April 10, 2013

The Music Dilemma. ~ Angela Elliot

Source: flickr.com via Claire on Pinterest

The more I teach the more I realize how important it is to be true to yourself and your style as a teacher.

It is also important to be able to improvise, adapt or completely change what you initially had planned (i.e. when you realize that your peak pose of Pincha Mayurasana  (forearm balance) might be too much when a couple sun salutations has people dropping down to balasana (child’s pose)).

But change is to be expected and I say, “Bring on the challenge!”

What is not to be expected, or appreciated, is students telling me what type of music they would prefer me to play, or a student (this really happened) telling me in the middle of class that they would prefer the music off.

I’m a big fan of music; I love going to festivals, live shows and enjoy the thrill of developing new and inspiring playlists. Basically, I’m a fan of it all.

I also love to do yoga with music.

I initially fell in love with vinyasa style classes. These classes were strong, sweaty, fast paced and filled with loud music. So yes, I get it. I get the appeal and sometimes it feels lovely to just tune out, flow and sweat. I still love those classes, don’t get me wrong.

But I have also discovered the power of quieting the mind, focusing on the breath, listening to what the body is telling you and not waiting for the next song.

I initially got used to the notion that a yoga class doesn’t need an amazing playlist when I started a regular Ashtanga practice. In Ashtanga yoga (which is normally practiced six days a week, except for on the new and full moon, and before the sun rises), there is a level of discipline that is expected and needed (if you want to keep it up anyway).

This means following the same sequence (until you progress to the next series) day after day after day and with no music. I know what you are thinking and yes, this can lead to days when the last thing you want to do is that same damn sequence and yes, you do get bored! But isn’t that the whole point? To find the potency of the pose and practice in the most boring of times, seeing how you react and then eventually taking that off the mat.

One of the tools of yoga is to teach us about ourselves and notice our patterns, especially those “not so positive” patterns so that we can consciously change them. I am sure I would have had the same epiphanies in a beat-filled vinyasa class, eventually, and that’s where the message lies.

It’s not about music or no music; it’s about the power in the practice and the poses.

These poses that have been practiced for thousands of years are already enough; they don’t need to be dolled up and delivered with a side of Sigur Ros. Although that sounds lovely, the poses are the medicine.

So when you are in your next yoga class and are expecting one thing and your teacher delivers something else, before you start cursing in your head or thinking about the other class you should have taken, consider the possibility that this class was exactly the class you needed.

Music or no music, it’s all wonderful and we can have a world filled with both, as long as we remain open-minded and true to the practice.


Angela Elliot is a Yoga Teacher and Social Worker who feels fortunate to share this practice that has had such a large impact on her life. Outside of her passion of everything yoga, Angela loves amazing and nutritious foods, traveling, road trips with no agenda, music and trying to make life as simple as possible. Angela currently resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Colin, and two adorable dogs, Penny and Sammy. Link to blog: www.angelaelliotyoga.com. Follow her on instagram: angelaelliot


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