By Nina Rubin
When I think of taking yoga classes, I imagine clean, spacious rooms, gleaming wood or bamboo floors with straight lines and a quiet, peaceful vibe.
I try to get to at least two yoga classes a week to round out my other fitness routines and love the feeling of arriving to class a few minutes early to lay on the cool floor. I feel anticipation when I think of the meditation of the movements and breath.
However, in recent classes, I’ve been affected by music being played by the instructors.
You see, my favorite teachers don’t play music during class. When I first began taking their classes about seven years ago, I was surprised to hear the breathing and shuffling by my peers. Over time, I noticed my own breath and found comfort and peace in it. Yet, in some of the new classes I’ve tried, the instructors have presented well-curated playlists that take the class in the direction of an arc. While this is excellent in spin and Zumba classes, for me, it’s exactly what I want to avoid during yoga.
Music is a distraction during yoga.
I like deep concentration and a flow-like state I can sometimes achieve in classes. But, when there’s music, I become distracted and notice my balance is off. I sing along and think about the artist or how long the song is. By the time I realize my posture and alignment is compromised during Warrior II, I’m usually far, far away from the teacher’s commands.
I think of yoga as a time to connect with myself, my breath and unplug from modern life. In poses like standing splits, one of my least favorites due to unwieldy and tight hamstrings, I need all the breath I can muster—not the distractions of Krishna Das chanting (and let me tell you, normally I love me some chanting).
Yoga is a way to connect to the energy in the room—all different people moving in sync and breathing together.
You see, much of my day is spent with clients and yoga is my time to stop talking and listen differently. When the music is blasting, I strain to hear the instructor. Her gentle, soothing yoga voice above the rap music or classic rock acoustic remix is lost among bass line. In other words, why use the “yoga voice” if you’re going to play a remix of Johnny Cash and Eazy-E?
Doing a moving meditation, like a yoga class, can be soothing. But most of the time, songs with words throw me for a loop. I’ve wanted to ask the instructor the name of the song or album because I’m humming and thinking about the last time I was at a My Morning Jacket show. This experience is really distant from the breath and posture of crow pose.
Conversely, I can appreciate why a teacher would opt for music.
She has spent hours compiling a new playlist. She wants to curate a class experience that’s supreme. Music makes people connect differently and it makes them less angry, especially when the room is 105 degrees. Music takes a power flow class to the next level of intensity and charges people up!
But in my mind, I want something else. It’s tough to find classes without music. Iyengar and Kundalini yoga classes don’t typically have musical distractions, but they’re filled with aspects that might drive other people nuts. For me, they’re really great! It’s definitely a matter of preference. Clearly, my choice is to attend very difficult and challenging classes without any music whatsoever.
Here’s a final thought for teachers: I respect your decision to play music. It’s simply not my favorite. Yet, at the end of class, when you finally give us the savanna that you’ve been building up to, please lower the volume.
Editor: Peter Schaller
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