I first met Sara Auster ten years ago when my friends in NYC rock band Peculiar Gentlemen decided to expand their sound and bring on three female back-up singers. Sara brought such a playful and positive energy to the stage in addition to providing ethereal vocals. These days, Sara channels her passion for music in her role as a certified Sound Therapy Practitioner and yoga teacher, while continuing to sing on various projects. I sat down with Sara recently to discover more about Sound Therapy and how it has become instrumental in Sara’s evolution as a musician.
What does music mean to you?
Music is medicine. I have always had a deep appreciation for music and how it affects me. On any given day I listen to music from the time I get up until I am ready to go to sleep. I listen when I am happy. I listen when I am sad. And I listen even when I just need something in the background to break the silence. I have experienced, witnessed, collected and created music for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until recently that I really understood why it was so important to me. For a long time I lived a double life: yoga teacher by day, back up singer/DJ/bartender by night. Yoga and music were separate (I even used to have an aversion to chanting ‘OM’), but as I continued to explore my interests and connect the dots, I discovered sound healing.
Sound is all around us. It affects our health and the way we think. Most of us know that upbeat music can help you to exercise harder and slower songs can be soothing, but if you understand how sound and music actually change your brain waves, you can use this knowledge to alter your mental and physical states.
How is Sound Healing, or Sound Therapy, a unique experience to you as a musician? How does it affect your other projects?
Sound Healing works on the principle that everything in the universe is energy in vibration. Experiencing sound in this way has helped me let go of trying to be ‘perfect’ in regards to music and performing. It has allowed me so much more freedom in my musical projects and many other aspects of my life.
Speaking of performing, what instruments do you play?
I play various resonant instruments, including crystal bowls, tuning forks, gong, and drums in addition to being a singer.
As a certified Sound Therapy Practitioner, you host Sound Baths, which you describe as a “deeply immersive journey into sound.” Can you elaborate more on what transpires in a Sound Bath? How do these sessions help inspire you as a musician?
A Sound Bath is an experience of vibration. It is an improvised concert in which various resonant instruments are played, including, but not limited to, crystal and Himalayan singing bowls, gongs, tuning forks, and voice. The term “Sound Bath” is used because you are “bathed” in the vibrations, or sound waves, of the instruments. During a typical Sound Bath, participants lie on the floor or in a comfortable position, and just take in the sounds.
Like meditation, a Sound Bath can help to establish a state of resonance and attunement with the self, enhance your state of presence and self-awareness, as well as your ability to listen and gain attention to a greater level of details. Benefits can include increased relaxation, better sleep, balanced energy levels, and a decrease in stress and anxiety. Sound affects us on all levels: spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical, and can bring balance to us in ways we might not realize are possible. I think that could be inspiration enough for anyone!
What type of yoga do you practice? How is sound a part of yoga?
I practice and teach Hatha and Vinyasa yoga. Sound is very often a part of this practice. Whether or not people have practiced yoga, they are most likely familiar with Om (Aum), the most basic mantra, which in Hinduism is known to be the source of all mantras. Om is believed to be the primordial or the ‘first’ sound of the universe generated by the cosmic vibration that resulted in all creation (think Big Bang). Just like our thoughts, words are a form of energy, which is evident in their palpable frequency and vibrations. Words carry within them seeds of creation; when chanted, sounded and repeated they can be a powerful force.
You mentioned you have been playing music your entire life. Was there a specific moment or person who inspired you to start playing?
One of my earliest musical memories is singing doo-wop to 101.1 CBS FM with my mom. Both my parents were always singing in choirs and plays, not professionally but for the pure joy and fun of it. For that very reason, they are my biggest musical inspirations.
I know you love collaboration and have often told me that the more people involved the better the experience. Is there a particular collaboration that sticks out in your memory?
Of course that would have to be Peculiar Gentlemen. I sang with those guys for over 8 years, playing all over NYC and the world. Those experiences will stick with me forever.
What projects are you working on currently?
I’m mostly working on incorporating yoga and sound. I host a monthly Sound Bath at Twisted Trunk Yoga. The next one is March 14th with Basia Blaska. I also offer weekly yoga classes there with live music/sound meditation called ‘Recharge+Restore’. I lead a quarterly workshop called ‘Healing with Restorative Yoga, Reiki & Sound’ with Abby Paloma—the next one is March 29th. And I’ll be providing sound accompaniment for Elena Brower’s Sacred Saturday yoga class at ABC Carpet & Home, coming up on March 7th!
I am also featured on the new Phaze Future EP, The Gift, which you can listen to now on SoundCloud.