For some schools, such as Iyengar, silence is the only acceptable backdrop during a Yoga practice, while for others, such as Jivamukti, music forms an essential part of the Yogic experience. One of the best things about practicing at home is that we can go either way depending on our mood. Moreover, if we choose to use music, we can pick tracks that are suitable for us and do not distract us from the meditative aspect of the practice – in a class setting, a teacher’s choice of music may not always be to the student’s taste. I’ve practiced Yoga in complete silence, and I’ve also used music. Both provide an interesting experience, each unique in its own way.
I feel silence is great for a static practice, allowing me to go deep into the pose – “deep” as in aligning the mind with the body, not just stretching more. Silence is also good during a flow practice, when I specifically want to focus on the breath and need to listen to the sound of Ujjayi.
On the other hand, music also lends itself well to a flowing practice. If you use tracks with a rhythm you can follow, you can add an element of discipline to the sequence, transforming it into dance. Despite being overweight from early childhood, and even obese later on, moving the body has always been an essential way of expression for me. I come from a background of classical, modern, Latin, and even free-form/trance dance, so I didn’t need much prodding to transfer those experiences to my Yoga practice.
The other use of music is as a means to cover up background noise and provide a bulwark between yourself and distractions. I dunno, maybe when I’m advanced enough, I may be able to shut out that kind of stimuli at will, but at the moment, I need outside help to do so.
One of my favorite artists is Gabrielle Roth. Her music has a tribal, sometimes even jazzy, feel. I used to listen to it during my ecstatic dance phase, (I was following her Wave method at the time), and I find her pieces are just as well suited to my Yoga practice. She plays around with 5 specific types of rhythmic patterns, so I can pick tracks with a slower beat for a more static or meditative practice, or tracks with a faster beat for flows.
Another artist I simply love is Stellamara. Their album The Seven Valleys is one I often use in its entirety in my Yoga practice. I’ll often use it as a guide, adapting movement to each piece, going back and forth between dynamic and static sequences, allowing the music to set the rhythm and my body to fall into poses. It’s an almost trance-like practice where I simply let my intuition lead the way.
These are but some of the ways I use music (and silence) in Yoga. I’d love to hear how you use sounds in your practice.