Living in a modern age, most people seek recovery and cure from external sources. At the same time, they ignore what the mother nature has provided them simply because they take these ubiquitous yet invaluable resources for granted. One of these resources is sound, which can be used as medicine as well. Natural sounds such as every human being’s voice is unique and proves to be effective to heal us. Daphne Tse is one of the big believers of the powerful healing effect of voice. Having music and yoga as her roots, Daphne who is from Texas invented what she called “Nada Yoga”. Simply put, she blended yoga practice with folk music.
Back then, Daphne learned music formally at University of Texas in Austin, The Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. With Jai Uttal, she studied kirtan music. Kirtan is a devotional song in which a group repeats lines sung by a leader. She also released music on Shiva Rea’s yoga music compilations. The singer cum songwriter also recorded 2 solo albums titled “Mata” and “Finding Water”.
In her class “Nada Yoga: Chakra Chanting, Toning and Sound Meditation” at Namaste Festival 2014, Daphne showed us how our own voice can be the best tool to cure the ailing body and spirit by opening and balancing chakras with toning and sounding. With more open and balanced chakras, energy inside us is expected to flow better than before.
Her main teaching is “if you can breathe, you can do yoga.” The very first step of doing yoga is people become aware of their breath. “Because most people breathe all day long and they’re not even aware they’re breathing. The breath (pranayam) is the most sustainable yoga practice of all yoga branches.”
“Many people are afraid of their singing voices, and we try to move away from that,”she explained. She leads students how to find the love of their voices again and be able to find that expression in life and find the empowerment around [the notion that] they can change their life just by their own voice.
Sound healing and music therapy sparked her interest years ago as she decided to study with Jonathan Goldman in Colorado in 2001. Through Goldman, Daphne learned the scientific studies of how sounds create space in the body and how it can be used as medicine.
As a gymnast in middle school almost 20 years ago, Daphne whose father practices meditation regularly started doing yoga. In Los Angeles, she met teachers such as Eric Schiffman, Shiva Rea, etc and learned yoga asanas more seriously.
Her first and favorite yoga teacher is Eric Schiffman, a student of Krisnamurti. “Practice in the Stillness”, Schiffman’s practice, drew Daphne’s interest. “He inspired me in the fact that I could see all elements of yoga especially meditation,”she reminisced. The teacher used the word “maliable”, which means we can move, shift, change and flow just like water. That’s the big, impactful teaching of Schiffman she always remembers.
The older Daphne gets, the more she realizes that everything is yoga. Yogis are not only the ones on the yoga mats, she said. Her father does meditate and swim but never steps on a yoga mat, and that doesn’t mean he’s a yogi. “Yoga is a very integrated practice, and what I’m interested in now is all the integration of yoga, from the asana to the breath work, to the dance, to the music, and mantra. Integrating it all into our lives on a daily basis.”
Daphne has a big interest in mantras, sounds, sound healing, and the use of yoga sound (Nada Yoga). While doing asanas, finding the sound that matches works into the body. She further explained,”Let’s say you’re doing a hip opener [pose], and sound it into your hip, not sitting there silently.”
In spite of that, Daphne also told me that one of the teachings she learned is that we can also stand silently inside our own body and be healed.
Now she’s not doing as much of asanas. Daphne prefers meditation, dancing and singing. “Twenty years of doing triangle pose and surya namaskar… It’s beautiful, I love it and it’s a great practice and I liked then the flexibility and maliability.” She believes yoga practice doesn’t have to look a certain way.
It took a moment for Daphne to think how she wants to be remembered. Yet, simply put, by her teaching she wants to help create spaciousness in her students’ heart to love and to be able to give love selflessly.
To Daphne, it’s much easier to stand in the podium and teach what you know without paying attention to students. She doesn’t teach that way because she believes that a yoga teacher needs to be open and be received by students. Teaching is actually serving the people so the most important thing is “look at your audience, your students and see what their needs are first.” She put emphasis on simplicity of teaching, too.
As technology seeps into every and each part of our lives, yoga teachers also have to adapt to it. At 43, Daphne admitted she’s not into it that much, like younger generation. Also, she cautioned against the dominant ego while we post stuff on social media. There has to be separation between the yoga teachings and themselves on the web. “It’s a great tool to connect with the community but at the same time not to depend on it.”
Freedom, flow and love are three words she’d use to describe yoga succinctly. With yoga, she finds freedom as well as maliability like water. And by love, she meant “connecting to the heart”.