Having retired, I got plenty of free time to complete my to-do and to-read lists. I thought it would take me years. However, soon my lists became much shorter. Thus, I started to think what to do with my spare time. That’s where my wife helped and took me to a yoga class. Honestly saying, I didn’t expect too much from it. But I got trapped. Since that class, I’ve been practicing yoga for more than five years. I’ve tried different yoga types from Hatha to Iyengar and have practiced in thousands of places. The only thing that has never changed is the music. Whatever yoga type I practice, it is accompanied by gentle music. Until the last year, I had thought it could be no otherwise. I tried to follow Shiva Samhita 11th rule for the great Yogi and listen to the sweet music wherever I go. But then my phone suddenly died while I was out, so I had to practice in silence. It was a whole new experience after which I started thinking whether it’s really important to listen to music during yoga class. Here are the pros and cons I found out based on my experience and my yoga-addicted friends’ feedback.
- You learn something new
Being picky about what I do, I always try to fill my playlist with the fresh tracks. They give me new emotions and new feelings. As well as the new experience. While searching for meditation music, I found a great software like Freemake YouTube to MP3 Boom, cool apps like Spotify and 4Shared, numerous MP3 sites, YouTube channels and other music sources. As a former IT developer, I’m always happy to discover latest technology and trends. Thus, my yoga passion is highly connected with my other hobbies and interests.
- Your mood gets better
A right playlist can quickly enhance your mood and helps transport you “in the clouds.” It’s important to find a right sound or track. Whether it’s gonna be an ocean or fireplace sounds, a quite bird singing or even hard rock (who knows!), it should bring your mind to a positive atmosphere and recall happy life moments or dear people.
- Music helps the beginners
When you only start your yoga classes, what you need to do is to follow your teacher’s continuous instructions. Let’s not forget that your teacher is also a human and can’t talk during the whole class. Besides, too much talking may distract your attention from the pose and make other people start talking. Music fills the blank when the teacher is silent and helps you connect both to the pose and to the music itself.
- Music masks unwanted sounds
Have you ever sat near a person who is constantly coughing, scratching or breathes too loud? I’ve got such an experience, and that’s definitely not what I can advise. It gets even worse when you are doing reclined poses and are trying to relax and get close to the earth. In this case, music helps mask all these unnecessary sounds that can bother and irritate you. Instead of hating your classmate, just ask your teacher to make the sound louder.
- Music helps focus on feelings
We are all grown-up people with our problems and always busy minds. If you have trouble at work, argued with your partner or friend, lost a cell phone, it might be hard for you to relax, focus on positive emotions and reach a non-violent mind state. That’s where you need music again. A right track or sound will help you calm down and concentrate on your inner feelings. It might even happen that after meditation you’ll find a solution to the problem that bothers you.
Those were the positive aspects of turning on the music player while doing yoga asanas and meditation practice. Now, let’s discuss what could be the cons.
- Music controls your mind
Vipassana means insight into the true nature of reality. Those who practice Vipassana meditation try to meet their inner state as it is, with all its positive and negative aspects like hatred, envy, jealousy, etc. When watching these characters deep inside us, understanding how they are born and how fast the pass, we can reduce their influence on our mind. When you turn on the music, you affect your brain in an artificial way. You won’t set on a track you don’t like or the one that makes your head explode. It’ll be a relaxing sound to make you feel great. In this case, you won’t face any adverse conditions, and thus won’t learn to overcome them.
- You get captured by music
When you meditate and listen to music at the same time, you lose the possibility to learn to control your mind without any external factors. Your mind gets used to relax only when a similar sound is playing. So, it’s music that makes you relax, not your mind skills. If one day you have to meditate in silence, you’ll feel really awkward.
- Music doesn’t let you meditate
Quite a lot of my yoga-mates are sure that meditation has nothing to do with music. When you listen to the quite calm tracks, you simply relax. That’s not what meditation is. The meditation for them is a process of learning to control your brain, to stay calm when all the other people around are nervous. The meditation process should be done in silence, and it doesn’t require any external help. When you listen to music during meditation, you don’t really meditate. You simply relax under pleasant sounds without giving any activity to your brain.
- Music may spoil your practice
When you are an advanced yogi and can practice alone at home or outdoors, you are free to choose whether you need music and which songs or whether it’s better to stay in silence. However, when you attend a particular class with many people around you, it’s up to your teacher to make such a decision. It’s great when a teacher asks for a feedback and may change the playlist. But honestly, not all of them do it.
Just imagine there is a track you really hate. It’s connected with some bad memories, wrong people; the lyrics offend you, or you simply don’t like it. In this case, during each class, your mind will expect this horrible song and won’t let you relax and meditate. It may even happen that you quit yoga.
- Music may distract your attention
Bad transitions between tracks can also break you out of your inner journey. Thus, if you make a playlist yourself, make sure there are no songs that suddenly ends, have ads or any unusual noises. Also, pay attention to the order of your tracks. You’d better not put too fast tracks at the beginning or the end of your practice.
Alternatively, music may be too fast or too loud and doesn’t suit a particular asana. If it happens during your class, don’t be shy and ask your instructor to change the track, and switch to more generic yoga tracks without vocals, heavy drums or basses. Of course, you should do it after the class not to bother other people in their “trans-like” state.
One more thing I faced happened during my hot yoga class. We had a modern yoga teacher who liked to turn on pop music. There were mostly medleys that were okay for the practice. But what happened is that people started to sing. We ended up singing altogether. Although it was cool and we felt happy, that’s not what should happen during meditation.
These were the pros and cons of listening to music during yoga classes. Nowadays, I try to mix music days with the silent ones. When I want to make asanas improve my health and concentrate on my breath, I turn on something light and relaxing. In case I need to solve a problem, I try to go deep inside myself and turn off all the unwanted sounds. What do you think? Do you listen to music while doing yoga exercise? I’d be happy to learn more pros and cons in the comments.
Author’s Bio: Terry Smith is a freelance blogger, former teacher and web developer. He enjoys modern technology and passes his free time practicing numerous yoga styles. You can follow him on Twitter.