Music in Yoga Class? WTF?

Via Philip Urso
on Oct 20, 2012
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I’ve noticed an increase in music being played in yoga classes, as I travel around the country giving teacher-trainings at studios.

Some studios actually require music to be played during class; some teachers get suggestions for a “class playlist” from students on Facebook and some play music softly, like elevator music.

I always ask the teachers, “Why?” and “What is it for?”

I don’t really care if you play music or not—but I do wonder why you might play it—and I have not heard one convincing answer yet.

It’s an emotional topic; I have seen teachers defend playing music as though it’s life or death. But I have yet to hear how playing music has anything at all to do with teaching yoga.

Teachers tell me that playing music in class is entertaining, fills the silence, gives the student something to listen to; it might make their class unique and help new people integrate more easily.

I confess, years ago when I started teaching, I played music in every class. And I used every one of the above reasons to justify doing so; some part of me knew it was a compromise of yoga, but I didn’t want to look at that. I had carefully mixed CDs, numbered one right up to number twenty-one. Then one class, I forgot my sleeve of CDs…and I was petrified! I immediately recognized why I used music: I didn’t think I was enough as a teacher—and perhaps, feared that yoga wasn’t enough.

I was playing music in class for me, not for my students. I used music to satisfy my insecurity as a teacher; to make my classes “popular,” to entertain the class…to actually hide myself from the class and  to avoid silence. Up until this point, I had never taught without music and my classes were pretty “successful.”

So, this day, with no CDs, I had to teach without music.

And right away, I realized I could really hear the class—this is critical information for any Vinyasa teacher—music had blocked this essential information.

I realized, in that moment, that I had been teaching an imaginary class in my head; I had been guessing at the timing of movement, transition and breath. Now, the actual class was before me, in all of their breath-reality.

I vividly experienced how music can hinder teaching Vinyasa yoga (I’m not referring to kirtan and chanting—I mean playing music in a typical asana class).

Without music, classes got a lot more dynamic and effective—when you get people really breathing, doing real pranayama, with focused awareness for an entire class, it is going to work. Transformative…way beyond mere entertainment.

When teachers come to my teacher trainings or when I give one at their studio, I get to spend hours with them working on their teaching. When the topic of music comes up, there is sometimes confusion among yoga teachers about what they are teaching. More than one teacher has asserted that yoga is “everything,” so “everything goes” in class—including music.

I agree that yoga might apply to everything but as I understand it, yoga is not everything.

Classically, Patanjali is specific; his Yoga Sutras say, “Do these eight, very specific things and you will awaken.”

The Sutras do not say, do everything you want and you will awaken. And nowhere does it say to play music.  

A prenatal teacher once explained to me that she played a certain song for her moms-to-be, in savasana, at every class. The plan was during delivery was to play that song and it would remind them of savasana. I pointed out that that was not yoga, either.

Her Pavlovian plan might work, I agreed, but it was clearly not yoga. Her plan required her pregnant students to seek something external to self, in this case a song, to produce relaxation.

If this is yoga, then drinking wine is yoga. Yoga is an internal focus; yoga could be defined as focusing on the internal to experience the eternal.

In other words, finding peace and clarity by first focusing internally on breath and body, as opposed to endlessly searching for happiness outside yourself, such as in music, wine, possessions, status, pleasure, etc. It’s not that these things are either good or bad, it’s just that they don’t sustain you in the state of yoga, clarity, union and happiness.

What is it for? I invite you to ask yourself this question about everything you do as a teacher. This question helps me to chuck everything that is iffy or not effective.

This is a living process.

My hope for teachers is that they continue to hone in on more and more effective teaching of yoga…what would a class feel like when all that is left is what works?

What is it for? How does music further our students’ learning of yoga…or does it just get in the way? Does external entertainment really help the student to focus within?

(By the way, disc number twenty-one was my last CD, because after that, I stopped playing music. And, not as a moral to the story but as a fact, my classes jumped in size. I believe that’s because, without music, I was more effective at teaching yoga.)

Relephant: Why I Don’t Play Music in Yoga Class.

Editor: Bryonie Wise

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About Philip Urso

Yoga Teacher Philip Urso loves to train yoga teachers how to teach exhilarating and unscripted vinyasa yoga classes. He co-founded Live Love Teach Yoga Teacher Training School with fellow yoga teachers Deborah Williamson and Stacy Dockins. His two 5-star podcasts on iTunes — A Crash Course in Miracles and Yoga Classes, Live Love Teach — have over two million downloads. Philip studies the dynamics of love and fear and teaches practical, reliable and lasting methods for choosing between the two. His Elephant Journal column explores these very themes. More info at


130 Responses to “Music in Yoga Class? WTF?”

  1. Renee says:

    Here we go again! I don't see how this even matters. Who cares who plays yoga and who doesn't ! Hello! Some people like music in their class and some don't. It's just a need to write a whole article on YOUR opinion . I play yoga in my class, my husband does not. I like music in my practice also , it inspires me. Why a.l these yoga rules all of a sudden! It's all shanti Om !

  2. Matt says:

    I have been thinking of writing a similar article about all of the cursing and swearing I have been hearing in yoga classes… And reading in articles about yoga. WTF??? … WTF?

    Do you feel you need to talk like that to be more popular? To get people to read? To be more cool?

  3. A yogi says:

    I found this to be a good point and that some yoga instructors do hide behind a good playlist to help increase interest into their own class. I do also believe that some music is actually beneficial to the students. Ambient music ,or strong vibration music like singing bowls are actually a tool to help drown out any thoughts, and allow the students to sink deeper into savasana. Coming together and yoking together, creating happiness is actually the goal of yoga. This being said I would disagree that all music is bad, but appreciate the awareness not to drown out your class with loud music.

  4. Matt says:

    And what about heat? Isn't that external? Why the need for all of this heat?

  5. Annie Ory says:

    I love what you wrote here Philip. I am building a studio, and currently training teachers, and I plan to send this to them and have a discussion about it at training this week. We won't play music in our studio, and my reason has always been simply: people receive INPUT all the time, noise, talking, music, news, inputinputinput. For many people in today's world, with their iPhones and their tablets and their tvs and their iPods and the general societal imperative to answer every text and take every call and fill every minute, yoga class may be the ONLY place in their world where they are alone with themselves in their heads – the way most people lived most of the time through most of human history. I want them to hear their own breath. Do they ever listen to their breath any where else? Do they ever allow any time for silence? It is a gift to leave the phone, the music, the noise, outside and be with themselves. As I've never taught with music, the impact on teacher is something I had not considered and am thankful for the perspective that the teacher also needs to HEAR the class. I find there are so many things to hold when teaching, I could use less distraction myself, and I hope to give my students the opportunity to be with themselves. Thank you.

  6. Annie Ory says:

    Oh, and I also been noticing that I struggle to let them be still in savasanah and have grown to feel that I should be talking them into a place of peace, when the peace they need to seek is within them. I'm going to get my plan set with a simple quote or statement or quote, and then stop talking so they can experience a few minutes on their mats without me chattering at them. Thanks for the nudge.

  7. timful says:

    Great article. In my experience music makes a yoga class more fun, while detracting from its instrumental benefits as a discipline. With music, it is more of an experiential escape that elevates my mood, but does not leave me feeling better equipped to face other challenges. I am just happier and don't care so much about them :-). Without music, I come home without that sense of elation, but feeling sharper and more capable to gain contentment by pursuing conventional ambitions. The yoga is more of a means to an end, but I must find that end elsewhere. I see room for both of these in my life. The challenge for me is that I will be too often drawn to the music, the more immediate gratification.

  8. Heather says:

    Music is and will always be the voice of the soul. It is not only a well known fact (proved by research and studies) as well as the general opinion of thousands if not millions of people that MUSIC heals, uplifts and is powerful beyond belief. People play music at very important times of their life. When they get married, funerals, celebrations, graduations and birthday parties. People sing, write songs and remember the tunes of GREAT if not OUTSTANDING music!

    If you do some proper research you will come to learn that it is not just the fly by night studios or teachers who play music but some well established schools of yoga like Jivamukti. It is a well known and accepted fact that they play music during yoga?

    WHY? Because if yoga is going to be taught beyond physical exercise, mental destressing and even beyond diet control….MUSIC has the rare and special talent to reach and touch a person's very soul. Whether is it hard rock or a soft ballad…..and in many studios it is KIRTAN (do you know it) and also a section of yoga called BHAKI-YOGA. And digging a bit deeper you may find some of these teacher are musicians themselves. Their passion lies in singing, chanting and sharing.

    On page xvi to xviii in David Life and Sharon Gannon's book entitled JivaMukti Yoga they write:

    'Perhaps because we are musicians, we also believed from the start that music could play an invaluable role in a yoga method dedicated to enlightenment. That's why we are playing uplifting music during asana practice and teach our students to sing Sanskrit chants."

    So, Music has a place. It is unfortunate you selected people or choose to discuss those people you talked to who don't know why. Or, maybe they just could not articulate what they intuitively feel it brings to a class.

    However, I don't agree at all that music lets you hide behind your teachings or lack thereof. Like everything in life if you don't us the tool wisely then it can be a distraction and may not add to the class at all. But to say WTF…simply missed the point.

    And with all due respect shows a lack of understanding and even to some degree of knowledge of what is going on in yoga classes and what has been going on for a long, long time.

  9. Edward Staskus says:

    Whenever I am at my dentist's office, whether for a cleaning or maybe to take care of a cavity, they ask if I want the sound system on, or the flat screen TV attached to the chair turned on to Oprah, or something pleasant like that. I know they are offering me distraction, but I tell them, no thanks, I know it is going to be unpleasant, but what I have learned through my yoga practice is to experience things as they are.
    I used to take vinyasa classes, and almost all the teachers played music. I always assumed it was to keep us on pace with the workout and distract us a little from the workout at the same time.
    I have been practicing at a Bikram studio for more than a year, and they do not play any music, at all. I once asked if I could bring my iPod, since by then I knew the poses, since they are always the same in the same order, and all I got for my pains was a very dirty look and an emphatic "NO".

  10. Hi,

    I just wanted to comment on your reference to the sutras passed on to us by Patanjali. Patanjali only spoke of asana practice very breifly. As with “music” he also did not express that “down dog” is vital to asana. That is where I feel your logic is inadequate. However, having said that, here are the things I will grant you: 1) Hiding behind a playlist may be limiting one’s growth as a teacher, especially if it becomes a crutch.

    2) Yoga is about observing inward.

    Everything else in the article I found somewhat offensive. Maybe its the tone you used in writing this because it comes off like this: If you use music in a yoga class, then you’re doing it wrong.

    Yoga is about inward observation. However, Patanjali elucidated nothing in his sutras about teaching asana classes with 5+ students present. What you may wish to consider is that personal practice and yoga studio classes (especially those aimed solely at the physiological benefits) should be considered separate expressions of asana. And perhaps music may be hindering the student’s growth if used in their personal practice, but I have a hard time believing that it becomes limiting in all contexts of asana.

  11. bflatbrad says:

    Great article, Philip! I do agree the WTF is a little too much, but not a big deal :)

    Now chanting after a dharma talk is a totally different story and I am totally on board with what Sharon and David are saying with regards to chanting.

    I have been a musician for over 20 years and I love music just as much as anyone else, but I do believe Philip is on to something.

  12. Bob Carocari says:

    I think that arguing about what is and is not yoga is a waste of time. I don't think Patanjali would know what to think of twenty people in $100 shorts doing high speed calesthentics, but I don't think he would call it yoga.We call it yoga though, and it serves it's purpose,which I believe is to alter our state of mind.I want my students to leave my class feeling joy, or at least with elevated hopes that is possible to feel joy,and I think that playing music way in the background that has a joyful tone is one subliminal way to make that happen.It would be interesting to hear comments from students about the effect that music in class has on them.

  13. bflatbrad says:

    I must be crazy for posting this, but here goes.

    If music plays such a role in the teaching of a yoga class, and is a make or break whether a student attends a class; then I think it is only fair to require yoga teachers to pay license fees to ASCAP, BMI, etc …..

  14. Howaboutit says:

    Hi Phillip,

    It sounds, from your writing and your responses, that you have already decided for yourself. You don’t want to play music. You don’t believe in it. You think that you have back-up from the Sutra and from Patanjali. You ask others why they do it, and you have never had an answer that satifies you.

    You never will. It sounds to me that you have already decided that no answer is sufficient. You have already decided that anything outside the Sutras is the “it’s all yoga” logic, which is not sufficient for you. You have already decided that the Sutras (or your interpretation of them) are the only answer, and anything is is too universalizing, and therefore not sufficient. If that is so, for you, why ask the question?

    One answer is that no one has to answer to you, or convince you.

    Another is that just like biblical literalists, and strict intrepreters of the Constitution, you are a fundamentalist.

    Another answer is that, contrary to your assumption that yoga is “inward” and music is from outside, music actually IS inside, and leads us further inward. Another answer is that just as some yoga teachers hide behind playlists, others hide behind endless gabbering, and still others behind cueing and breath. Hiding anywhere is always an option.

    But my final suggestion is that like anyone who needs to open to music, you need to unstop your ears and open your mind.

  15. Right on says:

    Right on. Sounds a little like the speech Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s character gave to the guy that kept interrupting him during his session in the living room in the movie The Master. Well said.

  16. Hatha says:

    This is all a bit too pious and, I don’t know, prudish. you do not have a corner on either the Sutras or what is or is not yoga.
    Music is throughout all life. All breathing animals sing or make sound with movement. It is not that yoga is everything. It is that music is deeper, wider, more complex trhan you apparently understand, experience, or respect. That is your own limitation Do not confuse that with others’ limitation.
    The music at our studio matches rhythm to breath. Sometimes it comes from taped music, and sometimes in comes from live drums. We are privileged to have generous musicians among us. In such classes, “asana” is precisely what it is supposed to do: marry breath to movement. In so doing, music helps students move inward, listen inward. Feel inward. Cast awareness inward and outward and THROUGH. Not just through the “self,” but also through and with the class, and with me, their teacher, and with the musicians. It is a shared experience of community. Yoga is not “inward” or “outward” any more than breath or movement or rhythm are. They are action verbs: they are ENGAGED. I suggest you change your ways of thinking. I suggest you relinquish your polarized categories.

  17. Michael says:

    Playing music for yoga really depends on what kind of music you are playing. Indian ragas and such can enhance a yoga practice for the simple reason that is relaxes the body and causes the mind to focus deeper. This is fact, music has an enormous impact on the body, even on plants. If the music you are practicing to in low density music like pop or rock or anything with lyrics really, that will occupy the mind in a distracting way.
    I play live music for yoga classes and I fell this is the best way to listen to music during yoga because the music is affected by the rhythm of the vinyasa and vice verse.

  18. flowjo says:

    When I read the article entitled, “I know it’s yoga, but WTF?” and found it was about mean girls, I understood the “wtf.” But this? Maybe you thought you were being cute, but it was a dumb way to title an article and introduce a subject that is in fact not seen as outrageous and anathema to yoga as mean-girl behavior. Music is deeply, deeply personal to people. I wouldn’t necessarily want to discuss my experience of music in yoga with a stranger, let alone a stranger taking such an aggressive stand. However, I also don’t think there should be some line drawn only “oh, only Indian music.” To that I would definitely say, wtf? Do Christians and Muslims only listen to middle eastern music? Even the music and verse now considered kirtan was once the popular music equivalent of its day. Stop being so culture-bound. For all the crap that has come out about sexual misconduct by yoga teachers, it should be obvious to you silly westerners by now that not everything that comes out of India or has been done, said or written by Indians is sacred. SO stupid! I love Bollywood tracks as well as Kirtan in my classes.

  19. Nicole says:

    I appreciate the invitation to inquire about all of our actions as a teacher…I notice in response to reading this that I do have specific intentions to playing music when I choose to play it. I relate to your definition of yoga as a practice that focuses on the internal to experience the external – and I also would add that the internal is the external and the external is the internal – – I have heard this being described as two pulsating as one – you can't have one without the other.

    I notice myself curious as to your perception definition of yoga. If music is not yoga, I'm wondering if you would define swearing and cursing as yoga? I wonder why you choose to swear while teaching?

    Having someone swear at me while I practice does not serve my avenue of peace, clarity, or happiness, nor does it help me with my internal focus. If I am looking for happiness inside myself, the chances of me trusting or listening to someone swear at me will not serve this, I would much rather listen to music.

  20. To Note says:

    “Heresy is the lifeblood of a mythology, orthodoxy the death of it”
    – Joseph Campbell.

  21. James Brown says:

    I think you missed that sutra that says to choose, as your object of focus, any thing that you find elevating. It's not your place to transpose your experience on to another person's path. If they find music elevating and int makes them focus, they are doing one those SPECIFIC things that Patanjali taught in his perfect method.
    BTW, I do not play music in classes, but I know a lot of very good teachers who do and for whom it facilitates the process of teaching good and authentic yoga practice to their students, many of whom will not even attempt practice without music.

  22. Jenifer says:

    There is an aspect to this that is often overlooked. I don't know why.

    Playing music in a public, profit-making venture without paying the license to do so is technically stealing and also illegal.

    I wrote a blog about why I don't play music in yoga classes here:

    And here's an article about what's going on in terms of this in Australia (copyright law in terms of ambient music in general):
    Here's an article, btw, about what's going on in Australia in terms of copyright and music:

    For years, I spent so much time having to justify why I didn't want to play music, usually getting overruled by my employers (at studios and gyms) and essentially "forced" to play music. For me, also having this level of 'it's unyogic to steal, and unless I pay the expensive license, I'm stealing if I play music in class" gives me some very, very firm ground to stand on.

    At our studio, we no longer play music in classes — this is my studio and my rules in this regard. It's inihibiting, yes. But ultimately, as the owner, I would be liable for the fees should I get fined or taken to court on this issue. So, the rule makes sense.

    And side benefit, we get all of these benefits of using silence in our classes. :)

  23. Jenifer says:

    sorry for the not-great editing there. LOL 😉

  24. greateacher says:

    I enjoy music in yoga classes.

  25. Maru says:

    I am a beginner and though I adore my teacher, I detest that she plays music during class. I find it quite bothersome and distracting; to the point where I am forced to use earplugs to drown out the loud noise. I realize we all have different preferences; but it’s precisely because of this that music during yoga class should be a no no.

  26. Aaron Warren says:

    Hmm, Back in the day; Patanjali’s day who knows if they were playing (or not) the Sitar during Shivasana? Yoga in the western world has evolved, last week I took a class in Ankara, Turkey. At the beginning of the class the music was so loud I couldn’t hear the teacher! It really didn’t matter as I didn’t understand the posed being called in Turkish/sandscrit. I do recall thinking of how distracting the music is… the teacher was very nervous and new having the poses drawn as stick figures on a piece of paper to use as a guide, and another thought came to mind; all teachers have a beginning. But isn’t yoga more about evolving as a person or a human? The fact that I pass judgment on the class and then have the awareness that I have judged to me is yoga. When can let go and let it be perhaps I just evaded war. To me this is the real test and the real possibility of yoga, sure there are going to be many differing opinions about to have music or not, but when I can accept it then I have grown and am moving forward in my own evolution.

    If you have read this far let me plug a really good book; “How Yoga Works” by Gesne Michael Roach”

    Om. Shanti. Shanti. Om.

  27. Heather McCaw says:

    I still consider myself more-or-less a beginner when it comes to yoga (though I've been practicing very seriously and daily for a year now). On the mornings when I really struggled, light music in the background helped me get into that space. When I am focused and everything is flowing, the music fades away and I pay no attention to it. Would it be any different if there were birdsong, waves, or traffic in the background? Many beginners are assisted by the music because of their level of practice. Later on, the need will probably just fall away gradually. Why be dogmatic about it?

  28. […] the original post here: Music in Yoga Class? WTF? | elephant journal ← Laughter Yoga on American Morning (CNN) With Sanjay Gupta […]

  29. michelle says:

    i'm a yoga teacher and couldn't agree more..the idea of yoga is to pay attention to your own internal takes it end up moving to an external rythm instead of to your own…i don't use music in my classes, but i do get alot of students asking for it. and there are alot of other teachers they can go to if music is what they want…make your breath your music and move to that rythm..but then again…each to his own..the people who want music will be attracted to the teachers who play it, and vice versa..this is also the freedom of finding what works for you in the now…live and let live.

  30. Satsang says:

    If Philip is so influenced by “A Course in Miracles,” it is no wonder he is rigid about what constitutes the “inner.” ACIM is pop-Christianity written by people who claimed to have been spoken to by in inner voice that was Jesus himself. It is a heavily packaged and marketed form of new age pop spirituality and has been rejected by many on theological grounds. I have no opinion about whether one’s “inner voice” might or might not have been “Jesus” — it could have been Barney the Purple Dinosaur, for all I care. My point is that ACIM places an intense focus on the “inner.” Yet you have to buy the package and purchase the classes to receive cues about how to hear your “inner” voice by “external” self-proclaimed authorities. Yet another oxymoron with spiritual “self-help.”

    Why hone in on this? Because I’m questioning why Philip needs to “question” others. Why has he posited himself as an authority to whom anyone might answer? On what grounds?

  31. DAJR says:

    This is an interesting discussion. What fascinates me the most is how highly defended music seems to be.

    What keeps coming to me is that we as yoga teachers have the rare opportunity to help people awaken from lives of uncertainty, anxiety, and frustration.

    We have the chance to teach people tools that can do this. In the precious little time in our classes, we have a chance to teach pranayama, asana and meditation, at least. This requires we teach our students to sustain focused awareness on breath, to explore and trust their living inner body through asana, and to meditate in a way that can open to real forgiveness.

    Can we really teach all that while blasting their awareness with what we hope are their favorite songs?

    If we are successful as teachers, our students can achieve the elevated state of yoga, at will, without depending on any external circumstance or stimulus.

    Some of you describe classes with music as leaving you in an elevated state that fades away afterwards like a temporary high. To me, a temporary elevated state is missing the mark; it’s another dead end. Isn't this obvious?

    Some of you have interpreted Philip's tone as authoritative. Isn't EJ a forum for opinions and discussions? I re-read the article. He sounds pretty neutral. He didn't claim to be an authority. He gave his opinion and he's asking for yours, just like most other EJ articles. Based on the number of responses, I think he started a successful discussion.

    Some of you have gone so far as to attack Philip personally for asking you to think about this question. It's been my experience when I have such a visceral reaction, there's usually something within me being protected and defended. It might be worth taking a look.

  32. G.C. Aloha says:

    You make excellent points. I've never been to a class that used background music; that just sounds pointless and distracting to me. I can see how an inexperienced teacher might use music as another "voice" to fill the silences. Some people are afraid of silence. But silence in a yoga class is a good thing. It aids focus and concentration, and as you say, then you can hear the breathing or know when your students are holding their breath.

    Sometimes, when I practice alone at home, I like to use music to inspire my practice. I have a few different yoga playlists with songs from different musical genres that I find motivating or moving, and I like to turn on a playlist and see what poses the music inspires me to do. Sometimes I will skip a song if I'm not feeling it. It gives me a lift when I otherwise am feeling not terribly motivated to practice. This approach doesn't inspire great sequencing; however, I could see matching a sequenced practice to a planned sequence of songs, and as soon as I'm feeling motivated enough to do that, I'll give it a try.

    For me, there is just one problem with a teacher playing music in class: what if the student doesn't like the music? I am very particular about music, and it impacts my mood strongly. Some teachers favor music that I find schmaltz or devoid of feeling and authenticity. If I have to listen to that in yoga class, then suddenly my practice becomes all about how to let go of hating the music instead of about focusing on asana in each moment. That's what's kept me away from classes that use music in the past.

    In the end, I think the teacher should consider the very apt points you make and consider why the music is being used before employing it. Above all, the class should be advertised as a class with music, and if possible, the playlist also should be advertised, so that the student can make an informed decision. While practicing to music is fun once in a while, I don't think it would be a great way to practice all the time.

  33. Joann says:

    This sounds a lot like my Mormon upbringing…some male trying to tell me what the "one true yoga" is all about instead of the "one true church". Not interested one bit.

  34. kathik says:

    I think Philip's most important point here (to me, anyway) is INQUIRY. Just know the TRUE reasons behind what you're doing, to look fearlessly and constantly. Isn't this the heart of practice?

  35. Ria says:

    Thank you Philip. Let those who want to hide, hide. Let them be under the illusion that they are teaching Yoga. Ahhh in the west anything and everything about Yoga is up for the taking. I did a teacher training (gosh never again) where the teacher loved to play the song "I'm bossy" she said to play that so the teacher and students know who is in charge. omg seriously sooo funny.
    If the goad of asana practice is tristhana then seriously how is one suppose to achieve that with loud music being played. I just want all the teachers who teach asana with music to call their class 'stretching with music' and not Yoga.

  36. Anne says:

    Musicians tap into the thing below the surface, that thing that connects all of us to something greater than who we think we are. Musicians are yogis. They surrender into the wild, the dark, the light and the tender. For a moment music can make you remember who you are. Sometimes music can help us go there-deeper into the practice. Sometimes not. There are no guarantees. I teach a class with both music and silence. I respect both ways. On the yoga mat, there is no right or wrong.

  37. Taylor says:

    Why fight? Why say yours is the real yoga and what others do is not? Where is your generosity of spirit?

  38. Mia says:

    Music can influence the pace of movement asweel as ambience. In my experience music is what feelings sound like and it really should come from an organic place. Yes I agree if you are talking about techno (which is a reflection of stress) or modern pop (too many lyrics and most of the time dumbed down). Lyrics can take us away from our focus especially if you here a song you recognise and can relate too. Other than that I do believe there is appropriate music for a Yoga space. I teach yoga myself and always try to make sure that the pace is slow to influence a relaxed state with slow deep breathing and also that the artists are coming from an organic place. It makes us feel human and thats what music should be. Its really what feelings sound like. Its pure innovative and creative. Present. Music should teach us those things just like the movement meditation concept should. I am sure there are teachers who hide behind the music but with my lessons it was more about including sound. without it I feel challenged as there is a silence and that is also agood thing and I like to play with that sometimes.

  39. Klass says:

    I struggle with the music concept, I have tried and failed on a few occasions, to get a vibe though a vinyasa with a song. I think this article was a timely reminder to me to stop hiding behind "noise". I am in the process of weaning myself off the "need: for background noise while leading a class. I currently only play, low, instrumental music. But my next class silence. Thanks! I too agree with the swearing from teachers, not necessary! BUT, having said that I personally love a personal practice to my favorite tunes, it allows me to actually get deeper into myself, and actually focus on the inner, but it may not translate to a class situation. Some days music, some days silence depends on my mood.

  40. papillon says:

    the music isn't for the teacher. it's for the people attending, if they like it- that does not make it wrong. i think the people that enjoy asana practice do not care very much about how much more enlightened all you yogis that are 'doing it right' are getting. we're happy for you. keep up the good work. some people have very stressful jobs (that is a real job) and are looking for an environment to unwind in. If you have not lain in savasana while 'Jewels of Silence' by Ashana & Thomas Barquee was playing, then I'm sorry for you. If you have never done Sun Salutations to 'Saltwater Mournings' or Amora's Soul', by Ashana Sophia Morrow, then I am super sorry for you, and if you really want a full house full of newbies, do a full class to Sting, 'Symphonicities' mixed with some of his softer stuff, and they will come for the music– but they will return again and again for a completely different reason.

    Some people don't want to transcend into perfection, they just want to enjoy the present moment. it takes a while for someone that has never practiced to begin to enjoy the sound of breath and silence broken in with the voice of a profoundly enlightened narcissist that means well. The right music is also important, not a fan of anything loud, harsh or distracting, and that goes for the instructor, too.

  41. maya says:

    music is the breath of life, it is beautiful, and sound & movement are intimately linked. This is your opinion that they don't go together, not a fact. Let people feel what they want.

  42. Steve Clark says:

    With all the comments about "Patanjali" here, it inspires me to draw everyone's attention to the post on this blog entitled, "A Woman Authored the Original Yoga Sutra." Perhaps if it had been titled, "Patanjali, WTF?," more of you would have read the post and now be crediting the YS to "Gonika."

  43. livetstrae says:

    thank you for writing about this – it gave me something to think about :-)

  44. Joe Sparks says:

    Thanks Phillip, this is a great opportunity for both groups to work on their feelings around this. You might ask yourself, what do I have to face, feel, discharge if I couldn't play music in yoga? Or, what do I have to face, feel, discharge If I had to play music in yoga? It is useful to get the feelings out of the way, before you decide what makes sense, for you as a teacher, your students, your studio. We all have hurts around our thinking, and have not healed from it. Trust your thinking. No one can tell anyone what to do. Waste of time.

  45. WDW says:

    So if you practice yoga in a class, you really are not practicing yoga. The practice is done one on one with your Guru then all by one self. Yet here we are in the modern capitalist society telling our students and eachother what is and is not YOGA.
    Yoga is union and anything that disrupts union is not yoga, but let's blog about it and make it our livelyhood and build our yoga buisness. Does anyone see?

  46. Sarah says:

    I used to always play music, usually JS Bach for solo piano or cello. Bach is the sattvic music I've ever heard.

    Eventually I, too, realized it was a screen, a crutch, ambient clutter. Now I like the quiet, but sometimes the students ask for music again…so I oblige.

    But really, I like the quiet.

  47. Birgitte says:

    For some it is sufficient to have a good workout and listen to nice music. I see no problem with that. I just find myself unable to teach that way.

    Music dropped out of my classes early on as i realized that it subtly manipulates the students state of mind (and my own too). Making them feel ok and comfortable even if they are having the worst day of their life. Giving them a break, easing them in, making them feel serene for 75 minutes. But i want to help people deal with the life they live here and now. To do that i need to invite them to come to the mat just as they are. So no music, no clapping, no smiley voice. When the music stops and they go back home they will have no soundtrack to take the edge off. I want my class to prepare them to find peace with what is actually happening.

  48. thank you so much for this. finally. amen.

  49. Yoga Teacher says:

    Amazing blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything.

  50. Sharon_Marie says:

    Wow. This is such a GREAT topic. IMHO, The "teacher" side of me – Music distracts me from focusing on the student(s). The "practitioner" side of me – Music takes me out of my practice. I can't hear my breath. I can't get deep into my meditation, on my breath at all. ( i don't know if this matters, but I personally need as little distraction(s) as possible to get this sense of going deeper into my practice and I do gravitate towards the Ashtanga practice) The "emotional" side of me. Music does MOVE me on some energetic level; an emotional, wonderful frequency. SOMETIMES a beautiful piece could be played during savasana and i get wonderfully lost in it. Music invokes a FEELING inside of me. Vinyasa yoga and the Breath invoke a, i don't know, a medicinal quality, like, I FEEL more centered, I FEEL more grounded, I AM calm. Music takes me somewhere, but not THERE. Does that make any sense? Do I need music to teach a class? Do I need music as a practitioner? Do I NEED ANYTHING EVER? I do not know. I think self inquiry, and to Philip's point, WHY music during class is always a beautiful place to ask as a teacher, as a student.

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