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By Tobin Asher

Tobin Asher loves to play and experiment. He sees his life as a study using creativity as a portal way to gnosis, the wisdom that lies within each of us. Through facilitation, mentorship, and interdisciplinary artistic endeavors, he seeks to co-create environments for self-discovery, deep listening, and compassionate connection.

Location: OYH Yoga Studio in Dumbo, Brooklyn
Classes: Sound Therapy + Meditation

In our newest blog post, Tobin Asher shares his insights on how using the voice in sound meditations can benefit your entire being. He reminds us not to get caught up in success or outcomes, but rather to let the practice be the meditation. Reflecting on his own journey with singing, music, and ultimately more holistic uses of the voice, he gives us a taste of the play we can expect during his interactive workshop coming up in March.

Can you describe the anatomy of how the body produces sound?

You could try to reduce the voice down to a basic physiological process of coordination between the diaphragm, lungs, larynx, oral and nasal cavities, and various articulators and resonating chambers. However, such a reduction obscures the true nature of the voice, which is that it is one with the rest of our being. By becoming an expert in our voice, we become an expert in ourselves.

Are there specific vagal toning techniques / exercises you would recommend to those who are new to this practice?

Okay, science! Vagal tone refers to the activity of the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain stem and connects to all of our major organs. Healthy vagus nerve function is vital for a number of important health factors including digestion, mood, and even our hearts. It also plays a key role in regulating our nervous system. There are a number of practices that can help improve vagal tone, including exercise, conscious breathing, and humming. The vagus nerve is just one physiological example of the interconnectedness of all parts of our being. Regarding specific practices and exercises, I would encourage any interested individuals to research the vagus nerve and examine what areas of one’s own life might be calling out for attention.

What type of conditions can using the voice as sound potentially address or alleviate?

I try to avoid working with the voice as a clinical tool. I notice for myself that when I approach my voice from a “do this to get that” paradigm, I close myself off to its more profound teachings. I often refer to my vocal practice as the art of spontaneity through voice and play. I highly recommend listening to Alan Watts’ talk on Hesitation & Spontaneity. In it, he discusses Mushin, a zen expression which describes living with a mind of no expectation, an empty mind. In this way, we can live in harmony with the present moment instead of acting from outdated maps that we’ve created from our past experiences.

How can practitioners use their voice in their daily or weekly routines?

If you speak at any point during your day, you are using your voice. I might argue that even when you talk to yourself in your head, you are exercising your voice. So the question is less how to use one’s voice and more how to form a meaningful relationship with it? For me, this begins with the conscious choice to see the voice as a teacher and a guide. Then I just try to get out of my own way.

Are there different styles or approaches to using the voice in sound meditations?

Infinite different approaches. I never facilitate the same way twice. It’s important for me to be present to the dynamics at play and to allow nature’s intelligence to work its magic.

What are some of the success stories / breakthroughs from students who have benefited from embodying vocal practice?

I encourage myself and others to break free from traditional views of success. The nature of practice is that it is complete in and of itself. It is not about reaching a destination, but about being present for the process. In this way, practice becomes a form of meditation. (For more on this, I encourage people to check-out Kenny Werner’s book, Effortless Mastery.) Because so much of our society is built on the idea that one thing leads to another, it can be difficult to fully embrace the intrinsic value of practice. But once you have, there is no way to not be successful. When I remember this, I am kinder to myself and I feel more connected to the inherent joy of being alive.

Why do you teach this modality? How has this practice helped you in your own life?

I do not intend to play the role of teacher. I simply wish to be in service to promoting more love and healing in this world by sharing from the heart what inspires me. For me, the vocal practice is about embracing the Self. I feel it is impossible to have a healthy relationship with my voice if I do not also have a healthy relationship with my heart. While I do find great pleasure in simply experiencing the vibration of my voice, I quickly burn out and feel uninspired if I do not first set an intention as to why I am expressing myself to begin with.

When was the first time you experienced the profound impact of vocalization? How did it change your life and the way you see the world?

While I have always felt an inherent draw to exploring my voice, and grew up singing and performing, I felt for many years that there was something missing. It wasn’t until I started exploring the voice from a more holistic and, dare I say, spiritual perspective that the pieces began clicking into place. In 2017, while working with a skilled facilitator of altered states of awareness, I experienced my integrated and embodied voice for the first time as an adult. Every part of my being was aligned and vibrating coherently. I have spent much of my life since then learning more about voice – and sound and music more broadly – from various different traditions and cultures around the world and through my own experimentation. My education has only just begun.

How can the voice be used as a tool to deepen the relationship to the Self?

This is for everyone to discover for themselves. Working with the voice is a personal practice and the journey will be different for each one of us. I love being in community with fellow seekers where we get to support each other in exploring our own unique paths.


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