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.