When we meet for dinner parties where we expect people to talk we play some background music to cover the noise of the chatter that is gentle enough so everyone can hear themselves but not the immediate others. When it is a dance party then the DJ decides what to play. In this case, there are not long conversations in the room because people dance or go out to talk to each other. They play loud music at various gym classes like Step, Zumba or whatever, where everyone sort of moves to the beat so the music is an essential part of the class, also the instructor is able to cue over the loud music because s/he is wearing a microphone.
My point is even when we are made to listen to some kind or music, there usually a reason for it so we can live through that event or ignore the music. At other times, everybody listens to their own music. It is not polite to force others to listen to your music when do not have a say in it.
What about yoga music? I can categorically argue here that the best playlist on iTunes for yoga practice is my Summer’18 playlist for anyone and everyone as well as to listen to and dance to but I’d probably be wrong as, to my horror, I can imagine two or maybe three people who would not like my songs.
So, I looked up “yoga music” on iTunes and quickly looked through the suggested playlists. Some had yoga mantra and chants, some classical raga music, some were “ambient” or “electronic” music, and some had “spa music” in the title. There were others with current Pop songs, too. I am not going to discuss here Apple’s algorithm for selecting music for yoga for me but the songs that I had a quick listen sounded awful, really awful. I cannot imagine myself doing yoga accompanied by these songs. Yet, many yoga teachers play this rubbish in their classes.
Long ago, I stopped playing music during my classes. Though likeable to me, the music was either too loud that it ringed over my voice or too quiet that the static from the speaker gave everyone seizures. I would still play the sound of rain tapping on the roof or the vawes or spacey kind of ambient music during savasana but even that bothered me, so I stopped it altogether. I have stopped going to other teachers’ yoga classes only* because I cannot stand the music they are playing, let alone do asana whilst keep my focus on my breath and my dristhi here, bandha there. When I like the particular song then I keep rhythm with my head, fingers etc…
I used to play some music when I practiced on my own. Now it is very seldom and it is usually because the song inspired me to do yoga not the other way around. I find a quiet yoga practice more centred, more inward and more mindful. Yes, finally I am making my point.
I think music, and I mean any kind of music, during yoga practice is disturbing. It keeps the students’ focus on the external and the inner sounds of the person become inaudible. Another point is that because different songs would have different decibel levels, the teacher either has to shout the instructions or nobody hears them.
When we aim to have at least some degree of mindfulness in asana practice, the natural, existing sounds of the yoga room are a part of that environment and they are a part the awareness process. We want to notice all of that but adding to that environment some rubbish music that the instructor thinks or assumes suitable for the day’s practice is counterproductive. A yoga class with music is only physical exercise for me. It can never become a meditative, self-inquiring practice that links the asana to the breath, the breath to the gaze, the gaze to the asana and in turn I can hope to share the experience with the others in the room quietly. I for one prefer a quiet yoga practice.
What do you think as a yoga practitioner, as a yoga teacher? Leave your comments below.
*not only of course… some exaggeration here!