Yoga, Music, and Healing

I love music. I love Yoga.

Should I keep these personal passions separate if I am to teach authentically? Not necessarily so.

sam plays Jesse dances
Note Jesse’s joy as he dances, Grandma’s pleasure as she watches, and big brother Sam’s pride as he fiddles.

Let’s start with some distinctions. In this post, I’m speaking of asana (the physical practice of yoga). Meditation, pranayama (breath practices) as well as savasana the final relaxation pose in my classes are guided sans external soundtrack.

The style of music I am referring to is calming, soothing, or inspiring for most people. If there are lyrics, the words are associated with values congruent with the yoga tradition.

Music & Yoga: Yes, No, or Maybe?

Yoga teachers hold various opinions about playing music in class. My most influential teachers and mentors do not play music. And I have loved their classes. I believe it is because they are teaching from their deeply authentic space, and perfectly valid belief that we have plenty of outside auditory distractions “in the world”.  It works because they teach from who they are.

In classes, I frequently choose to play carefully chosen music that sets up an environment of healing and calm during asana. Through years of trial and error, I have found selections that speak to both me and my students; and I’ve removed selections that are less than optimal for asana.

sam at senior recital
Sam at his senior music composition recital. He created a relaxing classical playlist, some selections shared below.

Ultimately, music and movement make lovely dance partners!

In  prenatal yoga classes, I particularly recommend that students identify music that helps them feel relaxed. When in labor, or when the stresses of early parenthood are at their peak, familiar, calming, and comforting music can play a role in stimulating relaxation. As proven, we perceive relaxing sounds and our bodies minds brains relax. Ahhh.

Music Therapeutically Reduces Stress

An APA article entitled in Music as Medicine states: “… researchers found that listening to and playing music increase the body’s production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells — the cells that attack invading viruses and boost the immune system’s effectiveness…Music also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.” (italics added for emphasis)

Indeed, music therapy is a clinical and evidence-based profession. A music therapist  is a highly specialized expert holding a degree providing skills to work with patients in a myriad of settings. For example, music therapists support children prior to surgery, brain injury patients, Alzheimer’s patients etc.

The stress management classes I taught for decades were not group therapy, however therapeutic healing results did occur as my students employed the tools of stress management.

The same potential holds for music in yoga classes. Therapeutic calming, stress reducing effects can happen with music selections compatible with the yoga practice.

Music for Relaxing Yoga Practice: A Short Lovely Selection

I’d like to share a few of the albums I find relaxing. My students have asked me numerous times for this list. This is for you, with love.

Journey to the Heart My all time favorite. Out of print however many pre-owned available.

Putumayo Presents Yoga Lovely variety.

The Essence A classic

Relaxing Classical Pieces; a sample list. Curated by Sam Golden

Bach: Three Part Invention #5 in e flat
Bach: Sonata for Solo Violin III Siciliano
Stravinsky: Concerto in D for string orchestra 2. Arioso Andandito
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No 5
Dvorak: Waldesruhe (silent woods)
Morton Feldman: Rothko Chapel

What are some of your most calming musical pieces? I’d love to hear from you. Looking forward to seeing you in class!

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