Adonis Diaries

Why listening to your preferred music is not part of Yoga sessions?

Posted on: April 4, 2017

Why listening to your preferred music is not part of Yoga sessions?

Sarah Warde posted on FB this February 16, 2015 


Last week, a very awkward situation happened in my class.

I teach in a yoga studio which offers various styles of yoga, all with different teachers. Because of the “package” system, a student may buy many classes and try as many teachers as he/she likes.

This attitude doesn’t bother me, as long as it doesn’t become a “touristic” routine, a habit of choosing a class or a teacher depending on one’s mood of the day, a bit like asking oneself “shall I have chicken or fish tonight?”

Learning yoga requires serious commitment, and in my opinion, until one has not made the choice to stick to one teacher or lineage, then one is still afraid to dive deep into the knowledge that this path has to offer. A bit like anything in life, really.

So to make a long story short, I often get new students complaining about the fact that there is no music in my classes, that music is “fun” and yoga is “fun” too…

I won’t discuss the “fun” matter, as I mentioned it in my previous post. But this time, a new student was brave enough to listen to music on her iPhone, and spent the whole class with earphones on, unable to listen to my instructions. Of course, I let her do it. But I was nevertheless intrigued by her attitude.

I first encountered the idea of playing music when I started teaching. Beforehand, I had studied in an established classical hatha-yoga school, and I had also tried various classes in the lineage of BKS Iyengar, TKV Desikachar and SKP Jois, all students of ST Krishnamacharya, also known as the “father of modern yoga”. None of them had music in their classes.

In my training, I was told that the most important part of a class is silence.

When I passed my exams, I was very anxious about the instructions I had to give, and my teacher (P. Tomatis) kept reminding me that it didn’t matter: “What is important is what happens beyond words.”

And I find this to be the hardest thing about teaching, because one needs to be very calm and confident in order not to say anything and to trust that others will understand what they mean.

So to play music during the class is completely contradictory. Because music is distracting.

The sound is distracting, the words are distracting. They automatically trigger a mood, an emotion, a memory, a thought. And it’s actually the opposite of what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to still the mind.

As the Yoga Sutras say: “Yogas-citta-vrtti-nirodhah” = Yoga is the restriction of the fluctuations of consciousness. One may choose to practice with music as a challenge to be able to still the mind, a bit like students who practice in the busy streets of Mysore… but I don’t think it is seen from that perspective.

Music also induces a certain rhythm, when we’re actually tuning in to the natural rhythm of the breath. And when practicing with “Ujjayi” breath (ocean sound), then it is almost impossible to hear it when music is played.

From a historical point of view, in none of the ancient texts is mentioned the idea of practicing with music. One may chant mantras or meditate on the sound of Tibetan bowls, but it’s not the same.

A good question would be to ask ourselves: why do we need music in order to practice yoga?

Is it really essential, when alluding to the “essence” of the practice?


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April 2017

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