and connect us to the vibrations of our souls, bodies, and Mother Earth.

How do I Do It?

To begin toning get comfortable, you can sit, stand, lie down, or dance. Keep your spine straight (unless you’re dancing) and relaxed to help the energy flow through your body.

Take three deep cleansing breaths, releasing the tension in your body, especially in your jaw and tongue.

Focus on your intention, it can be helpful to warm up by toning “OHM” or “HMM,” take a deep breath and exhale making a long vowel sound, breathe in and exhale a long vowel sound again.

Keep breathing and toning for a period of time, if you’re toning in circle let your voices overlap as each one of us will breathe differently, tone any vowel sound, pitch (high or low), and volume that feels comfortable, if you’re toning with a group listen to how the sound that you’re making weaves with the others in the room.

When the toning fades sit in silence for a time and feel how the energy is moving in you body, listen internally... without judgment notice where you may have stuck places or pain, notice if emotions come up when you’re making certain sounds...

Trust your own intuition and feel in your own body how the different vowel sounds resonate.

Try toning with your eyes open, closed, and with soft focus.

Toning can help quiet the mind and find our true voice, but our thinking selves can also interject lots of stuff, we may feel bored, irritated, anxious, fearful... while toning, as with silent meditation notice these thoughts and emotions as they arise and use your breath to help you move them out. Our breath is a wonderful gift, it brings us back into the present moment. The emotions we are feeling are also gifts, the result of moving energy in our bodies, some we no longer need though and can release.

It is best to tone with a specific intention, allowing us to focus the energy of our breath and the moment to energize that intention. Sound vibrations can be used for external and internal healing and to empower our personal and collective voices.

Follow the cues of your body. Yawn, move, stretch, swallow, drink water, pause and stop as you need to. If you feel light headed or ungrounded when you finish toning you can tone “OHM”, or hop up and down, feeling your feet on the earth and voice what ever sound comes as you jump.

The Importance of Intention

When we make sound we are engaging in the act of creation, where ever our hearts are when we make sound determines the energy we are projecting out into the world. Many creation myths begin with the divine dreaming life then singing or sounding it into being with sacred words or sounds. Because our voice comes from deep inside our bodies, near our hearts, it can be very effective at transmitting our intention, which is formed by our minds and hearts, and charged during the space between our inhale and exhale (the solstice) when our breath is closest to our hearts.

It is thought that at this point of our breath cycle between the intake of air and exhalation of breath our bodies lock into a frequency wave of 7.8 cycles per second, the same frequency of the Earth, connecting us back to the divine Earth Mother with each breath.

The intention we hold is the consciousness behind the energy we put out, the sound we make, the actions we take. It can help to visualize your intention in a way that feels meaningful to you, as healing light, beautiful threads of connection. Your intention may be to transmit or open to soothing, calming, energizing, healing, loving, compassionate, connective energy, or to come into alignment with the divine and our higher selves, to be a channel for the voice of the earth if you’re toning outdoors, or to connect with the wind and air element as you take it into your body with each inhale and merge your breath with the wind as you exhale.

What Happens Physically When I Tone?

The vibration created by toning massages the bones, tissues, fluids, and cells of our bodies, helping the organs find their natal resonance, and soften blocks and stagnation caused by repressed feelings that we hold in our bodies.

Toning can help bring balance to the body’s chakra system and the meridians that run through the roof of the mouth, as well as causing the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which are nestled in our brains very close to the roof of the mouth, to release hormones and energize the endocrine system which can lead to “improved immune function via the hypothalamic-pituitary axis; increased brain hemisphere balance; enhanced healing, emotions, and moods; and a balanced autonomic nervous system.”

Toning can also have a positive effect on our nervous systems, which connects us to the outside world, gathering information with our senses, processing that information through our thinking minds, intuition, and dreams, so we can relate to and communicate with the outer world. The nervous system warns us when we’re out of balance with pain and “nervous” conditions.

All the sounds we make stimulate the vagus nerve. Originating in the medulla oblongata along with the bundle of nerves that run from our brain, the vagus nerve threads through our and jaw, connecting to almost all the organs. The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) and affects heart rate, gastrointestinal peristalsis (which helps move food through our digestive tract), perspiration, and helps us move the muscles to speak and keep our larynx open so we can breathe. Because of the vagus nerve’s connection to the heart and other organs the vibrations from toning can help lower heart rate, ease blood pressure, pain, stress, and anxiety, and balance the sympathetic (fight or flight response) and the parasympathetic nervous systems.

Toning (like meditation, walking a familiar trail, taking a shower, dream journeys… anything that is familiar, repetitive, and automatic) can help us move into a trance state, where our active mind slows to a theta wave. While in the theta cycle we are more open to the flow of ideas and inspiration, it is often easier to tap into our creativity, release patterns we may be stuck in, access self healing, and find inner clarity because we are naturally more open to what may come to mind, receiving without censoring or judging.

What Happens Energetically When I Tone?

"Sound, stars, and light are all inside." Maharaj Sardar Bahadur Jagat Singh

When we tone, our breath and the vibration of the sounds we are creating help draw our attention and awareness inward while projecting our voices outwards, like the breathing of the Earth through the seasons. Practices like Nada Yoga aim to deepen the connection between body, breath, and sound, working to integrate this turning inward and outward as we integrate our outer and inner worlds. Toning as a practice connects us with our deep inner realm and creates a channel back to the outer world with our voice, opening us to manifest our creative potential and inner knowing.

Many creation stories tell of the divine sounding the name of a thing and then that thing coming into being. If it is from those original vibrations that all things are brought into being, then all things still must resonate with that vibration. It is thought that our bodies, like all things, have a natural vibration. When we experience different emotional and physical states our bodies may vibrate differently. Scientists like Itzhak Bentov have long been how illness can get our natural vibration out of balance and are exploring ways we can realign with it.

Our own voices are powerful healing tools, we feel the vibration of the sound we are making within our bodies as well as hearing the sound we’re making. Toning and sacred sounds that employs high frequency overtones, like Tibetan Buddhist chanting, Tuvan throat singing, and the Australian didgeridoo are thought to balance the energetics of our brain, stimulating health and wellness by creating deep resonance within the body, allowing the person producing the sound and the vibration to become one.

Toning and the Chakras

The different vowel sounds can be used to activate the chakras, or energy centers of the body. If you experiment with this system, feel out in your own body where you notice the vibrations of these sounds resonating. Some suggest starting at the Root Chakra with a low sound and making the tones higher as you move up the spine, try out different pitches (high to low) and volumes to see how they feel with you.

The Root Chakra, “UH” as in up, low and guttural, Red

The Sacral Chakra, “OO” as in you, Orange

The Solar Plexus Chakra, “OH” as in go, Yellow

The Heart Chakra, “AH” as in ma, Green

The Throat Chakra, “EH” as in get or “AYE” as in say, Blue

The Third Eye Chakra, “EE” as in free, Indigo

The Crown Chakra, “EEE” even higher or “MM” a hum, Violet or white

If you make the “EEE” sound for your crown chakra it is suggested you tone the highest pitched sound you can and visualize opening to the divine, angelic realm. Be gentle and try not to strain your voice. Ideally this is a practice you develop over time.

Toning in Community

When we tone together as a circle, not only do we begin to hear and feel how our individual voices begin to weave and meld together, we also have the opportunity to focus as a group to build energy for a common intention. The communal intention of healing or energizing ourselves, offering that to others outside the group, or to the Earth herself, is a powerful gift.

We can also offer the vibration of our voices to an individual within the group, bathing her with sound. To do this let one woman get comfortable and relaxed in the center of the circle. The rest of the circle can gather around and tone for a period of time, holding a loving, supportive, nurturing intention for the woman in the center. After some time has passed and the toning fades, rest in the silence, whether you’re in the center or part of the circle, and feel how the vibrations are moving in your body and the room. A variation of this can be done by chanting the central woman’s name over and over again.

As related to Chanting:

Thinking about the word enchant means “to sing” (en-cantare, or en-chanter), or “to endow with magical properties” and offers insight into the power we tap when we chant or tone. Chanting or using a Mantra, the repetitive use of a sound or phrase, are also ways to enter trance and open to a Theta brainwave pattern. The word mantra comes from the roots manas, meaning mind and tra, meaning protection. The mantra or chant protects our minds from wandering when we’re trying to meditate. Different chants can help you set your intention, for example using a chant that invokes a deity or state of being, like compassion or love.

In Closing

Sound has long been seen as the link between the human world and spirit. As such, toning can be a powerful tool, helping us open to our essential selves, share our authentic voice, and open to the divine in this moment and help us create transforming and healing energies for ourselves, those around us, and Mother Earth herself.

We can learn about sacred sounds by listening to nature, finding our breath and heartbeat in the bird and whale song, the waters of tumbling stream and crashing ocean waves, the wind through the trees.

We can also find that wisdom in the trance inducing monotonous or ecstatic polyrhythmic drumming of traditional peoples around the world.

Toning as a practice can help us open to our own inner vibration as it is one with the vibration of all things, the very Music of The Spheres.

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