Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Yoga

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?

Any objective measurable Sciences behind Yoga and Stress?

There are two functional parts of the brain that play a key role in stress.

These serve the functions of emotion and cognitive function.

So I am calling them the ’emotional’ brain (amygdala and its connections and medial forebrain structures including the medial prefrontal cortex) and the ‘logical’ brain (the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, other parts of the prefrontal cortex, parts of the cingulate cortex and parts of the hippocampus)

(Humm. Now that names have been attached the science can proceeds)

Najat Rizk shared this link

How to get rid of stress

This is what bending your body into yoga poses does to your brain chemistry and nerve connections.

The emotional brain is able to initiate a ‘stress response’ via the sympathetic nervous system which culminates in adrenaline and cortisol racing through our circulation.

The logical brain is always trying to ‘turn-off’ this stress response and it is also trying to restrain the emotional brain.

The stronger our logical brain, the better it becomes at doing these two things.

When the stress response is ‘turned off’, our parasympathetic nervous system signal is ‘turned on’. This signal ‘relaxes’ the body. So a strong logical brain goes hand in hand with relaxation.

The stress response and ‘relaxing’ signals travel through the body along a particular route and parts of this route have little ‘switches’ which we can physically manipulate to turn the signals on or off.

The neck is an example of where such switches are located (by the carotid arteries).

Everytime we are holding a posture our logical brain is being activated
“Everytime we are holding a posture our logical brain is being activated”

Training the stress circuit

Yoga is training this entire stress circuit at two levels.

First, every time we are ‘holding’ a posture, staying very still to concentrate or trying to balance, our logical brain is being activated.

When we are bending forwards, our ‘relaxation’ signal is being turned on through the ‘switches’ in the neck. So bending forwards and concentrating at the same time is triggering both the logical brain and the relaxation signal at the same time.

Bending backwards triggers the stress response signal through the switches in our neck. Contracting a muscle also triggers the stress response signal.

So, when we bend backwards and contract our muscles while still having to stay still and concentrate on balancing, our logical brain is given an extra challenge.

It has to overcome the stress response signal being triggered in these two ways before we can be still and concentrate during a posture.

This ‘extra’ resistance the logical brain is having to work against, ‘trains’ it like a muscle.

New circuitry that enables you to find it easier to control your thoughts is formed
“New circuitry that enables you to find it easier to control your thoughts is formed”

Rewiring the nerve connections

At the end of a series of yoga postures, the logical brain has had a ‘workout’. It is buzzing with activity.

You feel mentally calm as it is keeping your emotional brain quiet. Training the logical brain in this way for a long time can result in a rewiring of the nerve connections within the logical brain.

New circuitry that enables you to find it easier to control your thoughts is formed. You may find it easier to channel your thoughts in the direction you want and not ‘dwell’ on negative thoughts or experiences.

This is partly why yoga seems to have a positive effect on depression and anxiety, where sufferers have a tendency to dwell on negative life events. Stronger connections within the logical brain keeps the lid down on the emotional brain and the stress response.

This is why yoga can be so effective at battling stress.

The key thing to do is to attempt yoga postures which are structured in a well-formulated sequence where each posture involves a long hold.

Then your yoga and stress will begin to be balanced.




May 2023

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