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. Philip says:

    I agree that it’s all good but I’m just asking is it all yoga? What is it for? How does playing music help you teach the specific practices of yoga ?

  6. Philip says:


    You are on to something. Wtf could be replaced with “why?”

  7. Philip says:

    But still isn’t music external ? Isn’t the goal of patanjali to teach us the state of yoga regardless of external stimulus?

  8. Thaddeus1 says:

    With all due respect, Renee, I think Mr. Urso's point is that the idea you express with "it's all good," (while perhaps popular and common parlance amongst a particular crowd of western "yoga" practitioners) is not actually to be found within the canon of yoga. As it turns out, he can back up this claim with reference to yogic scriptures, which he alludes to in this piece, whereas, you would probably have a much harder time finding any support for your "it's all good" philosophy. Thus, when it comes to stating one's opinion, it seems that you are perhaps the one guilty of such a charge.

    And it's not that there are a bunch of yoga rules "all of a sudden," quite to the contrary, it is only recently that the multitude of directions and rules governing the practice of yoga have been willfully ignored by those who want to take yoga and make it their own. I would suggest that yoga is a discipline, a science of self-realization if you will. It's not a philosophy of "feeling good," "doing what I want" or "finding inspiration" and applaud Mr. Urso for pointing this out.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. Heather says:

    I find this question is like asking why do we practice the postures of yoga? They are external? We are still stuck in our body? We are still doing exercise on one level? We are still attached to the body and all the sensations?

    We still need to drive in a car to get somewhere, correct? So unless we can all figure out how to get somewhere without an external 'instrument' or tool then I guess we can abandon the postures and a lot of other stuff too.

    It is a tool. A means to getting some place else.

    In an ashram in Mysore one entire section is dedicated to music. They even built a whole hall. They play music to bring people someplace else, to soothe the soul, to get people to relax…to get them to lessen their defenses.

    Patanjalim's yoga is about non-attachment. So until we figure that out we need to use our tools wisely…not simply abandon them because they are 'external'.

  14. 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".

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. Philip says:

    I totally agree Heather about the use of tools. But isn't a yoga class a place to practice the using the tools of pranayama and asana and meditation? So still I ask, why do we play music in class? How does that help us learn to use and practice the tools of yoga?

  18. Philip says:

    I'm not against music as I say in the article. And, again, in the article, I say that this is not about Kirtan and Chanting (which are forms of mantra meditation in themselves) and not the same thing as playing music during class.

  19. Philip says:

    You gotta love Bikram!

  20. 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.

  21. Philip says:


    The Sutras are sparse on Asana as you say, but not on principles.

    What I do as a teacher is try to compare what I am doing with the principles. And I am always asking, "why?"and "what is it for?" I am seeing more and more music being played in studios and the response when I ask why is either irrational defensiveness ungrounded in Yoga principles or teachers who have never asked "why" themselves.

  22. Heather says:

    Some folks would argue that if that was the thing that got that particular student to come out to a class (music)…then it would be better than sitting at home eating potato chips! If that's the hook (same with hot pants, etc…) then you have to wonder if in time some real yoga (meaning more than for exercise) will sift through.

    As far as I understand it…and just for the record I have never played one single note in class..and have been teaching for over 16 years………it is used to bring people into the mood. It is perhaps a starting point for people to connect to the breath, to their body and to the act of practicing yoga.

    I recall many years ago a woman totally freaking out during the resting period. She was having a severe panic attack because of the silence. Now, certainly this speaks to her lifestyle and perhaps the need to have a bit of silence….But the abrupt change for her was too much! She was used to a class of yoga with music and it was far too scary for her to enter resting without.

    As a teacher I learned a very valuable lesson. I should NOT assume that just because I am used to feeling the alone-ness that others are also feeling safe and secure with that. Music then as I see would be a way to ease people into such…and then you slowly get them off of it….(as the hidden agenda)…..Kind of like teaching the headstand with the wall….slowly you remove the student from the wall and they can conquer their fear.

    OR, you use music with lots of discrimination…and then Patajalim would be proud!

    In the end, I can see it helping people feel more at ease and trust is a HUGE thing these days!!

  23. 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 …..

  24. timful says:

    Without a doubt, the music adds to my joy as a student. And, there are times when that is blessing enough. But, in stepping back to look at the longer trajectory of my life, I see there is also a deep satisfaction and contentment that comes from certain achievements. And, yoga without music seems to better sharpen my focus and make me more effective toward those ends. I leave class eager to do something. The classes with music tend to leave me satiated. I am done. I am happy. Nothing more remains to be done.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. As a musician whose music does get played in yoga classes here and there, I want to thank you for saying that. I would love it so much if the yoga community were more supportive of the artists behind the kirtan/chant/yoga music that ends up in class playlists. If I had a dime for every time I've seen a burned copy of a kirtan CD at a yoga studio…..

    That said, I also realize that yoga teachers and students who hear and enjoy the music in class sometimes ask about the playlist and go on to purchase the music themselves. And sometimes they show up at the live kirtans. Some teachers publish their playlists on or elsewhere so their students can find and support the music they like. I would rather that someone who can't afford to purchase my music obtain a burned copy—maybe they will pay it forward some day by coming to a live event and bringing a friend, or buying a CD. If yoga teachers had to pay ASCAP and BMI for the music in their playlists we might miss out on the opportunity to reach a broader audience with our music.

    As an Ashtanga yoga practitioner, I'm quite fond of a silent room, where the music of breath and bodies transitioning from pose to pose comes into focus. And then sometimes I go to Giselle Mari's Jivamukti class and get to hear awesome 80's dance tracks that make me smile and experience my usually serious practice in a more light-hearted way. As a Vinyasa teacher, I often begin class by sitting together with the students and singing a little kirtan together, before we move into asanas. I find that it fosters a feeling of community and brings a sweetness and open-heartedness (is that a word?) to a practice that sometimes just gets really intense. I also sing to them in savasana in some classes. Sometimes I teach with music and sometimes it's a really thought-out playlist that I intend to be very much a part of the experience. And sometimes I teach in silence, with no music, and try to keep my words to a minimum to give them lots of space.

    To me, there is value in all of these choices. I loved the "What is it for?" question in this piece and think that that's the real heart of the matter. Not so much about whether playing music or not playing music is best, but the importance of constantly questioning what and how we teach.

  29. Philip says:

    What does it matter what I think. I’m just asking you to consider this question. This isn’t personal -to me at least. As i said in the article i don’t care whether teachers play music or not. I just want to ask yoga teachers to consider why they are doing what they are doing when they say they are teaching yoga.

    What is so threatening about this question?

  30. Oh and one other thing. Teaching yoga skillfully is really about giving the right practice to the right people at the right time. In some situations, playing music in class might help the students to concentrate or feel inspired. Especially for people who are newer to the practice. In other situations, it might be a hinderance. In the end, music playing or not playing is just another environmental condition, like the window being open or closed, or the heat being on or off. The practice is the same. If we have a strong preference or aversion coming up because of the external conditions, it might be a good thing to investigate….. 😉

  31. ufo says:

    I think the annoyance is with the implication that yoga teachers have not already done so. That said, if you have settled the matter for yourself to the point where you feel that it doesn’t really matter what you think, why publish a column stating what you think and challenging other people to convince you otherwise? This is an open forum, not a teacher training session you’re running. You’re among equals here — write like it. It seems you’re the one threatened by others who have chosen differently. I agree with other commenters that your thinking about what comprises “yoga,” “breath,” “inward,” “outside,” “self,” and “hiding” and yoga versus everything else” are a bit, well, rigid. Again, if this pleases you, hey, go for it. But it’s pretty odd. The Sutras are from ages back in time that could never have imagined a yoga student population dominated by women, let alone one that included music. So what?

  32. 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.

  33. clockers says:

    Dude, you’re not Socrates. Don’t be so put upon that people don’t like you playing the role. Given all the scandals and shit that have twisted the yoga world, esp the latest one, most teachers are questioning why we do what we do and what is yoga and what isn’t. But yeah, if you’ve already decided for yourself, and you’re going to write a whole article about it, don’t then go and claim you think it doesn’t matter what you think. If you don’t thin it matters what you think, why write and publish an article? Obviously you think your own opinion matters. And obviously you think that playing the role of questioner somehow privileges you. it doesn’t, man. I don’t think that just because something is or isn’t in the Sutras it can’t be yoga. If you do, than stay with your silence and have a great time. But don’t throw down a gauntlet and then get coy about and pretend it’s not that when people know it is. Show some respect. Everyone is finding their own ways through this, and given the fact that you’ve taken such a narrow stand, why would anyone really want to discuss with you? Duh….Arrogant.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. To Note says:

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

  37. 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.

  38. 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. 🙂

  39. Jenifer says:

    sorry for the not-great editing there. LOL 😉

  40. James Brown says:

    HEATHER! That is a fantastic reply.

  41. Jenifer says:

    I agree — and I just wrote a blog about it for my community (students were asking why I didn't play music like other places), and as such, I decided to go with my inclination to teach without music.

    It's my preference anyway. But if I were to play it, I would pay for it! At least, now that I'm aware that it should be paid for. IIt's just cultural that we play it, but not that we pay for it. People just share their iTunes download list, etc, you know? It's just cultural.

    Once I knew better, I did better (and by rights, I should have figured this out 10 years ago when I was in law school. duh! but I didn't. LOL).

  42. Thanks Jenifer! It's great to see the conversation continuing, and thanks for sticking up for the artists!

  43. Edward Staskus says:

    That's a good point, since yoga is all about generating internal heat in the course of doing the exercises. I wonder if air-conditioning the yoga studios down to, say, 30 or 40 degrees, might not be a better idea than heating them up to 90 degrees like for vinyasa and a gazillion degrees like for Bikram. That way the focus of the practice would really have to be on one's own creation of internal heat, if only for self-preservation.

  44. greateacher says:

    I enjoy music in yoga classes.

  45. 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.

  46. Vision_Quest2 says:

    I admit–though this is about mat pilates, and not yoga–I'd found my earliest music-free classes unbelievably jarring … while under such stress in my life in general, having no music gave me space in which to not focus …all the yoga classes I took at that time, would have music, until much later …

    Despite that, the pilates teacher, who was never to have music, really had spoken to me …

  47. 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.

  48. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Especially, the teacher keeping up rapid-fire patter during savasana … particularly the body scan of 3 to 5 minutes (when the entire practice is around 95 minutes long !?!) … Verbal instructions during final resting pose have to be done with caring, finesse and an adequate amount of time allotted for it to work … for SOME it may work … but I'M looking to feel centered after class …

  49. 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?

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