Friday, 30 January 2015

Music and yoga — or not

Music and yoga can be a match made in heaven…or on the computer… or it can be a distraction, even a mild irritant, depending on your point of view, type of practice and music tastes!

Generally I love practising my yoga to music. I’ll choose music to suit my mood or the time of day or just my practice. I have a few different playlists depending on whether I am doing an uplifting practice or calming yin poses, or a bit of both, which is most of the time. Most of my selections have an upbeat start, rising (hopefully) in time to sustain me through my peak posture and then ebbing and soothing as I begin to cool down and hold postures for a while, perhaps in time for a few gentle forward bends or restorative postures. 

A well chosen track can encourage you through those challenging moments, when you’re hot, sticky and maybe beginning to flag. While a gentle, melodic tune can help you find release and reconnect with your breathing.

Sometimes I’ll listen to or throw chants or designated “music for yoga” into the mix. Mostly it is a random collection of sounds that work for me, tracks I could listen to over and over again and that really inspire me to get up and move my body — through a collection of asanas rather than dance. Yoga can be a little dance-like, linking movements and breath, choreographing a sequence of postures that work on the same area or emotion and build gradually and sequentially to a chosen crescendo — whether it is pincha mayurasana (forearm balance), Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow) or the sublime dancer posture itself natarajasana.

One of the studios I teach at is a quiet studio — a music free zone. That is lovely, too. Students can all hear instructions clearly and focus purely on the rhythm of their breath leading them in and out of the postures, with no background distractions.

Elsewhere, especially vinyasa flow classes at studios and gyms, music is deemed an essential part of the experience. I often quiz students on their preferences and gauge reactions to particular styles of music, such as traditional chants, or instrumentals over voice. I have two very close and loyal students with completely opposite viewpoints. One adores having music and is deeply disappointed when a sound system doesn’t work as the soundtracks really lift her spirits. The other absolutely can’t bear music of any kind with yoga. “I listen to it all the time at home, yoga is my haven of peace and quiet,” she said shocked at the very idea of having music in class.

Obviously some styles of yoga lend themselves better to music — flow classes for instance, whereas classic Iyengar and ashtanga classes traditionally don't have music — apart from the opening and closing mantras of ashtanga chanted
by the students! 

What do you think? Music or not, or does it vary on your mood or the soundtracks! 

Here’s some of my favourite music for yoga.....
Let me know yours!