Real Yoga Doesn’t Need Music

Fuck you. Oh, come on, you knew that was coming. Given my yoga brand, it’s fair to say I encounter a plethora of ‘true yogis’ who, despite their Zen, have all kinds of feelings about my message. This one is a common refrain. Real yoga doesn’t need music.


Again, I say take your Zen and shove it. I teach in a recreation center. At any given time, there are rec league volleyball games, basketball games, super sexy masculine weight droppers, and very loud conversations happening outside the door to our studio. Music helps us let go of those intrusions and gives us a chance to practice our Pratyahara and Dharana.


Pratyahara is the mastery of external influences. I cue this as pulling our awareness from the external to the internal. See, I told you I don’t make this shit up. It’s a process to refocus our attention to the time we spend on the mat and if we’re hearing the timing buzzer blast into our studio it’s less easily done. Music can carry your attention without a lot of effort.


If you are like me, keeping a small tether of concentration on the music can help keep you anchored on the mat.


Dharana is a singular concentration without attachment. Focus without effort. It’s the act of harnessing your awareness to the moment in which we exist. I cue this as spending our time only on the mat. Again, we spend most of our time processing our To-Do list. We are feeling a little guilty for spending time on ourselves when so many other things demand our attention. Music can influence our mood and ease us into feeling relaxed and in the moment.


“If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.”

–Thich Nhat Hahn


Sure, there are lots of zen yoga-ish songs out there and I do incorporate them into my playlists. I place them at the beginning of our warm-up and toward the end of our cool down to accompany us into savasana. But right in the juicy middle, I curate song lists to rock us toward Samadhi.


Samadhi is the balance of our whole: physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional. It’s that groovy space we arrive at the place where our body and senses are at rest while our mind and reason are in alert meditative consciousness. It’s that ooey gooey feeling of being lighter than air many of my clients experience at the end of class. It’s DA BOMB.


I spend a lot of time on my playlists. Choosing music for tone, mood, and musical harmony. No, I don’t give a rat’s ass if you are trying to impress by recognizing and name dropping Devi Prita in my queue.  And it’s Deva Premal, asshat. Insert rant about nut jobs who come to yoga class plop down in the front row thisclosetome and proceed to do whatever the fuck they want without consideration or respect for the other people in class.


Yes, there ARE yoga assholes.


The thing is a 2010 study found that music can improve your workout performance. Music can increase your stamina and buoy your mood during a workout. Finding the right tempo can increase your distance, help moderate your pace which helps prevent injury, and can improve the efficacy of your exercise. Choosing the best rhythm (beats per minute) can intuitively help your body burn energy more efficiently and it’s been proven you can use up to 10% less oxygen. Good music can subconsciously help your brain deal with the perception of your effort. BAM!


Yoga is no exception.


If you want to find some Zen on the mat, check out my Spotify page and follow me there. Not only do I have yoga playlists for all kinds of energies and different practices, you will find cycle playlists and workout playlists to keep you moving.