When we are considering different things to pair together, it is always a subjective matter. For instance, there might be people who love salted chocolate, while others want salt nowhere near their chocolate!
The same can be said about adding music to your yoga practice. Some people love vibrational support and melodic inspirations when they are flowing from one pose to another and find it improves their practice. Others revel in the silent internal waves of just their breath and prefer yoga without any music. There’s no right or wrong answer here, it’s simply a matter of preference. Regardless of yours, music has become increasingly popular to complement a yoga practice and seems here to stay for those who like this combination. Because of this, there are people who are always looking for new excellent music choices for their yoga practice.
If you’ve been moved by music during a yoga class, you can appreciate the beauty of this combination. Music can add another layer to a deep, rigorous flow and can support you in the challenging moments of a class, or keep your mind from wandering. Many have opened to new music artists and styles of music from tracks they discovered that moved them while on their mat.
What Is Yoga?
Before we dive deep into the possibilities between the collaboration of music and yoga, let us get some basic idea about the yoga practice as a whole. The meaning of 'yoga' is 'union.' In the etymological form, it is connected to the English word called Yoke. The meaning of the word means union with your divine self and the universe you’re a part of.
Yoga is a spiritual, mental, and physical practice that originated in ancient India. By the end of the 20th century, it gained real popularity in the West. The yogic practice has been observed for thousands of years in a variety of forms that continue to evolve.
During this time, many different elucidations have urbanized about what yoga is all about. Each type of yoga discipline has its own unique techniques and emphasis.
In the West, yoga is often associated with the physical practice of the asanas, especially the stretching exercises that relax the body and build flexibility. Yoga poses also builds stamina, balance, coordination, and strength.
However, asana, the physical practice of doing yoga poses, is just one of eight branches of the practice, according to several sacred texts on the philosophy of yoga, such as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, written almost 2,000 years ago.
These eight limbs include Samadhi (Liberation), Dhyana (Meditation), Dharayana (Single-pointed concentration), Pratyahara (Withdrawal of the senses), Asana (meaning Self and refers to the physical posture of the body), Niyama (Five inner observances), and Yama (Outer Observances).
Additionally, there are several different paths of yoga-like Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Bhakti Yoga. However, they are all rooted in the Niyamas and Yamas and have the same ultimate goal of Samadhi, or liberation from suffering and experiencing presence.
Yoga is thought to be therapeutic for many mental and physical conditions. Studies have been conducted that demonstrate the effectiveness of yoga as a treatment for schizophrenia, stress, and back pain. There are even more targeted and specific kinds of yoga emerging, like face yoga asanas that help the muscles of your face to relax.
The Connection Between Yoga and Music
If you listen to a deep house beat, you know there can be a feeling that you are sinking into a state where your breath and body can align in perfect timing. Your body is in a perfect groove, lost in space, flowing in rhythm, and along with the timing of the music. Your body becomes an instrument that is in sync with the tempo of the metronome.
The extensive physical benefits of yoga have been studied for a long time. However, not all yoga teachers encourage the use of music along with yoga. But if you can select the music carefully, a well-curated playlist will be able to spark your peaceful moment in your practice for yourself or for students.
Yoga, Music, & The Flow State
Performing yogic practices and listening to music are inherently similar activities, despite their apparent differences. In simplest terms, both can enhance our well-being and make us feel good. Both are the universal languages of love. It can be said that music is as old as the human race itself and has remained constant all through the evolution of the human race and culture.
Similar to yoga, music also offers a lot of physiological benefits. It has been studied that music can effectively lower cortisol and decrease anxiety levels better in patients who are about to undergo surgery than those who take anti-anxiety drugs.
New science continues to explore the medicinal properties of music as well. Recently, it has also been studied that music allows a person to enter what is known as the 'flow state.' It is a term for the optimal state of consciousness where we are at our best.
For a long time, artists, musicians, and even athletes have been utilizing the creative flow state, even before the term was coined. When the flow state is reached, the brain switches to the borderline state between the alpha waves; this phenomenon is commonly associated with REM sleep, hypnosis, and daydreaming.
When you reach this state, it means that your brain has temporarily stopped projecting beta brainwaves (which are part of your waking consciousness). This action also deactivates the part that identifies with our sense of self, the prefrontal cortex. In short, you lose yourself to the moment.
Pairing yoga with music makes it easier for some to experience this flow state, while on your yoga mat.
How Certain Types of Music Work for Yoga
Here are some popular music genres to listen to when practicing yoga. We've listed some of the most popular and important ones and will look at how each genre of music can enhance your yoga practice.
The thing to remember is that there are no rules on what music you can or cannot listen to while practicing yoga. If you’re continuing to explore adding music to your yoga practice, you are not confined to just these styles below. Each style will bring a different feeling and set of benefits, much like the music or different styles of yoga themselves.
A majority of people who practice yoga frequently prefer listening to meditation style music while practicing. People prefer listening to this kind of music because yoga is commonly related to peace of mind, relaxation, and meditation. Meditation music is linked to all of these and hence is amongst the most widely listened to style of music by yoga practitioners.
Classical music is another popular music genre among yoga enthusiasts. On average, a yogic workout can last somewhere between 30-75 minutes, which is more than enough time to listen to a lot of different and advanced pieces of classical music. Classical music is appreciated because it improves the peace of mind and relieves stress. Some famous traditional artists include Beethoven and Mozart.
Not a lot of yoga practitioners listen to pop music during their workouts, but it is continuing to grow in popularity. Artists like Rihanna, Beyonce, and Lady Gaga give some people a lighthearted boost during their yoga sessions, and help make yoga more fun and less serious. Pop music during yoga can help classes that involve fast-paced and eccentric moves.
Folk is a less common musical genre when practicing yoga. However, for some who seek refuge, solace, and peacefulness in their yoga practice, simple acoustic folk music, helps calm them down. Furthermore, a lot of people go onto their mat to work through emotional challenges, and inspiring lyrics that provoke a deeper range of emotions can help some. It can be common for people to have folk in the beginner or end of a class, and switch to more upbeat styles in the more high intensity parts of a session.
Electronic music is a musical genre that is enjoyed all over the world and continues to gain popularity. Note that this is a broad genre with various subgenres. Some work better for yoga than others.
Forms of House and Deep House, seem to be most popular to pair with yoga, as their upbeat and happy sounds help keep students uplifted during class. Some prefer heavier and darker Techno beats with their yoga.
For faster practices, electronic music is an excellent choice and also for larger class sizes, to get everyone moving together in a flow. There are even forms of electronic music explicitly made for a yoga practice.
The debate between the connection between yoga and music has been going on for a long time. But now, a few scientific studies have emerged that confirm that yoga and music can go hand-in-hand and your exercises can be more in sync when you are listening to music. Have fun exploring which works best for you.
Let us know your favorite music styles to practice yoga with, in the comments!
By Scott Pine
Italian-American millennial who lives in Los Angeles. Runner. Scott wrote for various publications as a blogger and journalist before finding refuge in yoga. He is currently building a program to help other people know more about yoga and implement the concept into their lives.
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