Today I responded to a discussion on LinkedIn about music in yoga classes. As I wrote on this topic just a few days ago I felt to share on that discussion. I am posting below what I shared on LinkedIn.
The discussion is found here: http://lnkd.in/PaEB3A
The original question was:
Music in yoga class, yes or no?
I just started teaching a few months ago, personally i think music can be a destraction and i feel you might not so easy connect to your breath and innerself? One of my students asked me today if i ever thought abour playing some soft background music, she would like it. What are your experiences? Would love to hear peoples opinions. namaste!
My response to this question:
I first saw this thread pop up perhaps when it was originally posted 7 months ago. Having never experienced practising yoga with music I didn’t feel moved to address the question being asked. I simply had no experience from which to derive a response.
That situation has now changed. The other day a friend invited me to a yoga class she teaches. I have been somewhat of a teacher for her, and she wanted me to experience (and comment on) her class and teaching. So I went along.
I enjoyed having someone walk me through asana. I’ve been to very few (perhaps 10 to 20 at the most) “yoga classes” in the 25+ years I’ve been exploring the Field of Yoga. Yet music was playing throughout the class. As mentioned, I’d never practice yoga with music before. I found it surprisingly intrusive and distracting. The vocal music was especially distracting for me. I found the music over all detracted from entering into Yogic awareness. A lot of the music was in fact music I know and enjoy, ordinarily.
I very much related to what Jo-Ann Higgins has shared regarding her experience of 15 years with yoga + music, and then yoga without it. She “discovered what she’d been missing all those years”.
I have since learnt the music in yoga classes is very much the norm in the USA. I have also recently met a yoga teacher from the UK who had not experienced music in yoga classes there, and had her first experience of it with some American teachers in Costa Rica, and then in the USA when she lived there. Is it an American twist to yoga? Not sure… as I don’t have much experience attending yoga classes whether in the USA or elsewhere.
Based on my experience of my first yoga practice with music I wrote up an article. Some people may find it helpful or at least interesting. It is located here: www.hrdayayoga.com/211/music-in-yoga-classes — in the article I also touch on certain esoteric observations of music and what it can bring into an environment at a subtle level, typically in a detrimental way.
I will add that if I was to have background sound in a yoga class I would choose to simply have a Tamboura solo playing. It works well at blanketing outside noises (which will be common in many urban yoga classes); it does not introduce any discordant vibrations into the yoga space; it can assist people in going deeper; it does not introduce the mental and emotional vibrations of a singer or musician into the class. I am aware it can drive some people a bit nutty though, simply because it does take a person deeper and some people don’t like what they are faced with when going inward. In which case there may be situations to go for silence.
I am aware many people attending “yoga classes” today are not interested in, informed about, or ready for entering into the inner dimensions of Yogic Awareness. I get the impression they attend a yoga class in much the same way people use to attend aerobics classes in the 80’s. It’s a form of physical exercise and (for some) a path to greater relaxation. I suspect that if they desire music in a class this potentially reveals something about where they are at in relation to Yoga. I would be inclined to think that when they are ready to deepen into yoga (beyond form, beyond asana, beyond structure) they will no longer want music playing. They will find it distracting.
I appreciate that those who come to yoga asana classes for something other than spiritual liberation and conscious union with the Divine will quite likely want music and will find it to be a helpful adjunct to their yoga asana/exercise experience. If it keeps them coming, then so be it. One day, as the channels within their psyche open more and become clearer, it is likely they will eventually discover yoga practice is about much more than some exercises and physical/mental/emotional health benefits. If music in the yoga classes helps keep them on board long enough to get to that point, then so be it. A noble purpose has been served.
Another practitioner, Ann, replied with this to say:
Jonathan, I understand your position. And I strongly feel that having music or not is what it is… a choice. A person who prefers silence is–no more or less Evolved–than one who listens to yoga drums, chanting, rock, hip hop, native american flute or popular musicians while practicing yoga. My understanding of yoga and meditation and its practice is to become more centered within myself and within my environment and not to become Self centered or stand in judgement of others. We are all blips in this complex cosmic mosaic. I believe that yoga instructors and yoga practitioners should do what feels right for them in the moment….choose silence or music– it’s all good!
I was not entirely certain what Ann was wishing to communicate. Here is the response I posted:
Hello Ann. Without wanting to make any assumptions, based on my interpretation of what you have written to me, I get the impression you may have reacted to what I shared, in a way that was not my intention when I wrote what I did. But perhaps I am misinterpreting what you wish to convey.
I agree with you. It is absolutely a choice. For sure…
With regards to person’s being more or less “evolved”, I am not sure what this has to do with the topic at hand. Please explain, if you care to.
You said, “My understanding of yoga and meditation and its practice is to become more centered within myself and within my environment and not to become Self centered or stand in judgement of others.”
I am not certain I understand what you are wishing to express with these words. Would you please elaborate?
Am I correct in my interpretation that perhaps you feel I was being “self-centred” and “judgemental of others” because of my personal experience with music and yoga practice? Is that why you brought these statements into the discussion? If that is the case, I’d be interested to know in what why you received my words as “self-centred” and “judgemental”. Or did you have some other intention behind raising those points?
“We are all blips in this complex cosmic mosaic.”
Yes, I agree. We most certainly are… both the blip, and the cosmic mosaic.
“I believe that yoga instructors and yoga practitioners should do what feels right for them in the moment….choose silence or music– it’s all good!”
I agree with you. It is my experience that in doing what feels “right” (most “life-giving”, if I may define my use of that word) in each moment, I come into greater and greater realisation of my true nature, and what is obscuring That from emerging into Being. I also get to experience and face the challenge presented by the consequences of my choices, which is a journey into deeper awareness. If I only do what someone else thinks is “right”, this is also a choice, which must in some way feel “right” for me to make in order to make it. Again I get to experience the consequences of that. Either way… it’s a choice… and both ways I also get to discover more about myself. Thankfully.
The discussion continues: if interested, you can read the next part here.