“Toning is the use of the voice to express sounds for the purpose of release and relief...It is nonverbal sound, relying primarily on vowels, though it may incorporate the use of consonants to create syllables as long as they are not utilized to create coherent meaning. Sighing, moaning, and humming may also be recognized as forms of toning.” - Jonathan Goldman, Healing Sounds
Toning may be simply defined as “to make sound with an elongated vowel for an extended period.” Simple in concept and easy to practice, it is nonetheless a powerful tool which may be used for such diverse purposes as pain relief; releasing emotions; resolving past trauma; balancing the flow of energy in the bodymind and restoring harmony.
At a very basic physiological level, toning facilitates deep breathing because in order to release the sounds, the belly and diaphragm must be expanded; deep breathing slows the heart rate and calms the nervous system and thus promotes deep relaxation. Toning facilitates meditative states of consciousness and is believed by many to help clear energy blockages in the chakra system (energy centers in the subtle body).
Simple forms of toning include moaning and groaning to relieve stress or pain. One can adopt a playful attitude and experiment with making diverse sounds using the freedom of your voice, and optionally incorporating other sound-making practices such as banging drums, gongs, pots and pans, etc. In toning the main “rule” is that the sounds should be devoid of conceptual meaning, otherwise you are chanting or singing – certainly worthy in their own right, but not the same practice.
In the following introductory exercise, don't worry about toning on particular notes, rather take an intuitive approach. When the instructions say to change the note, simply make your voice tone deeper or higher as feels right to you.
Toning Fundamentals Exercise (from Sounds of Healing by Mitchell L. Gaynor, p. 99)
Inhale through your nose. Release your breath through your mouth while making one long sustained sound. When you run out of breath, inhale again through your nose and exhale through your mouth, again making a long sustained sound. Repeat this procedure as often as you like.
You can stand, sit in a cross-legged position on the floor, or sit on a chair. Be sure your spine is straight and your diaphragm and abdomen are unobstructed. If you're standing, imagine that the sound is coming up from your feet. Relax your jaw. When you make a sound, let your jaw hang open.
Tone a vowel on the note of your choice for as long as your breath allows. Repeat several times.
Tone the same sound on a different note.
Tone a syllable on the same note. Repeat several times. (Example: Tone OM, LAM, or HU.)
Tone the same syllable on a different note, and repeat.
Find a syllable-and-note combination that you like, and tone it again and again.
1. Mitchell L. Gaynor, M.D., Sounds of Healing
2. Jonathan Goldman, Healing Sounds: The Power of Harmonics
3. Jonathan Goldman, Healing Sounds Instructional CD
4. Linda L. Nielsen, Ph.D, Microtonal Healing: Spirit of the Healing Voice
5. Don Campbell, The Mozart Effect
6. Deborah Van Dyke, Traveling the Sacred Sound Current
7. Simon Heather, The Healing Power of Sound
8. Renee Brodie, The Healing Tones of Crystal Bowls
This article was written and contributed by Arthur Gillard.
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