Yoga & Music

There’s some controversy over whether or not music should be played during a yoga class. Some say its a distraction to the students and can take them out of the meditative state we all try so hard to achieve. Others say that having some chanting or gentle music playing in the background can set the mood for a class and help students get out of their own heads. Still others say that an expressive upbeat mix can challenge students to take their poses to the next level.

So - who’s right? Honestly, no one is. That’s the beauty of yoga and of music - it’s really a matter of personal preference to the person practicing. Just like some styles of yoga work great for some people and other styles of yoga don’t work so well there’s also room for flexibility in the world of music. Not everyone likes certain kinds of music. Some people don’t like chanting or listening to birds or the ocean on a cd. Others might find those very things to be just the ticket to a calming relaxing experience. The point is that it’s entirely up to you. It’s your yoga practice and your experience so it’s completely your decision whether or not you have music playing or not.

Now if you’re taking a class in a studio somewhere and one day the teacher decides to mix things up a bit by playing a new piece of music during class don’t get all up in arms about it. One of the best ways you can serve your yoga practice is simply by being open   to new ideas and what they might be there to teach you. So instead of instantly heading out the door to look for a new class stick around for a couple times - you might grow to really find the music to be helpful.

I personally have always loved music in my yoga classes. I’m not a huge fan of really intense or fast paced beats unless they really suit the poses we’re doing that day but a soft background music can make it a lot easier for me to focus on my poses and my breath instead of the other people in the class.

The way I relate to music in my yoga classes is this: Your mind has two sides to it right? It has the left brain and the right brain - right brain is all about creativity and left brain is all about analyzing. When you’re in your “zone” or your meditative state you’re acting primarily out of your right brain. So for me my left brain (the side that’s wondering whether or not I locked my car, when I need to return the library books, and how many calories I’m actually burning) is like a little puppy. And puppies need to be kept occupied or they get into trouble and start terrorizing you. So the music acts like a toy for my puppy - it gives it something to chew on and play with for a while so that I can focus on doing my yoga.

With that side of my mind occupied by listening to the music, picking out notes and sounds, and anticipating the next beat, the rest of me is left to breath and practice my poses. However, that being said, when I first did a yoga class with music in it I didn’t like it at all. I didn’t like the noise, I didn’t like the music chosen, and I found it rather distracting and “new agey”. But I stuck around for a bit longer and when my teacher changed cd’s to something that suited me a little better I realized what a helpful tool the music was in keeping me centered and focused. It was nice to have an almost automatic “off” switch for the side of my brain that wanted to chat it up while I was trying to focus. For the most part music is an invaluable part of my yoga routine now although there are days here and there that I don’t use it and if I hadn’t given it a chance I never would have found out how useful it is. Moral of the story: when it comes to music or any other new aspect of your yoga practice always give it a shot first to see if you like it and then make a decision about it.