Yoga and Music.
They are the two passions in my life, two forms of self-expression and they are both versatile, applicable to every moment. Music can set a mood for us, whether we’re dealing with a breakup, wallowing in sadness while listening to Death Cab for Cutie, or hanging out with our friends, jamming to 90s pop-rock and hip-hop (Yes, I am hinting towards The Spice Girls and Outkast). Yoga does the same, providing an asana to deal with any physical trouble in the body and the technique of meditation to quiet the mind.
Yet not all yoga is meant to be slow and calculated, in a silent room followed by a silent meditation with lit candles and incense. While that may be your style and you’d rather turn the lights down low, I like to have a yoga practice as diverse as my iTunes library. Which means on some days, I choose a restorative class with a long savasana and the humming of Bon Iver and James Blake echoing off the hardwood studio floors. Other days, I need a practice that’s energizing and playful, in a room vibrating with Jay-Z and A$AP Rocky. (If you don’t think I’m serious, check my playlists).
Just to emphasize the connection between the two art forms, I dug up some other similarities:
- Om and Bhakti yoga. ‘Om’ is a sound vibration; a hum meant to resonate within you and bring your awareness to the present, to allow you to feel united with everything around you. It’s essentially like a note in music. Bhakti yoga is a branch of yoga not commonly known, which emphasizes the power of chanting and singing, referred to as Kirtan. It teaches that through chanting, you become more focused and the mind can find space and inner calm.
- Chakras. Specifically your second chakra, also known as Svadhishthana. Represented by the color orange, it’s connected to your creative abilities and whenever balanced, you’re intuitive, compassionate and have a sense of satisfaction. Classes that focus on hip-opening poses are supposedly to help balance and stimulate the second chakra, which can mean defeating writer’s block or finding some inspiration for your next painting.
- Fighting depression and anxiety. Yoga has been studied to show an increase of the brain chemical GABA, which is usually low in those with depression. It was even shown to help more than other forms of exercise, such as walking. Visual arts and creative outlets such as music have also been used in therapy, as it helps people communicate how they’re feeling. So the next time you’re feeling blue, listen to The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” while pressing up into handstands or opening your heart in backbends, such as Bridge.
- Meditation. I used to believe meditation was meant to be in silence and only silence. It made sense, silence the mind in silence. However, whenever I was going through teacher training last summer, our teachers suggested of listening to music to help us stay focused in meditation. Immediately, I knew that practice was for me and I still enjoy having my headphones in whenever I close my eyes and just breathe. If you’re a musician, then you know that whenever you’re practicing, be it an hour or 15 minutes, it takes your full attention, which is just like meditation, as it keeps your thoughts from chaotically shifting.
- DJs and Live Music. More studios are beginning to incorporate the trend of having an actual DJ for special classes, often accompanied by glow-in-the-dark bracelets and disco balls. If you remember, I wrote about a Zen Vin Yin event a few months back here in Charleston. Across the world, however, are large conferences and festivals, such as Wanderlust, that feature MC Yogi, DJ Hyfi and several other musicians that are well known in the community.
- Steven Ross, author of “Happy Yoga” and owner of Maha Studio in Los Angeles. This yogi used to record with Fleetwood Mac and the Beach Boys before deciding the rock and roll life was too much. He fused his love of music and yoga together, forming a style known as ‘hip-hop’ yoga, which is a dynamic practice with a great playlist. He told Yoga Journal, “People come in from the traffic and noise, high on Starbucks. You can’t take somebody from a place of chaos and put them immediately into deep meditation. You have to take them from where they are.” Which is exactly why he chooses the familiar, well-loved mainstream tunes to begin his class then gradually moving into a restful savasana.
So if you think yoga is always intended to be practiced a certain way, remember that it’s actually meant to be as fluid as the melody in a song. It’s designed to be a tool for everyone, regardless of physical or mental state and regardless of your taste in music.