December 7, 2013

Why I Don’t Play Music in Yoga Class.

I don’t play music when I teach yoga.

I’ve experimented, and still question my choice, but for now: no music.

My colleagues claim it calms folks—that it allows them to do yoga.

I understand that.

I also know it opens the heart to create emotional connections to the Divine.

But, I’m not changing because of that.

Nor will I change because I know music will increase my class numbers.

I was full-time artist for decades; I know music and beauty’s power. Call me a yogi fundamentalist if you like, but I draw a line between yoga and art. Yoga uses art (poses are beautiful, vinyasas are choreography). But yoga goes somewhere beyond art.

Yoga is not supposed to hypnotize us or give us peace by celebrating life’s gorgeousness.

Yoga goes further.

Yoga removes us from any preference for beauty by engaging us with inner vision.

It trains us to see all good and evil, ugliness and beauty, poverty and abundance, and opens the heart and mind to it all.

In short: no prejudice.

Yoga cultivates vidya—witnessing—and welcomes all diversity.

This is spanda—as Shiva Rea reminds us. This is The Doctrine of Vibration, as Tantra scholar Mark Dyczkowski tells us.

All reality sings—it trembles, oscillates, expands as the One—not just the side of it that meets our mundane notions of beauty, or our mundane emotions for beauty.

Don’t make this confusion.

Struggling with boredom, ugliness, and silence, while concentrating on the yoga pose is yoga.

Swimming to the beautiful music of Deva Premal to forget you are struggling in Utkatasana, Trikonasana or Tree Pose isn’t.

That’s my position nowadays.

I love Lorde. I love Citizen Cope. I love Jai Uttal. It pleases me so much. I get lost in it. But that’s not the gift of yoga.

So, for now, no music in the yoga class.

The Gita (6:9-12) supports this:

Serenity is achieved by anyone
who considers impartially
friends, lovers, the unconcerned,
enemies, judges, kinsmen
and even the wicked.

Mind and body’s passions in check
a yogi should strive
for absorption in the atman

Fixing the mind on a single goal
subduing the demands
of the eager senses,
a yogi should struggle in Yoga
to cleanse the heart

This text, the Yoga Sutras, Advaita Vedanta, and Tantra all chase this goal.

They teach us to see, unconfused by Prakriti (“Nature”—Patanjali), Maya (“Illusion” –Advaita), or Shakti (The divine play of the Goddess—Tantra).

However you slice it, the goal remains.

For now, I see silence as the better vehicle for making a yoga class into yoga.

Come to my class—you may see too.


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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Flickr/Katie Tegtmeyer

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