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. 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.

  2. Vision_Quest2 says:

    To amend this comment, I think that many younger people today do not go to yoga to get centered and relaxed. I'm sorry, but they don't.

    In that vein, they don't need music to be able to get out of their head.
    They don't need music to be able to relax.
    They need an instructor to be able to help them get their workout on.

    I honestly doubt too many of them feel centered after a power yoga class. With or without music.

    Let there be no music for a challenging class where one could hurt themselves if they don't listen to pinpoint rapid-fire alignment instructions.

    Baron Baptiste knew this very well. Music only during savansana in classes by Baron.

  3. Thanks says:

    Thanks, Michelle. live and let live. I’m a new student, and contrary to what you said, as I try to yolk breath to movement, music helps me do so. In silence, monkey-mind can take over. And yes, while I can breath and move through it, and note it and not get attached and blah blah blah, music helps actually calm monkey-mind. The cliche that music tames the savage beast is so true. Monkey mind can be savage. I am i yoga for peace, centering, strength, and ease. When I hear music I do not experience it as “external” to me. It moves in me, through me, with me. There is already rhythm in my breathing, my heartbeat, my movement. Music helps me listen to and be aware of it and be in it. Music is not a distraction. It is a helper.
    It sounds, though, as if Philip has already named music as external, not only for himself, but for everyone, for all time.
    Learn to live and let live, Philip. And learn to repsect students’ experiences.

  4. 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?

  5. Satsang says:

    In 25 years of yoga and meditation, I have encountered far too many self-proclaimed authorities. Many of them are, frankly (and I don’t know about this one; I’m only responding to the tone of his writing) rather prissy little white guys who glop together many pop psychologies and spiritualities over the years and market themselves as “teachers” and “trainers.” Yet even the individual “influences” can be pretty silly. Baptiste, for example, is one of the most crude, scripted, franchised forms of yoga out there. (I love it, but have no illusions that my sweat-teacher is a yoga master.)

  6. Satsang says:

    My overall point is, where the hell is all this coming from? Who the hell are you, man?
    First these guys want to “question what you think you’re doing when you’re teaching yoga,” and then question “the use of music in the yoga classroom,” all the while with the implication that they know and you don’t. Then, as I’ve seen in other studios, the “questions” become all about what mat to buy, what clothes to use, what foods to eat, how to ties your shoes, how to wipe your own ass. All the while claiming, “Oh, what does it matter what I think? I’m just asking.” Yoga may not be “everything,” but there are plenty who claim that yoga is a whole way of life, and pretty soon, man, you bet they’ve got all kinds of things to say about how you live your entire life. But all…well…implied. And the tendency of yogis, esp. women, to doubt themselves, to compete, to want to prove better than….it all starts this orthodoxy in studios that turns into a very weird, pressured, cult-like environment.
    Then, it gets very easy for these guys to take things even futher, whether the atrocities committed by Geshe Roach, the indiscretions committed by John Friend, the sexual abuse committed by Desikachar.
    And why? For what? For whom? For another new-age-touting dweeb who play passion aggressive games about authority and orthodoxy and whose yoga is the real yoga?
    I’m all for open conversation. But only among equals. I find the rest of this dynamic intrusive and insulting. I’m adult. I can make my own decisions about music, diet, and the Sutras.
    Who the hell do you think you are playing this “role,” man?

  7. Matt says:

    I have felt some of the things you mentioned a few times in the past. I am not a follower of A Course In Miracles, but after hearing Philip reference them time and again in his teaching, it seems to boil down to one point. What is real? What is not real? That's pretty much it as far as I can see. After realizing this I came to the conclusion that it's not necessarily a bad thing for a teacher to ask this question. It's a good and valuable idea to consider. What is real? What is not real?

  8. satsang says:

    Sure, sure, ask away. Ask anything! But if you address other adults, respect them as adults. If you play the role of teacher off-line, be aware that your position sets you up as an authority that may translate as a power differentia. It may give your opinion more weight by fiat, even if you are even more clueless than most people in the room. Also, playing teacher off-line doesn’t translate into playing teacher online. Online, there is only the written word, at least outside audio tapes and youtube. There is only rhetoric, claim, question, tone. That is the ONLY thing that can be read, evaluated, responded to. Given that, given all that, I just don’t tend to have the “what it real?” conversations outside intimate circles. Why should I? Too personal. And I don’t mean to be nasty to this guy — the “dweeb” stuff is my impatience and disgust with a general pattern. I don’t know if he is a dweeb. But I don’t know that he isn’t. The guy has no repoire, no relation, and certainly no authority with me. My overall point is, why do these guys keep setting themselves up as authoritues, questioners to whom we are supposed to answer? And why do people keep following them? I mean, it’s the same way I feel about Paul Ryan. Why would anyone see that sniveling little douche-canoe as an authority about anything? Ew.

  9. DAJR says:

    You're attacking him personally now? The more you write, the more inflamed and out of control you sound. How did this put you in such a state? Did Philip hit on one of your sacred cows?

    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. Based on the outrage, perhaps he's hit on something that is sensitive and fragile and does not want to be looked at.

    Do you have a good answer to his question? How does playing music help a teacher teach tools and principles of yoga?

    BTW – ACIM is a book. Buy package and purchase classes? Really? What are you talking about?

  10. Whodunit says:

    Reading your words brings one question to mind. 25 years of yoga and meditation???

  11. Allsmiles says:

    You did at least used to have to purchase ACIM as a package and get trained to teach it and offer it to a bunch of people at a time. There were tons of copyright battles b/c of the profits from that. I giggled my way through ACIM when it was offered by my Unitarian church back in the 90s. I thought it was half-baked even then. People who mouth that stuff now do sounds silly. Like there are people still into The Forum and all. But whatever. I don’t think Satsang sounds “out of control.” Pretty scrupulous about trying to express exasperation with a “dynamic” — too many self-proclaimed authorities. I agree. I did get that tone from the article. If you didn’t, cool. You yourself sound a bit “out of control” with defensiveness. No need. Yes, music — like the choice of diet, clothing, whatever — is a personal and sensitive matter. It however does not have a conciousness and therefore can’t “want to be looked at” or not. So in the future, I think people should just broach the subject more respectfully. Music is sacred to many of us — as sacred as prayer. Show respect.

  12. 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.

  13. Satsang says:

    Oh, now, Matt, be at peace. I was not attacking anyone personally. Yet already in your reply you take up one of the bones I was picking: the issue of authority. You say “we teach” — you want to make a pedagogical stand of authority as a teacher. Yet we are are equals here. You cannot play teacher. You have no way of establishing authority online. Many of the credentials people claim are just laughable — ACIM? Baptiste? Okay, sure. Not enough in my book, is all I’m saying. And EJ is not just an open forum — it’s a collection of blogs which many people use to market themselves and their services and try to sell themselves as experts. Why then list all those “credentials” in those silly bios? Wise up. Yes, 25 years of yoga and meditation have made me savvy and skeptical.
    If you don’t want to use music in your classes, if you have pedagogical passion about it, certainly, don’t. But judging from your argument, you don’t seem to have read carefully — many here have attested that music works in far more a complex matter than just “hoping our playlist is our students’ favorite songs.” Many here have already written that music is actually extremely helpful. If you are that passionate about your teaching, I’d suggest being a bit more open to those students’ and those teachers’ experiences.

  14. Michelle says:

    Dear Matt,
    I don’t feel like my awareness is blasted by music during yoga. I feel like my awareness is helped, guided, deepened, expanded. Even when I don’t “like” something, I can usually match my breath and movement to a beat. It helps. And sometimes even when I don’t like the music, I grow to like it. And sometimes it’s just great to be exposed to new music! It’s a much more warm welcoming environment.
    But will you please stop saying what we all need to stop protecting and defending and “really look at.” WHo are you to tell us what we need to look at? I’m already looking. I “look” every day. Just because people disagree strongly doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with them and they’re in denial or whatever. That’s so arrogant! Cut that out.

  15. Flowjo says:

    Oh my god. EJ as an open forum? Only that? Are you kidding? Look at all those ads! Look at all those names and faces! Look at what keeps this thing afloat! EJ is also moderated by people, so it’s not totally “open” — sometimes that’s good, sometimes not. People are hawking their stuff all over the place. But rock on. Have your big “pedagogical arguments.” I agree though, having been in yoga for 28 years, I think it’s funny how many people come out of the woodwork as experts. Some of them are the same flakes I’ve encountered here and there in different workshops and retreats for decades. They’re still the same. It really is kinda personal. I just hope the new generations coming into the scene take it all with a grain of salt. Nobody has all the answers.

  16. Satsang says:

    Sorry — I meant “DAJR” —

  17. SharonEllis says:

    You wrote:
    “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.”
    There is no such thing. There are always “outside” stimuli: everything from the studio, the classroom, the teacher, the other students, the vibe in the room.
    What “elevated state?” Yoga is the yolking of mind to body, breath to movement. Yoga is an action verb. It is not a “state” to be “achieved.” That in itself seems like a really ambitious, ego-driven conception. But maybe that’s not what you meant. Still, it’s nice to make definitions.
    Yoga is an action. A process. Through that process, in that process, the categories of “inner” and “outer,” “self” and “other,” “body” and “mind,” “breath” and “movement” dissolve. Cueing, music, meditation, guided meditation — these are all tools to assist that engagement.
    Loosen up.

  18. Matt says:

    Hi Michelle,

    I think you might have me confused with someone else in the comment you addressed to me.

  19. Jenifer says:

    I don't think the "we teach" is a pedagogical stand for authority per se. I can see that it can be, but I think it's also just the linguistic mechanism to describe the job that I do.

    I have studied and practiced yoga for many years. I have a skill. I also have the skill of being able to teach that skill-of-yoga to others. So, I teach that skill (yoga) to others.

    I am not an "authority" on yoga per se. I just have a particular (and limited) understanding of what it is, and I teach what I know to others who want to learn from me what it is that I know about yoga.

    And, there's also just the transmission of yoga itself. It's transmitted person to person. In my experience, it's transmitted not only from the teacher, but also body-to-body between students in the room. The more experienced people "speak" (often without words) with the less experienced ones, teaching that "skill" in a lateral way.

    And I, myself, see this process as lateral, not vertically (of me on top). If there is any vertical, the student is "above" me. I see myself as a servant to what the student wants to learn — we are in partnership. The student wants to learn yoga for a reason (known or unknown to me — though I usually ask), so I try to teach that to them for their own use, without dictating to them what the meaning, value or purpose is for them.

    I also train teachers (in particular, the skill of teaching), and I ask them to question their own teaching. I teach them to look at the material (at the most basic level, asana which is a starting point because it's an easy thing to focus on and learn about in terms of teaching. . .a doorway to the skill of teaching, one might say) and then figure out for themselves what they "value" and then how they are going to teach out of that. For example, from an asana perspective, I value the pelvic alignment because it better stabilizes the spine IMO. But, that doesn't mean that other emphases or other ideas (such as how yin emphasizes the tendons/ligaments throughout the body) are invalid or not appropriate.

    Instead, we simply weigh what we think is right/best — or what methods/ideas make sense to us — and what works for the student. Sometimes, a different methodology (and thereby studying and comparing methodologies is part of the teacher training) is right for the student in front of you, so you go that way (or send them to a teacher who goes that way).

    In terms of music, while I have a preference to not play it, I do not think it is wrong to play it. There are times where it can add value to a class. I think the process needs to be very deeply thoughtful, not just "I like it" and I think there needs to be a deeper understanding (than I have) of how music works and what impact it has on the whole person. I'm not sure all teachers work that way, but I'm sure many do. I never did. When I played music, I literally had the studio or students pick it. LOL

    But, what I encourage my teachers to do — if they are going to play it — is to pay the licenses to the artists so that they are not "stealing' that music.

    Likewise, since I own my own studio, I can also make rules about what happens there. Because no one is able to pay for the licenses, we do not play music. It's not because playing music is "wrong" — it is because playing music has implications that exist *outside* of the classroom. . . implications that could break the studio if we were to get fined (one gym in Australia was recently fined over $10,000 for not following copyright laws in regards to music). We wouldn't be able to handle that kind of fine.

    So, I'm protecting the opportunity for students and teachers that the studio provides — a clean space for classes, good teachers from whom the students can learn, and a good community for teachers to continue training and get supervision (so that their 'stuff' doesn't become part of the teaching).

    On the point of bios, I find them silly too. If you follow the link to my site, you'll notice that our bios do not mention credentials. The reason being is that credentials are essentially meaningless (they don't understand who teacher X is or training Y to compare as to whether or not this or that teacher is better trained, a good fit for them, etc), and that the real connection is the human connection.

    So, we focus on our humanity in our bios — we use humor to attempt to express our unique weirdness. And if the client resonates with our unique weirdness, then they'll come to us. And if that resonance continues, they'll continue with us. And if the resonance is not there, we are usually able to have a conversation and recommend teachers in other areas.

  20. Satsang says:

    Thank you for your thoughts. I would love to visit New Zealand someday! I don’t know if they copyright stuff there is true here in America, but if it is, oh man, virtually gym in the country let alone yoga studio is in big trouble.
    This is off-subject, but credentialing is a real gas. After a zillion years in grad school in my own professional field, an unbelievable amount of work, I take credentialing damned seriously. And what goes on in the yoga/meditation/spirituality worlds is a joke. It means nothing for some one to claim lineage from this and/or training from that. And “teachers” in the Omega and Kripalu catalogues list MEd’s and PhD’s in things that much have cost fifty dollars for a certificate in the mail. It’s ridiculous.
    Re: yoga. I like blurbs about teachers well enough, if they give me an idea of the yoga style some one prefers.
    Beyond that, frankly, all the sell-sell-sell, is exhausting. It doesn’t mean anything to read that some one “is really passionate about a joyous journey to the inner self and helping teachers-in-training discover their own inner rhythm” or whatever. You can basically plug the buzzwords in anywhere. They say nothing, mean nothing.
    It is nice, though, to read people really articulating what silence or sound does for them in practice, without anyone being rightoues about it.

  21. Vision_Quest2 says:

    "The reason being is that credentials are essentially meaningless (they don't understand who teacher X is or training Y to compare as to whether or not this or that teacher is better trained, a good fit for them, etc), and that the real connection is the human connection."

    So, we focus on our humanity in our bios …"

    Not necessarily true for me as a student, Once I was no longer wet behind the ears in my attendance at a studio. When I matched what I did not like (at first) physically about a certain clas with the (later disclosed) teacher/style, etc.; I adapted this knowledge to fashioning my home practice to cross-train for these demanding classes.

    Of course, there was the inevitable showdown due to the style mismatch, and I did later move on.

    No sense snowing newbies. Yelp would disclose what the website fails to.
    So would word of mouth, in certain communities.

  22. Michelle says:

    Yes — read down the page too fast I guess —

  23. 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.

  24. Satsang says:

    Ditto. And what I meant re: training background is that some one trained in one thing or another is not an expert from on high about everything in the yoga world: the sutras, music vs. no music, whatever. No one can say for everyone, “this is yoga, this is not yoga.” Training background info is good in a bio if it lets you know what a teacher might be doing in class. Beyond that, not so much.

  25. wowza! says:

    So funny — because my own preferences are precisely the opposite. Also, the choice of music does not connote inepexperience or insecurity. Very experienced teachers quite confident of themselves allow many voice into the room, too, and are not threatened. My best yoga teacher in Boston, Lynn Beiger, used to teach whole classes to Lady Gaga and Madonna playlists. Outside class, I fucking HATED that stuff. But Lynn made it work. My god, that woman can teach.

  26. 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.

  27. 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?

  28. 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.

  29. Vision_Quest2 says:

    FYI, Satsang … in the early days, when cross training with what essentially was and is a yoga-pilates fusion practice to something I was told, at first was vaguely Jivamukti-ish (later, I found out it was AS power yoga as they come–down to the 87 degree heat; with a bunch of Sanskrit and spirituality thrown in) .. the teacher's hook in advertising that seemed to match in "weirdness" factor (which ensared me in that overarching "snow job") was how very creative, and with no allegiance to any one movement form, characterized this Jivamukti-ish practice …[hey, I, VQ_2 had been, was, and am creative … I have a home yoga practice that's longer than class length!)

    Music had not been my friend in those early days … I'd had to migrate from a very cardio-yoga hybrid (that I innovated as my home yoga practice–I'd had my reasons, and yes, my sport at the time had been one of them!), done at ambient-to-nearly refrigerated temperatures (in a semi-upscale gym's stretching area during part of this time (it had been fully self sequenced and independent EXCEPT for the music, standard gym music was there, and I did not care to block it out physically; my practice was done to piped-in caterwauling grunge that had been extremely jarring). My gym membership ran out, and I did the practice for 6 months at home. NO music during that time and for some time afterward–but that was only my home practice; and I'd needed every strategic advantage I could muster up to cross train in the techniques I had not previously had in my practice: most notably standing balances, backbends (with unsafe use of blocks), and any inversions, including shoulderstand.

    There had been mostly soft, jazzy, New Age or kirtan music at the studio for class. I really hated doing yoga to their hip-hop music. Still do.

  30. 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.

  31. Vision_Quest2 says:

    I agree with you.

    So much of the buzzword teacher bios have the teachers believing their own press …

    Further, the rules change if you are primarily a home practitioner who, at the time, happens to take yoga at a primarily-home-practitioner UNfriendly studio, in both word and deed …

    Music then could be a nemesis !

    I'd found that even loud music worked well in class with a later, more suitable mellower style …

  32. Sharon Ellis says:

    Oh yeah? Oh YEAH? Come at me, Ria. I ain’t hidin’ nowhere. I just want all the self-righteous assholes to shut up. You can breathe to loud music as easily to silence. I did a teacher training (gosh never again) where the teacher was SOOOOO rigid and sanctimonious about everything he did that his way was THE WAY. omg seriously soooooooo funny.
    Jesus Christ. Grow up and get over yourselves, folks. If I wanted to hear people spout what they thought was the One Way the Truth and the Light, even while pretending not to, I’d have stayed with the evangelical christians.

  33. I think I'm starting to understand the point of this essay. However, I think the tone of the essay conveys a different meaning than what you were intending. I do believe that any good story starts with a good title. I think that is where your article is lacking. I know someone else has already commented on this, but I would like to second their concern. The "wtf" in the title is a bit hypocritical. You ask us to question why we do things. I would ask the same as you. Why title the essay "wtf"?

  34. Vision_Quest2 says:

    I think it makes no difference, in my experience. I have used overwhelmingly the same home sequencing to both dark themes (take Derek Beres' The Yoga Sessions as an example; I was once informed that he allows yoga teachers to use his music without express or implied permissions, by the way) and lighter themes–with no difference.

    Then again, I have pre-sequenced everything to the rough phrasing and pacing of the music. Full, classical, 12-point sundial-inspired sun salutations need not apply.

  35. Vision_Quest2 says:

    I have found that to be true, too. But, unfortunately, not to hip hop.

    You see, active yoga is different from aerobics. It could be taught to heavily syncopated music, sometimes the more the better. It needs no driving, hypnotic, disco beat.

    But lyrics are the elements that would have to be tuned out, at least at first.

  36. kmk says:

    'No one can say for everyone, 'this is yoga, this is not yoga.'? Yet you just said, above: 'Many of the credentials people claim are just laughable — ACIM? Baptiste?' Um, contradiction? Sorry, but I am so damned tired of yoga snobbery, especially from those who have oh-so-much 'experience.' It's disappointing

  37. Satsang says:

    No, no contradiction. Because as I tried to specify in an additional post, I don’t think anyone’s training path sets them up as an expert, necessarily. I love Baptiste, but I don’t think it’s too heavy on the spiritual end. So some one from a Baptiste and ACIM background has no authority whatsoever about the Sutras, as far as I’m concerned.It’s pretty funny to read somebody’s stuff who’s going O, this is yoga and that isn’t, and those are his “credentials?” Erf. Beyond that, yes, some of these credentials that people list ARE hilarious. I was speaking more broadly about all the self-promotion that goes on.

  38. Satsang says:

    Sorry, I put that in the wrong place —
    No, no contradiction. Because as I tried to specify in an additional post, I don’t think anyone’s training path sets them up as an expert, necessarily. I love Baptiste, but I don’t think it’s too heavy on the spiritual end. So some one from a Baptiste and ACIM background has no authority whatsoever about the Sutras, as far as I’m concerned.It’s pretty funny to read somebody’s stuff who’s going O, this is yoga and that isn’t, and those are his “credentials?” Erf. Beyond that, yes, some of these credentials that people list ARE hilarious. I was speaking more broadly about all the self-promotion that goes on.

  39. Taylor says:

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

  40. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Too much. And during the class, too. With their patter. Self-promotion under the guise of being "pragmatic" and "up-to-date"

    If they don't use music, just so much of the patter I could take. Though it depends what kind:

    At another music-free pilates class (which teacher is beginning to speak to me, too) the teacher talks about movement and anatomy, and not about the banalities of the day, or injecting her personality into the class patter–as so many Baptiste teachers do …

    No, not taking live yoga classes right now … have not for over a year …

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

  43. Jenifer says:

    There's nothing about "snowing" anyone in this situation. It's mostly about audience accommodation and how I perceive that.

    Our primary audience is brand-new to yoga people. They generally do not know what yoga is (by experience) nor do they know about styles, lineages, teacher trainings (and their relative quality), and so on. A list of credentials doesn't provide them with any real, useful information as far as I can tell.

    That being said, the description of the classes is really important because people want to know what to expect and what they're going to get.

    I'm not hiding this information — anyone who asks is told very directly and I'll answer in depth too about, say, what "krishnamacharya" means in context. Simply, the focus of our website is about brevity as well as levity, and giving people the invitation to "come and see" without any real pressure on doing so.

    And, it works. We've grown very quickly because the marketing works *and* we can follow through with very good client experience in the classes.

    That being said, word of mouth/yelp and related are incredibly valuable.

    We have also started using 'secret students' to get evaluations about that client experience through anonymity. That's been awesome for us as a learning tool.

  44. Jenifer says:

    Totally agree. I mean, not only is the training itself basic, it's not even pass fail. It's quite literally "sit through enough hours" and then pay a fee to yoga alliance.

    It can help people get a start and it's better than the pre-YA days wherein people would watch a video and start teaching, rather than going through the study models of apprenticing or going through an ashram training, but it's not a great system overall.

    And honestly, when trying to fill vacancies (ie, we have corporate classes that need teachers, so this is a paid gig for them), it's difficult to know whether or not the teacher is a good, decent teacher (in terms of the skill of teaching).

    If I'm lucky, I'm able to contact the trainer and get an honest, clear description of what the teacher knows and doesn't, his/her personality and overall relational style in terms of teaching, etc. More often that not, I can't, because the trainer has no idea who the individual teacher is, or even if they do, they don't know what they do or don't know. They can only talk about what was covered in training, which doesn't indicate what the teacher knows and understands from that material.

    So, it mostly means testing them out in classes and see how clients respond over time. Most give great feedback, so that's awesome. And, when I take several classes, I begin to see over time who the teacher is and what we need to do to develop them professionally in the knowledge that is relevant for our client base (if they don't already have that knowledge). So I provide that training on-going for free for those teachers, just so that I can make sure those needs (of the clients) are met.

    and yes, buzzword bios give me a good giggle. I like to "mad lib" them. 😉

  45. Jenifer says:

    True. I think a lot of people — teachers included — struggle with quiet. Being quiet. Being in quiet.

  46. Heather says:

    Hi Thanks, James.

  47. Heather says:

    Totally right on the younger people not doing yoga to get centered (or, let's be nice and say they just don't know it yet)?? 🙂

    And frankly, I too doubt they are very centered after a power yoga class. As an example, one student o mine went out to Dairy Queen (equivalent of Burger King,etc) and had 2 burgers! This was after an Ashtanga yoga class that I taught in the tradition of Shri K. Pattabhi Jois (Mysore style).

    Seems to me the only play reasonable for it is in savasana.

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. 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."