I never do or teach yoga to music. But one morning I scrolled through my iTunes library for something suitable. I chose Trans-Siberian Orchestra‘s Christmas Eve and Other Stories. (It was October.)
My favorite track is “Christmas/ Sarajevo 12/24,” their take on “Carol of the Bells.” Half listening in the midst of my asana practice, I found myself drifting down nostalgia lane… to high school band.
In the first clarinet row, I sat beside my cousin (I’ll call her JM), a year older and forever smiling. She was neither the brightest nor the dullest light, but that was beside the point. She had just the right tan and silky bangs. She was popular, and she had no problems.
I was more of an introvert and thin as a whippet, with fair skin and an unforgivable mass of curls. But JM was too ditzy to threaten, too bubbly to dislike. We shared jokes and giggles behind our shared music stand. Plus, she was a strong clarinetist and I was grateful for her presence when we played “Carol of the Bells.” The first clarinets repeatedly led the staccato four-note motif, which was a killer on the tongue and embouchure.
My practice was fine, if somewhat distracted. For now I prefer listening to music for its own sake—and likewise regarding practicing asana.
Music and pratyahara
While music rarely accompanies Iyengar yoga, I’ve attended general yoga classes where music is a highlight. I’ve read blog posts by teachers who spend hours creating playlists that’ll wow their students.
Music can be fun, and it definitely cranks up (or down) the energy level as needed. But, to me, it takes people out of their minds and bodies. Songs have unique connotations to us. They remind us of people, places, and the past. Should we be daydreaming in the midst of yoga practice?
Even a new and unfamiliar song alters our mind and mood. Often, I hear exalted world music played during Savasana, almost like a choral in a church. Likewise, should we rely on “yoga music” to get us in a yogic mood?
Music is fundamental to our arts, to our culture, and to our happiness. And it might superficially set the right attitude for asana. But isn’t music a sensory pleasure? Yoga is meant to wean us from the sensory pleasures. Can we align pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses, with that oh-so-cool class playlist?
GO TO PART II
Images: Vancouver snow; Putamayo Yoga CD