Should music be played during Yoga? The shift to virtual classes has us questioning the necessity of music as part of the practice.
The Sounds of Silence
Originally, there was no music played during Yoga practices. Search YouTube and you can find videos of B.K.S. Iyengar and Patabhi Jois as well as lesser known practitioners guiding others in silent rooms where the only sound is that of their breath.
Fast forward to 2019 and you would be hard fast to find a class that doesn't have music playing. It had become to so common that a silent practice felt uncomfortable. One of the few lineages that continued to offer classes without music were those who practiced in the Iyengar style.
From Mantra to Hip Hop
I began attending Yoga classes in 1999. I wore street clothes to class. There was no music played. As my interest in the practice grew and I began to explore lineages beyond svarupa (my first), I stepped onto the path and never looked back.
I learned that vinyasa simply means an interconnected series of movements done with grace. These classes almost always included recorded music being played in the background. It was most likely Krisna Das mantra. It wasn't until 2003 that I began hearing popular music played during class. At Gold's Gym, where I was introduced to my teacher, she and others would mix in popular music with the traditional chanting recordings.
Adding to the Distractions?
When I was given the chance to choose the music for my classes, I was excited to begin creating mix CDs that included my favorite combinations of mantra, pop, jam bands, and rock. I had cases of music that I would carry with me to every class I taught. Each mix was curated to shift the energy of the practice intentionally.
The longer I taught, the less excited I was about the music I used. Making mixes became tedious, my Ipod could only hold so many songs, and then streaming channels became available. This made my life so much easier.
Is It Free?
For years I had a collection of channels on my Pandora or Spotify that I could easily select and play knowing that the music playing would be just fine for whatever I chose to teach. The songs themselves became less important. The energy of the music needed to align with the energy of the class. As time passed, though, discussions over the legality of using music and requirements for licensing began to rise in the Yoga community.
Now, Yoga studio owners have to cover the cost of licensing to play music as part of their classes. It is a growing issue and the question of whether we are performing and choreographing to the music is the main reason this new issue has arisen.
Back to the Basics
I began using less music, at lower volumes. In my own practice, I do so in silence. When the pandemic hit and we could no longer practice together in groups my virtual classes naturally shifted to be guided by voice only. No one seemed to mind. Of course, if they want to, anyone can mute themselves and play music in their own home while they practice virtually. However, in many discussions among those who join me, they agree that the silence is quite nice.
Keep the Peace
You'll notice that there is music added to the recorded classes we offer on YouTube and On-Demand. However, when you join a live virtual session it will be in silence unless you choose to play music in your space. If you haven't tried a silent practice, perhaps now is the time. I find that it provides an opportunity to truly connect with your breath, remain aware of your body, and spend time with your thoughts.
Join a Live Virtual Practice with Lake Tahoe Yoga by becoming a member of Bliss Experiences. When you register your account will receive one (1) credit to join any scheduled Monday class.
I grew up in New England. There's nothing that can compare to the fall in the East. Maple leaves, maple syrup, pumpkin patches and apple trees, they all have a special place in my heart. Now, living in the land of arid climates and high alpine forest, I sometimes lament about what I used to have. And then, I remember, where I live.
After Labor Day, Lake Tahoe takes on a whole new vibe. As the crisp, fall air drifts in each morning and the warmth of the sun is felt later and later in the day, a peacefulness arrives. The hundreds of boats cris-crossing the lake are gone. The average driving speed has slowed, once again. All of us, who live here, take a deep breath and sit down to relax.
This is Yoga, my friends. This is honoring what we have and enjoying the present. As we sit back and review all the hard work of the summer, this is Yoga. Our lives in this community are cyclical, just like the flow of life. As yogis, it is our duty to recognize our habits, patterns and hurdles. Living in Tahoe offers a unique perspective on this practice. Every Summer, we work, we play, we sell. We rest, in the fall. Every Winter, we burn the midnight oil and rise with the dawn to hit the slopes. In the spring, we pause, again.
During these pauses, these moments of rest, there is an opportunity to learn. Yoga is the practice of understanding who you are. Of understanding our habits and changing them. As Autumn arrives and settles in upon us, enjoy the peace and quiet. Sit back and look upon yourself. As the seasons change, maybe you will, too.
Take a Vacation for an Hour
Th practice of Yoga is designed to increase inner awareness and decrease your concern over all that is gong on around you. The challenge if the movements and direction of inhales and exhales is intentially expressed in order to draw your focus. Everything from the lighting of the room, music chosen to the scents used during the practice are intended to shift your perspective.
Take advantage of these conscious efforts by joining class at a Yoga studio. A well trained instructor should be able to guide you away from your day and into an hour long vacation.
Quiet Your Mind with Sound
How many times have you found yourself listening to something and being distracted by another sound?
I think back to my grade school years and how, although I was interested in what was being taught, I was so easily distracted by the sound of a tapping pencil, creaking chair or bird singing outside. As we know, our minds are constantly drawn into many directions. We are being hit with millions if not billions of pieces of information at any minute and focusing on just one can seem like an impossibility.
Find Quiet In Everything You Do
Consider the last time you were in silence. What did you hear? One would hope the answer is "nothing," but it's most likely that you heard something. Perhaps a buzzing or high pitched ringing or maybe, just maybe your own internal "Aum."
Using sounds as part of our practice to find one-pointedness and concentration can be very helpful. Sounds can help us to become centered and to draw us inward. Of course, they can do the opposite, as well. The sound of screeching tires or an alarm can certainly draw you outside of yourself. In opposition, the sound of your own voice in a hum can draw you inward. A deep bass can connect you to your belly and your favorite song can rush in memories of old.
Focus on finding stillness in your asana practice, use the sounds around you to help you turn inward. Even the pounding of the dancer's feet on the floor offers the opportunity of practice to bring our attention inward. As your physical practice becomes more still, so shall your mind, breath and spirit.