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Does Music Have a Place in Yoga Class?


There appears to be an unspoken debate about using music in yoga class. Sometimes classes are accompanied by soothing melodies, devotional chanting, or even all out of rock. Other classes lean towards no music at all. It's gotten me to wondering -- is there a version that's best? Or, like most things in yoga, does it simply come down to what feels right for you?

In my own teaching I have covered all sides of the spectrum. When I started teaching, music always accompanied my words. I found that music helped to calm my new-to-teaching-nerves. It created an anchor that I could draw inspiration from to structure a class and inspire my students. Plus, some of my favorite teachers use music woven masterfully into their classes so I thought it seemed like a great idea to follow suit.

And yet, after a few years of teaching and, frankly, listening to my small selection of mixes over and over and over, I decided I needed a bit of a musical break. I'd like to say I was inspired by the desire to move towards stillness but, really, I was just tired of all my songs. I'm not a DJ and I didn't want to be one. So I turned the iPod off and just taught.

And then an interesting thing happened.

I found that, for me, turning off the music helped me to focus on the energy of the room and the rhythm of my students' breath. It allowed me to feel more in sync with my students and it felt like they were able to reach a depth of stillness that I hadn't seen before. And so it stuck.

Has this experience caused me to swear off all music in yoga? Definitely not. Sometimes it feels like the room (or maybe me) could use a bit of a musical lift and so I pull my iPod out. I also love live chanting so I weave that into the beginning and end of class as often as I can. I love going to yoga classes with music and without. So I guess I would say I am firmly planted somewhere... in the middle.

For those days that you lean more towards the musical side, visit our monthly playlists for inspiration or check out this Jivamukti sequence set to a downloadable musical track.


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No. It's totally distracting.

I think it's pretty much up to what feels right for you. I appreciate soft, inspirational world music or no music.

I like both. The power music has is its ability to get us out of a "thinking" state and into a more "feeling" state. This combined with asana can be very effective in removing emotional blockages in our bodies. A class with minimal verbal instruction and music playing can be fabulous. But, not all of the time. Nothing quite like the quiet and juicy stillness of meditation.

I love music that is not too loud or the wrong style - so it's not invasive. I really really love music though. It takes me away from outside noises like cars on the street, or other people breathing, and it can be a cocoon where my teacher's voice and I are the only one there. It is especially uplifting or meditative in savasana.

I happen to like having music as I practice, but the music has to be good and less distracting.

I took a hip hop bikram class, but of the 70 minutes of class, there were only four true hip hop songs. The rest were nowhere near being considered that. The instructor kept saying "feel the energy from the music" as you do sun salutations, but I wasn't feeling that energy.

When I took home the vinyasas I learned in class and set them to my favorite hip hop songs, I was really energized and relaxed.

It really depends on the music and the atmosphere.

I agree that silence is often a virtue. I love the way you've described your progression from almost needing music when you first started out to eventually preferring no music most of the time. I went through a similar transition in my personal practice. I usually prefer silence so I can concentrate more on the actual sensations of the asana.

That said, for anyone who doesn't think music belongs in a Yoga class, let's not forget that the Yoga Sutra itself says that the practice of concentration, once learned, can be applied to ANY object or activity.

So it's certainly great to make the music itself the object of one's meditation. The Yoga Sutra contains other examples that are very much like this, even though it doesn't specifically mention music.

Of course listening to music can also be a form of deep meditation all by itself, apart from asana, as I describe in:

"Yoga and Mozart"

Good post. Thanks.

Bob Weisenberg

I think it's totally distracting. I never thought teachers needed the music, but was stunned when I substituted at a gym and the students complained because I did not use music.
I believe that when folks want music they are missing out on the joy of listening to their inner selves.

As a singer, the combination of music and yoga is ideal for me. When I practice, I really enjoy the use of music in a yoga class -- and I also enjoy the silence. It gives a different feel to the class or my home practice, for sure. It helps me get through a challenging set of poses, but I can also see how it becomes the focus, rather than a connection to the body and breath.

When I teach, I always open by chanting the Anusara invocation when it's appropriate. I like to play music as people are coming in and getting settled. I sometimes will quietly play a chant during savasana as well. I've noticed a change in the energy in the room when there is music playing as they come in.

I think I am in the middle too, sometimes music really adds to the class. Once in yoga class I was particularly emotional after a very stressful week and during ssvasana the music sang about water washing over you and felt like I was in the ocean and I just stated crying I couldn't control it. While this expierence at the time was embrassing it was also healing. Sometimes I feelt he music helps me other times I just tune it out or am happy to have the silence.

at first it feels odd not to have music to accompany yoga or meditation, but after a while, it feels better not to have it :-) just me

I guess the thing with music and yoga (unless it's Deva Premal) is that you can't please everyone all the time. Even teachers who normally play good stuff have put something on that has made me cringe during savasana, which kind of spoiled the class... But I feel the positive points re music and yoga above too!

Music in yoga is a bastardization of the practice. It is the antithesis of minfulness and concentration. Yoga in America is a commercial experience. It has become another staus symbol. Sell me the studio, the clothes, the video, the magazine and equipment.

Simmer down. Get on the mat and cushion. Pay attention. Only you can emancipate yourself.

I love music in class and here's why: the students love it. Not everyone who walks in the studio door is able to concentrate fully on their breath and asana yet. Music helps students to ease into a place of comfort where they can do this. For the already dedicated/seasoned practitioner, if concentration is the goal, you should be able to tune out the music. Simple as that.

In my personal yoga practice I like to have background music, as others have mentioned, if it is the right kind. When it's right I almost go into a trance like state while in the different poses. Sometimes it helps me take my mind off the muscle stress I fell when an instructor asks us to hold a posture too long.

In my community in Northern Colorado, I've been to classes at several studios (and gyms) in town, and the instructors ALWAYS play music. I wish I could find a teacher who didn't bring music to class.

I tend to agree with George, Bob Weisenberg and Nancy -- music in most yoga classes is a distraction from my desire and the call to listen to the "sounds" stirring within my own head, heart and body. I want to notice my discomforts. I want to revel in my success. I want to be able to give 100% of my attention to myself, and then pass through that attention and let 100% of it go. I struggle to approach that when music is playing in class. I understand that the point of practice is to find peace and balance amidst chaos, but I don't believe my instructors mindfully choose to play music for that reason.

As I write this, I'm realizing maybe it's not the music that's the problem. Maybe it's that I feel undervalued as a student (and paying customer) when when instructors fiddle with their iPods and switch out cds. I often feel like they are focused on getting the music sequence just right, how much time they have before the track ends, etc. rather than attending to students' needs. I hope that doesn't make me sound like a troll. ...Is it appropriate to speak to teachers about this issue? How might students begin or structure that conversation?

I experienced a similar realization in my yoga classes last week. We were practicing Pranayama at the beginning of class, really listening to the breath, and I simply forgot to turn on my music. I didn't realize it wasn't playing until the end of class, when I habitually leaned over to shut off the CD player as my students relaxed into Savasana. What I did notice, however, was the depth of the energy in the room, something I'd missed in classes before. I'm not sure if the energy itself was different as a result of the silence or if I was just better able to notice it. Either way, as a teacher, I had a greater awareness of my students, and I look forward to playing with the musical dynamic in classes in the future.

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