Why Not Music?


There’s been a hot article on Elephant Journal lately. Written by power yoga teacher Philip Urso, he makes the argument that music shouldn’t be played in class.

Here’s the full article for reference and your reading. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/10/music-in-yoga-class-wtf/

In sum, his points for no music are 1. It distracts students from focusing on breath or pranayama. 2. That yoga teachers hide behind music to fill the silence 3. That it offers no “yoga” learning experience and 4. It makes students focus on the external rather than internal.
He points that Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras (written somewhere about 1700-2200 years ago) mentions no music. He also says he hasn’t heard one convincing argument for music in yoga class. Well here goes.

The final stage of the eight limbed path of yoga as defined by Patanjali is Samahdi. Samahdi is translated as bliss or consciousness, or ecstatic oneness. Believe it or not, everyone on this planet finds Samahdi, even if they don’t do yoga or follow tha spiritual path. If they didn’t, life on this earth would be pretty pointless. People find bliss, or present moment awareness in many things such as nature, tasting food, when your sports team wins, watching that awesome movie, or even ….listening to music.

Music, like Yoga, is connection to something greater than ourselves. Music is truly one of those things that touches all humans and there aren’t that many people on this earth who don’t appreciate some sort of music. Music has been around since the dawn of time, from beating drums, singing and chanting to rudimentary instruments. Today we are blessed with all forms of music to fit any mood or style. Music can bring you into the present moment in a heartbeat. It can elicit the gamut of emotional responses, especially joy and appreciation. Music is a gift from the source and is truly from something greater than ourselves. Why would I not want to be in the present moment, feeling rather than thinking, and finding joy, appreciation and gratitude?

Have you ever been in a funk when that perfect song comes on the radio? That’s the universe speaking to you. Speaking to us through music.

So why play music in a yoga class? Yoga is connection, or union. Union to what? It is a connection between ourselves and something greater than ourselves. Yoga isn’t the only thing that does this. I do agree every person on this planet needs to practice both physical and spiritual yoga, but it’s not the only answer or end all be all. The universe just doesn’t work that way. Music is connection. A connection between ourselves and something greater. A connection to each other and connection to feeling rather than thinking. It’s connection with the present moment. Sounds like the same principles of Yoga to me.

Music can make a good yoga class great. I am not saying you have to have music to have a great yoga class. Also, I am not advocating that music MUST be played in a yoga class. It’s just that music can help bring us right here and into the now and can create the full spiritual experience. I’ve taken and taught that class where the teacher has done their job properly. Made you successful from start to finish and then they play that perfect song at the perfect point. It may not be perfect for everyone, but perfect for you at the moment. You just completely let go and surrender to the flow. Is the universe speaking to you?

But if you are against music in yoga class, please listen to some of today’s modern spiritual musicians, such as Satnum Kaur, Krishna Das, Girish, Donna De Lory, heck even MC Yogi. Music is the real deal and when thought out and appropriate choices made in a yoga class playlist, it can bring us all together. It can bring you into the present moment. If yoga without music can move mountains, yoga with music can live forever. Both together and separate, yoga and music can heal, open, free and help find bliss.

I do think you have to be careful – it can’t be too loud, or too soft or not flow correctly with the class. I am also more of a fan of spiritual music in a yoga class, but all types of music can work. This is what being a yoga teacher is about. It’s about creating a sacred space for students to find space, to feel, to be present and to gain self knowledge. What does listening to your favorite musician do? Creates space for you to find present moment awareness , feel, be present and be happy, or sad, or whatever you want to be.

And let’s not forget fun. Yoga is serious, but it also needs to be lightened up. We are 21st century human beings with access to so much wonders, long from the time of Patanjali. Music is the top of the list of those wonders, especially with the proliferation of today’s modern music.

And if you haven’t, please support your touring or local musician. Just like your yoga teacher, they pour their heart out on stage night after night for you. Maybe you’ll find some Samadhi in the moment.


Update on 11/28 – Looks like I am getting outnumbered.

On By 3BY

4 Responses

  1. Cherie B says:

    Great article Bjorn and great food for thought. A few weeks back some of my fellow practitioners and I were talking about this very same subject, each with different opinions. For me, I have a hard time quieting my mind so the music helps me in many ways. During practice it helps me bring rythm and consistency to my breath but in particular, during shavasana, I find music essential for me to completely empty my mind and deeply relax. Maybe it’s because my life is so hectic and I need some music to ease me into appreciating silence or maybe it is simply that I love music both on and off the mat. Either way, that is the best part of our yoga community, we are all accepting of each other and respectful of each others preferences and opinions!

  2. Meme says:

    This is a great article. I think I’m pro-music at this point, the right music helps me get out of my head more than anything else. I also just really -like- music in my life. But I’m still very new to yoga so my analysis isn’t going very deep. I’m heading to Newport for Christmas and planning to go to a couple classes at Newport Power Yoga, and I see the author’s name on the schedule. Will let you know how it goes 😀 I’ll mostly just be sweating buckets the whole time anyway!


  3. Annette says:

    I am a yoga instructor who chooses not to use music. Once in a while, I enjoy meditation to music that I like to listen to. This being said, it is a challenge to find music that everyone in your class will connect with. Some music can be irritating for one and calming for another. I also believe that the silence is an important part of a yoga class. We are constantly bombarded with external noises as well as internal chatter in our minds. In this case, silence can be golden.

    • 3BY says:

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. It has been a long time since that blog and while we still play music, we also make sure to allow time for silence, especially at the beginning and end of class. Namaste.

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