November 28, 2013

Rockin’ Out on the Mat: An Argument for Rock and Roll in Yoga Class. ~ Jamie Nicholas

This past summer I saw the on-stage musical version of my favorite movie, Rock of Ages.

I don’t know if everybody is familiar with the movie Rock of Ages or the stage show, but in short, it’s a musical that tells a love story using rock songs from the glam rock days of the 1980’s. Watching the movie is great, but when I got to see the musical on-stage it was a whole other experience. Anyway, after rocking out for two hours with my fellow middle-aged brethren, I started to head home.

My voice was hoarse and my ears were ringing but my spirit was soaring. Usually I get that sort of high from my yoga practice and so my mind started to ponder a question. I wondered, “Is my love of rock and roll compatible with my love of yoga?”

Now let me be clear, in celebrating my own love of a particular type of music I’m not putting down anybody else’s favorite music. I would say that I have a fairly broad range of tastes when it comes to music. When I go to yoga classes I enjoy the soundscape type of dreaming background music or the electronic dance music with a nice beat, but I have always noticed that rock seems to be missing from the play list.

I can understand the aversion to rock.

It has a more pronounced drum track and electric guitar solos. It’s hard to wonder how we are supposed to settle into a relaxed state of being if we’re listening to a killer guitar riff from say, Eddie Van Halen. However, in my listening I have noticed that rock and roll chords can put me in a relaxed, reflective state-of-mind that helps ease me into a meditative state. Two tracks that I listen to when I like to relax are Queensryce’s “Silent Lucidity” and Guns N Roses’ “November Rain”.

For the parts of the yoga practice when we start working hard in a flow series and we may have done our 20th sun salutation or we are struggling to hold a warrior two pose, we need a more upbeat track to help us through our struggle. There are several rock tracks that I think work very well for this portion of our routine. I always enjoy listening to Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again”, Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” or the Smithereens’ “A Girl Like You”.

I think the purpose of using music in any physical routine is that it helps the mind focus. Whether we are trying to relax the mind or we are trying to push our bodies past the point of exertion, music helps us to concentrate.

When our mind has a pleasant soundtrack to focus on, it helps to keep us in the present moment and aids in our mental relaxation. An up-tempo beat can keep our mind from dwelling on the discomfort in our muscles as we’re trying to hold the pose for just one more breath.

If focusing the mind is the purpose of using music in our practice, then, as a fan of rock and roll, I believe that rock works just as well as any other type of music.

I’m coming full circle back to my original question by asking if rock and roll is compatible with yoga. I am somebody who likes to think that yoga is compatible with just about anything. If rock and roll could successfully embrace the “power ballad” in the 80’s, then I believe that yogis everywhere can successfully embrace Bon Jovi during peaceful warrior. So if that’s the case, grab your yoga mat, meet me in the front row and we can rock the night away.

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Editor: Jane Henderling

{photo via Krista Grinberga (Kalfu) on Flickr}

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Jamie Nicholas