I’ve been mulling over the connection between music and yoga since I started teaching. In my yoga experience, in the vast majority of classes I’ve taken, teachers play calming music. This makes sense, since yoga is moving meditation. Why then, am I drawn to play different music?
It finally occurred to me while working on playlists last week. Ever since I was little, I’ve been drawn to music. My earliest pictures are of me sitting in front of my parents’ stereo with big ole headphones on, listening to music. As I grew, I turned to gymnastics and dance.
Within my body and mind, music has the ability to clear everything else out. No matter what I was thinking about before the music came on, no matter what was happening, if the song is powerful enough, everything outside the music falls away. All that exists is the song and me.
When I used to teach dance, my favourite group to teach was beginner teens. They were in this place of discovering themselves, both as human beings, and as dancers. They were unsure and awkward, but genuine and down to earth. They still had this inner knowledge and awareness that often gets dimmed or lost through acculturation into adulthood. My goal for these classes was to help them grow both as dancers and as people. I wanted to them learn to dance and live like nobody is watching, which is a challenging feat for anybody, let alone a teenager in high school. But for those girls who were able to, they soared.
As a mom, I have the same goal. I want to help my kids follow their hearts, their passion, and their dreams, despite what anyone else (myself included- gulp!) is doing or saying. We have a lot of dance parties at our house.
When I practice yoga, when I feel the clearest, the most amazing, is when nothing else exists, but me and my mat. Yoga with no music can have this effect on me. I get into a rhythm with my breath and body, so that everything and everyone around me falls away. However, music has the power to drop me into that state when I wasn’t already on my way there. It facilitates my ability to release and brings me clarity when my mind is muck. It also challenges me when I think I can’t hold Warrior II or Chair pose any longer and empowers me when I think I don’t have the energy or ability to go for that arm balance.
The Buddha described everyone as enlightened. We all contain Buddha nature, this jewel, deep within us. We are all enlightened beings, it’s just that most of our jewels are covered with some level of (or buried in) mud. Meditation and yoga work to wash away, layer by layer, that mud.
For me, music blasts away the mud like a fire hose. That song comes on and I go straight to the source. There’s no ego or lack there of, there is only the here and now. And it is beautiful. So, the next time you come to my class and hear an unconventional song in my playlist, Yoga like nobody’s watching.