Yoga with music?

Do you prefer doing yoga to silence or to music?257967

At gyms, community centers, and other non-studio settings, most teachers play soft, instrumental, unidentifiable New Age-y music throughout the class. At Iyengar, Ashtanga, and most serious studios, music is not a component. (Some flow teachers such as Shiva Rea do emphasize music in their sequences. Apparently, Rea might have six to a dozen “helpers” marching around to assist students, but she holds tight the deejay mantle and picks particular songs for particular sequences.)

The first yoga class I took was at a university gym. My teacher played music (although she never did so at her own studio). She said that in a loud, distracting gym setting, the music creates a mental focus for students. It helps them to concentrate on the yoga in the room, rather than on whatever’s happening outside.

I can think of only one Iyengar teacher who uses music to accompany asanas. That’s Ramanand Patel, and he uses a live vocalist, Mukesh Desai. But that’s a rare collaboration and only one type of workshop that he teachers.

In a community class that I will teach soon, I am debating about whether to play music or not. What’s your take on yoga with music? If you give music a thumbs up, what type of music do you prefer? Classical, jazz, Indian instruments, whale sounds?

If you give music (muzak?) a thumbs down, why?


Labels such as Windham Hill have long produced yoga CDs like this 1998 release, featuring the usual “smooth jazz” suspects, including, yikes,  Yanni!

Other recommendations, please.

7 thoughts on “Yoga with music?

  1. I use music, altho I chose selections without lyrics or, at least, not in English. I figure I don’t need the extra distraction and who knows how the stories would affect my students. Sometimes I go without music because, I’ve found a silent class to be more focused and intense (and my background is Iyengar), but I felt like it made most of my students nervous.

    I think it is a great way to help create a mood and keep people from thinking too much. On the other hand, maybe that is what they are supposed to be learning how to do on their own.

    I’d say try it both ways, design sequences with music (or silence) in mind, and see how it goes. I remember a wonderful home practice I had a few years back to Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra!

  2. I would *not* be able to do yoga to Yanni!! Yikes!

    I find that if the teacher is connected to the music he or she is playing, I can integrate it into my practice and have an enjoyable experience, even if it may not be to my taste. But if someone just puts on one of those “yoga mixes” that feels disconnected from the practice, it can really irritate me.

    I teach at a mission in my neighbourhood, and at times I’m tempted to play music to create “atmosphere.” But I also really like incorporating what’s happening around us into the practice: the busy intersection, people talking outside, sirens, dogs barking. It’s a reminder that yoga is not separate from the rest of our lives.

  3. In our teacher training, we talked about music or no music in class. Theresa’s take was that it’s fine as long as it’s instrumental or world music. “You have no idea where Fleetwood Mac is going to send people’s mind to”. In her classes though, there’s no music at all.

    I think if we want to be mindful of where we send people’s mind, that’s such a tricky thing to navigate, because how do we know what would trigger what?

    One time in a Power yoga class, the teacher played this mix tape of presumably background noise. It was your stereotypical yoga music, and there was a Vietnamese folk song. No one else in class knew what it was but me, and that triggered all sorts of memories of my mom singing it when I was young, and so on and so on. I was GONE outta that yoga room.

    When I teach, I don’t play any music, or if I sub a Vinyasa class where I know people are used to music and must have it, I play something like Thievery Corporation

  4. Well, as an Iyengar Instructor myself, we really aren’t allowed to play music during class. It just adds distraction.
    Depending on the ambiance and location of my class, and students of course,, I do , very occasionally add a bit of music to drown out bigger distractions, like dogs and weights and the karate class next door.
    This morning I put a CD, Aadil Palkhivala chanting the Gayatri Mantra over and over.
    Krisna Das works too.

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