Health and wellness

How nada yoga can destress Hongkongers. We take a 30-minute trial session to find out

Martina Lee, a senior yoga instructor at Hong Kong’s Pure Yoga, teaches a form of yoga that uses singing bowls, the human voice and sound energy to release negative emotions, relieve stress and focus the mind

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 November, 2017, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 April, 2018, 12:21pm

As the body of scientific research highlighting the benefits of meditation grows, more people are embracing it to reduce stress and boost their well-being.

Wanting to experience some of this R&R – rumination and rejuvenation – for myself, I went on a quest to sample something a little more ‘out there’. The definition of nada yoga from Pure Yoga was intriguing: “Nada means flow of sound. Students concentrate on sound vibrations generated by chanting, singing, mantra repetition or external sound from singing bowls … These sound vibrations balance and optimise the brain frequency and help release negative emotions and relax the body.”

Though I am neither a yogi nor an experienced meditator, I went along to a nada yoga session to learn more about the “singing bowls” and experience some mindful relaxation.

“Sound is an effective way to shift energy because it works at a primal level,” Pure’s senior teacher and country manager Martina Lee said. “I’m very sensitive to sound. I’ve been singing since I was small.”

In one of the newly introduced 30-minute sessions – some people feel an hour is too long to sit through, and this makes it less intimidating for newcomers like me – Lee combines the angelic sound of her voice with the sound of vibrations from crystal singing bowls.

Lee guided the class through several simple yoga poses that even I could follow, then invited us to relax as she began to chant, then sing as she gently made the bowls resonate. Almost instantly, I felt like I was in a warm cocoon as the combined sound vibrations seemed to fill my head and chest, nudging out thoughts of unfinished to-do lists and looming deadlines, melting stress and tensions away.

I understood then why these singing bowls are used beyond meditation and yoga, by nurses who use them with patients during their rounds, and as a way to call corporate meetings to order: the mind focuses on the sound, follows it, and the inner chatter dissipates.

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“The crystal itself is a gift from nature,” Lee says. “Crystals have a very steady structure, the vibration they give off is very pure. Sound affects us at a very deep level, way more than you think. When people come here, they have silence and they can enjoy that. It really clears things and it uplifts people.”

Lee embraced yoga and meditation herself more than a dozen years ago to help mend a broken heart.

“I had a breakup and I was really sad and didn’t know what to do with myself, and I saw [a] yoga [advertisement]. So I went in and tried a class,” she says.

“It became a healing place for me. For those months I was really sad, I just kept going to yoga every day. And it really had me shift my mind.”

After experiencing yoga’s benefits herself, she went on to become an instructor, with more than 2,700 hours of training in nine different areas of yoga and meditation. Sound therapy is her favourite.

When she introduced the singing bowls into the meditation sessions, “It was just – ‘wow’,” Lee says. “In a very short time, the whole energy of the room shifts. People become quiet and still. I was quite amazed working with the tools, so now I combine the singing bowls with my voice. Sometimes, maybe just to clear the mind. Or sometimes to bring in a little bit of brightness.”

How does she describe that “shift” through meditation?

“When a group of people come together, they might be rushing from the office, they might just have had an argument, or they would have just really worked hard. When they come in, each person is all over the place.

“You can sense that it’s a bunch of individuals. What I mean by shifting that energy is that chatter, all those things that don’t need to be in the present moment, they’re gone. Second, people actually become one. There is like a group consciousness. It’s no longer just individuals. Working at that level is really beautiful and amazing,” Lee says.

“Meditation used to be a lot more physical, because we went through a phase where people really wanted to get in touch with their body, they wanted to sweat it out. Throughout the years, yoga has shifted people’s mindset and they started to look for something that helps the mind.”

Over the years she has been teaching there have been notable changes.

“Yoga still gives you a really great workout in terms of toning your body, creating balance, opening up the body, creating more flexibility. All those things are still there, but people are looking for something deeper.

“Twelve years ago, if you had introduced meditation, it would not have been very successful. Now people are really interested in somehow shifting their mental environment, or just being able to get some insights and relaxation through meditation.”

She adds: “More men are practising yoga today than 12 years ago. More athletes are coming in to these classes. Last year we introduced yoga for runners, [that is] super popular. It not only enhances their performance, it definitely helps their recovery. Through their yoga, they also have more balance, more peace of mind.”

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How would she encourage more newcomers to try it? “Meditation is not complicated. Anybody can just sit and be still. And even for a very short time, you can really find peace and rejuvenation and a deep connection with yourself. And if everyone has that, the world would be a much better place, really.”