I don’t think Pattabhi Jois was bumpin’ DJ Drez or MC Yogi while he taught a yoga class….. I’m not saying playing music in yoga class is wrong! I’m expressing quite the opposite and I’m saying times are changing. We are mixing the ancient art of yoga with old school hip-hop and new school dub-step.
What kind of music pumps you up? What kind of music puts you in a feel-good mood? What kind of music do you like to practice yoga to? Or do you prefer silence when you practice yoga? Every person will have a different answer and none of them are wrong. Different strokes for different folks.
Recorded music played in a yoga class is a somewhat new trend.
Nowadays, you can walk into a hundred different yoga studios and hear a hundred different genres of music blasting from the speakers or coming from live instruments. Certain types of music, or non-music, attract a certain type of student. In a yoga studio, it is now common to hear trance, dance, dub-step, rock, folk, you name it.
Traditionally, yoga was only accompanied by the breath and the instructional voice of the teacher. At times, the sound of live Indian instruments such as a sitar or harmonium would be thrown into the mix for a beautiful yoga experience. Silence in a yoga class assists in turning off all worldly images and helps to tune the mind into meditative peacefulness, while bringing the physical body into the picture as well. Quiet in mind and body, as you yoke (connect) the mind and body.
Traditional yoga music is usually made up of chanting, or mantras being sung, which is called kirtan music. All of these “approved” yoga sounds were the norm for many decades. These carefully selected sounds served the principles of focus and concentration. Kirtan music is made up of repeated mantras, usually in Sanskrit. Even if we do not understand the language, it is a fully charged mantra, full of intention and the listener will understand the meaning without fully knowing really what it means. Furthermore, it will affect the listener positively, just as the practice of yoga affects the practitioner positively.
In our modern, fast-paced society our brains are constantly being bombarded with noise. Traffic, jingles, sounds effects, conversations, ideas, words, words, words, and music, music, music everywhere. It’s sometimes a blessing when I attend a yoga class with no music. It allows me to give my brain a rest and fully focus on the teacher’s instruction and storytelling. At the same time, when I attend classes accompanied by music, I do appreciate carefully selected music to assist in the storytelling. Sometimes the music is a part of the story and it drives the practice.
Unless the teacher follows a specific method such as Bikram or Kundalini Yoga (these methods have strict guidelines), designing a yoga class is entirely up to the teacher. The sky is the limit in terms of creativity and how theatrical the class will be. At One Down Dog, our teachers craft well-thought out playlists for our classes. Each class type on our schedule has a certain vibe of music to go along with it. For example, the CHILL classes are accompanied by a soothing, mellow playlist (check out my CHILL playlist below). The SWEAT classes are extremely varied in musical flavors, but you can always expect a fun and upbeat, usually dance-y type of playlist (Check out my SWEAT playlist below).
Whatever type of music you enjoy, try it out for your personal home practice. See how it makes you feel. Does it work for yoga? Yoga is all about experimenting and trying new things, playing new music, and even turning the music off every once in awhile.
Article written by Brittany Kovler, Yoga Teacher & Holistic Health Coach
Check out her class schedule here.