There’s a wonderful technique used by Somatic Experiencing therapists, called Voo Sound. Not only is the name fun, the technique itself is fun to do.
The essence of the technique is to vocally emulate the deep, thick, low sound of a foghorn. You might also think of a tuba, bass clarinet or a cello playing the very lowest notes it can, long and slow.
When I first tried Voo Sound out myself – I learned of it when I was working as a therapist at Villa Kali Ma and another practitioner showed it to me – I thought it sounded a little bit like Tibetan throat singing. I also loved it right away, as it seemed uncommonly fun for a trauma technique.
Down the Rabbit Hole of Voo
Little did I know, my first Voo Sound was the beginning of me going down the rabbit hole of learning all I could about how the vagus nerve can be called upon to help us heal, and why singing, chanting, toning, and music in particular are so powerful for people with trauma, mental health struggles, and addiction.
Turns out, how and why Voo Sound works to heal trauma explains exactly why listening to Tibetan throat singing and Gregorian chants has such powerful effects to calm a person down too. Voo Sound, Tibetan throat singing, Gregorian chants all access the vagus nerve.
As detailed extensively in Steven Porges’ work on polyvagal theory, and emphasized in Somatic Experiencing founder Peter Levine’s work as well, the role of the vagus nerve is central to the body’s mechanisms for restoring us to safety, balance, and health after disruption.
The Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve is a thick, evolutionarily ancient bundle of neuronal pathways that runs all the way from the base of our brain to the top of our gastrointestinal system, playing a bridging role between the operations of these two command centers.
Because the vagus nerve’s job is to induce a return to the emotionally regulated state, one way to assist the body to regulate is to find ways to encourage the vagus nerve to operate, through gentle stimulation.
The Voo Sound stimulates the vagus nerve just so. The vagus nerve, responding to this stimulation, communicates with (or triggers – these are both simplifications for the sake of grasping the idea) the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, the part that is tasked with guiding the body to create states of peace, safety, calm, and ease.
Finishing Unfinished Business
The purpose of Voo Sound is to swiftly regulate the body. Interestingly, Voo Sound isn’t about changing your experience though, so much as surrounding your experience with support. Rather than trying to “disappear” your discomfort, the intention is more to give that discomfort a space to be in. Like putting your distress in a soothing sound bath so it can unwind.
This distinction is important, because Voo Sound isn’t intended to suppress your trauma responses, but actually allow them to complete what they’re trying to do.
This is because of another insight from the world of trauma research: the reason your trauma symptoms won’t just “go away” is because your trauma response has a job it is trying to finish!
Voo Sound helps a trauma response finish its job. When a symptom, such as anxiety, finally has a chance to finish the job it’s here to do, it will at last be freed to move on and leave you alone forever.
If that sounds amazing, it is. Wanna try it?
To try Voo Sound out, go somewhere where it’s ok to make some noise without feeling worried someone is listening in on you.
Wherever you take yourself, whether sitting, standing or lying down, take a moment to adjust your body to be as comfortable as is available to you right now. Take a couple of conscious breaths in the most comfortable version of this body position. And begin.
- Take one very big deep belly breath, and on the outbreath, tone the syllable “voo” in the lowest pitch you can generate, while still feeling comfortable and relaxed in your throat and vocal chords.
- As the Voo Sound comes out of you, notice the v-sound buzzing in your lips. Change the shape of the -oo sound as desired, playing around to find the richest strongest and most sustainable tone, relaxing any unneeded extra effort or tension. Allow yourself to notice and enjoy any vibrations you witness in your chest and abdomen.
- At the end of your first Voo Sound, let your intake of breath be natural and easy. Let the body do what it wants to do.
- At the top of your next in-breath, wait for a beat, then let another long, deep, round Voo Sound out. Enjoy the the good vibrations of the deepest sound you are able to make.
- Repeat this cycle as long as you want to if it is feeling good and calming, centering and grounding. If you’re not liking the effect, stop it and don’t worry about it, there are other techniques for accessing your vagal nerve if this one isn’t for you.
To learn more about Voo Sound, take it from the horse’s mouth by reading Peter Levine’s Healing Trauma: A pioneering program for restoring the wisdom of your body.
Thanks for reading!