yoga · yoga music

Music in yoga classes: yea or nay?

Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ is wafting up from the yoga studio below my apartment. I am having to exert massive amounts of self-restraint and not stomp through the apartment with my Fluevogs on. What is the teacher trying to do? Induce mass melancholy?

I’m particularly sensitive to this song. I love it, I love Leonard Cohen, I love Jeff Buckley’s singing, but this song became popular when my father died, so I associate it with that. I can’t find my happy place when this song is on. If it were to play while I was in a yoga class, I’m not sure I would be able to hold it together.

Yoga teachers and studios advocate for ‘fragrance-free’ zones, often quite zealously. How about they advocate equally for music-free zones? What gets one person grooving might cause another person to revisit some experience they’d rather forget (or not be forced to remember in public).

We know scent and sound are attached to memory, and we can use them effectively to recall and recreate past events. Rosemary plants were used in ancient times as a study aid. Students wore them on their heads.

Just kidding. They rubbed the leaves between their fingers while studying.

This would be the appropriate time to admit that I played music in my yoga classes most of the time, usually Jai Uttal, Deva Premal and others in that genre. When practicing with musical accompaniment on my own, it was more to the tunes of Social Distortion or Muse or the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Not lots of songs one after the other, just a few to help me switch ‘modes’. As soon as I felt my distractions sloughing off, I’d take away the music and be right where I needed to be, with the sound and rhythm of my breath as monitor and guide.

I wonder what would happen if more yoga teachers considered relying less on music to evoke a mood (or to distract students from noticing they’re nervous or ill-prepared). It could be fruitful, even revelatory.


One thought on “Music in yoga classes: yea or nay?

  1. I teach outdoors a lot in the summer and so there is no music. When I teach indoors the music is down so low it’s barely audible. I’m wondering why I bother.


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