In some schools of yoga, the idea of having music to accompany a class would be sacrilege - the music of our Ujjayi breath more than enough as background noise. They might argue that it is an indulgence of the senses, something we may wish to avoid in our aim to cultivate tapas or austerity/'burning enthusiasm'.
But in times when we're second guessing even showing up on the mat at all and our enthusiasm is severely waning, let alone burning, putting on your fave music to practice to can be a game changer.
Just as not all schools of yoga adhere to the same rules, neither do yoga teachers, and in modern day studios (I know, I've almost forgotten what they feel like, too) background music is usually a prominent component of the class. As with anything this has pros and cons, and as a teacher I love to weave a narrative/theme alongside a well chosen playlist. Music is so powerful in creating different moods and can enhance the experience hugely in my opinion.
Musician James Prosser on the tongue drum - a beautiful meoldic background sound
Even if the music is not to 'our taste' this is a lesson of surrender and acceptance in and of itself, addressing the kleshas or afflictions of raga (attachment) and dvesha (aversion) that cause suffering. I remember well one of my favourite teachers in Berlin very attached to her playlists deliberately creating a playlist of the music she hated the most (improv jazz, it was dreadful) for one class to demonstrate this. Lots of laughs ensued along with some grimacing - and the realisation of just how much we like to think we are in control of our environments.
That said, as a teacher I'm very cognisant of the environment I'm creating for a class - the lighting, music, what I'm wearing, what you can see are all important. Any music I do choose I'll have chosen carefully based on the mood I'm intending to create, and made sure it's appropriate.
For styles of yoga such as Yin, which are highly introspective due to their slow nature, a musical accompaniment can form a very important part of the delivery. Many of us find it hard to be contemplative and still at the end of a long day, and sometimes the background music can be the metaphorical rope we hold onto to keep ourselves present when the mind has other ideas, and the noise of the breath and the sensations in the body aren't enough. And while for many people being still and quiet for an extended period is uncomfortable, for others dealing with complex Trauma it could be downright intolerable - the idea of lying with the eyes closed in silence on the floor their worst nightmare.
Sharing music as part of the online classes (and eventually, in studio classes) I share however is something I will definitely continue to do, although as with anything not grow too attached to and have some classes without.
This Friday our monthly Deep Rest: Yin & Yoga Nidra session will feature some very special live music from the very talented musician/producer James Prosser. Based in Wolverhampton, he has been in the music industry for over the past decade and is creating a series of soundscapes for the live session including ambient elements of guitar, piano, percussion and more. This will complement the slow, dreamy qualities of the Yin yoga practice and guided meditation beautifully, creating a cosy cocoon in which you can fully rest, relax and recharge for the month ahead. If you'd like to join us for this some spaces remain, you can book on here.
What do you think when it comes to music & yoga -
do you prefer them together or apart?
I'd love to hear in the comments below - also about any music bloopers during your yoga classes...my faves being a student in a class where the teacher accidentally played some heavy metal in savasana, or the time I accidentally played a hip hop track with lyrics instead of the instrumental version which weren't really studio friendly! Oops.