Yoga: it’s got the music in us! (Part 1)

Bird sitting on guitar graphic

February 1 2019 | Yoga Practice

At Yoga Mind and Body Club I promote the use of music in yoga as a legitimate way of making yoga accessible to more people, as well as improving the quality of one’s experience of yoga. The purpose of this 2-part blog is to bring together some views in support of that ambition.

I consider music to be a sublime form of yoga. It is a critical component of my classes. I play a balance of rock, jazz, blues, Indian traditional, ambient, world music and more, as appropriate to each phase of a session. It’s one of the most popular features of my lessons.

Why do yoga and music come together so well?

It’s fairly easy to discern what the connections are. Here are some key points:

  • They have natural rhythm and harmony.
  • They vitalize each other: music motivates; yoga balances.
  • They affect our moods: from sadness to joy.
  • Each transcends gender and age.
  • To master them you must practise, practise, practise.
  • The Beatles were into yoga so it must be cool!
  • Chanting is a form of music.
  • Technology now allows us to bring music into the yoga studio with relative ease: not something the ancient yogis could do!
  • Music, like mindfulness and meditation, can focus and settle our thinking.
  • We cannot fully explain how music and yoga change us, but we know that they do.
  • They each have an ancient heritage which resonates with the human condition.

Music and yoga find the notes in us all

Very often musicians will describe music in terms of colours and images, as yoga does with the Chakras. The circadian rhythm of our sleep, our breath and heartbeat are at the core of our existence. Yoga engages us with our breathing, physical movement and thoughts. There is a musicality to that process in that it communicates within and without you.

The texture of our breathing and bodily tension is eased by yoga. As they are also eased by a melodic piece of harmonious music, a walk in a beautiful landscape, or a good book. These are all, I suggest, a yogic state of mind which takes yoga outside the studio and into our daily lives. Many people would not yet think of yoga in that way. This may provide yoga with an approachable gateway for promoting itself to more people who may have very fixed ideas as to what yoga is.

Music can bring out disturbing emotions and memories: as can the physical exercise of yoga or misplaced rumination during a relaxation. In fact, rumination (often thought of as over-thinking) is probably the major reason why we can become too emotional. It’s often a form of much needed release. Conversely, rumination if unchecked can lead to distress, anxiety and the impairment of one’s health.

Where yoga helps is that it assists us to counter over-thinking or an excess of emotion about things that can either excite or disturb us. Music plays a complementary role because it can break the cycle of rumination in a readily accessible, harmless way.

Finally, other sounds are known to have a very therapeutic effect. The sound of waves, rain or birdsong is often used to accompany mindfulness. These natural sounds have a musicality of their own in that they too have rhythm, timbre and harmony.

The skill is in choosing how and when one uses music.

Teaching or practising yoga with music

In part two I’ll deal with the planning, procedures, equipment and skills involved in successfully bringing music into your yoga sessions, as either a student or teacher.

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