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Do You Yogabop?

By on January 14th, 2011 — Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Yoga_MusicI went to a flow yoga class a few weeks ago with a teacher I’d never before practiced with. I would have really liked the class—if it weren’t for the Jay-Z. Don’t get me wrong: I like hip-hop. But I can’t get down with it when I am practicing asana.

In fact, all pop music really distracts me in a yoga class. It’s hard for me to focus on my breath when there is a bass throbbing beneath me, and I never feel like the music is totally in time with my movements. Plus it always seems that, just as I am easing into the steady flow of practice, a song comes on that reminds me of an ex-boyfriend and I am suddenly meandering into that past relationship instead of being present with my current Danurasana.

My main teachers don’t play a lot of music and when they do it is soft, barely in the background, and generally of the meditative or devotional sort. Perhaps the reason that they don’t play loud pop music is because they stop a lot to demonstrate poses and discuss yogic principles, and the music can be hard to talk over. Also, if you are encouraging students to set the rhythm of their practice to their breath, music can disrupt that rhythm. As a teacher, I don’t play pop music in the class because I feel like it distracts me from teaching, and I find it hard to match it up exactly to the pace of the class, which changes not only based on my instruction but also on the students’ energy.

That said, I’ve got nothing against the idea of dance music in yoga class! I certainly know dedicated yogis who love to jam out to really intense soundtracks. In fact, these yogis make up a huge part of the yoga-practicing population, as evidenced by the fact that boogie-down Vinyasa classes set to trendy tunes are often crazy packed. I can see how music can be an effective tool for some people in the way that it gives a busy mind an external focus point. And at its heart, yoga is truly a dance.

I’d love to hear some thoughts about pop music as a tool in asana practice. Do you prefer to rock out in your yoga class? And to what kind of music? Or do you like to practice in relative quiet? Does dance music take you deeper into your practice? Or does it bring you out? Write in and tell us what you think!

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9 Reader Comments

  1. Posted By: Chloe 1/15/2011 @ 1:15 am

    For me pop music is a definite distraction which I prefer to avoid, for all the reasons you’ve given. If I like a song, it distracts me with memories of why I like it, or just because I’m singing along in my head, rather than focusing on my breath. And if I don’t like it, I’m having to fight thoughts like, “Why do they have to play this?” “How annoying!” “How am I supposed to focus with that racket going on?” – clearly not where I’d like to be mentally while practising.

    Thanks for bringing this topic up – I look forward to hearing from others about which camp they fall into – to bop or not to bop?

    Chloe

  2. Posted By: Lisa 1/15/2011 @ 7:11 am

    Generally speaking, I’m right there with you–thanks but no on the pop music in yoga. I’ve been going to Janet Stone’s Mellow and Radiant Flow classes and she often plays familiar songs, sometimes in the form of weird, trance-y remixes. Last night it was Billy Jean. No, really. So I’m kind of just grooving along in my own practice and suddenly there’s Michael Jackson. The whole class cracked up. It was a good moment. Later she played Wish You Were Here (the original, no remixing) and the whole class was singing along. It was the oddest mashup of my teenage self and my present self. I’ve been in classes where she played Lou Reed’s Walk On the Wild Side (again, no remix) and has the whole class singing and bouncing their leg in the air when “the colored girls sing do, d-do, d-do . . .”

    If I were reading this, I’d be thinking: absolutely no way. I’d hate that! And I would never want every yoga class, or even most of them, to be like that. But Janet is such a strong presence, I just let go and let her take me where she wants to. It’s always somewhere beautiful, challenging, fun and groovy, and as an occasional treat I love it!

  3. Posted By: Eric 1/15/2011 @ 8:39 am

    Confirmed bopper here. At our yoga studio we generally try to create a mix that fills the time for the class and goes beyond hitting shuffle on the iPod. Usually something slower and meditative for the warmup and savasana, but often you’ll hear Ray Lamontagne, Alanis, MC Yogi, Adele, Jason Mraz, Girish and even sometimes Dolly Parton. Admitted we are lacking equal air time for Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park but it still seems to work.

    Some of our classes are more Gentle and Meditative and those instructors do stick with an hour of flutes and sitar, but why not branch out musically and stretch your mind along with your hammies if you’re getting up and moving anyway. It doesn’t all have to be Deuter and Deva Premal.

    I think incorporating some more contemporary music into the playlist makes the class more accessible to many who might be less comfortable with non-stop new age. One of our teachers even went as far as to create and entire class themed after the best songs an American Idol season and the class loved it. I have heard many comments from people following classes saying, for example, how happy they felt when that Crosby, Stills and Nash song played or at hearing a new cover version of Hallelujah.

    Some people don’t groove on it, but we figure they can always find a space a home to practice if they need to be that much in control of all elements of their environment. There is always going to be something to distract you from your practice – whether you choose to let it into your personal journey or allow it to bother you is entirely up to you.

  4. Posted By: Mark Holmes 1/17/2011 @ 9:27 am

    If you’ve watched any of the DVDs that Ian and I have produced through Pranamaya, you’ll notice that music is often available, but not usually as a first choice; and then it’s generally of a very quiet, supportive nature. Of course how someone defines ‘supportive’ is entirely subjective; how we define supportive is clearly shown by the choices we’ve made to date.

    I’ve personally found strong music to be really distracting in class as well: something to entice the senses outward, rather than helping encourage their inward return. Most modern, popular flow-style classes are really challenging in this regard because they feel more like sense gratification and indulgence rather than an opportunity and space for deeper enquiry, which to me has been the point of practicing yoga over the years. If yoga isn’t getting you to look inward, isn’t it just fitness? This was a strong mantra for a long time.

    But lately my sense of righteousness around what yoga is and isn’t is really changing. And not changing *into* something, but just softening up, unraveling. I realized that my own strict beliefs about it are in fact the chains that keep me from growing, evolving… that keep my ‘self’ from unraveling. I’m not really interested in holding onto notions of what people should do or what works for them; I’ve spent most of my life doing that, and it hasn’t really worked.

    So, I’m unlikely to be helping produce a Hip-Hop Yoga video anytime soon, and I probably won’t be the guy on the adjacent mat in the next sweaty super-power flow class with blaring music… but if that works for you, who the hell am I to say it’s not right? Enjoy yourself, and I’ll enjoy the smile on your face after class 😉

  5. Posted By: Chloe 1/28/2011 @ 11:19 am

    Hi,

    I’m just recommenting here to let you know I’m passing along the Stylish Blogger Award to The Sacred Cow. If you’d like to pick it up, this is the link:
    http://innerwhisperscouk.blogspot.com/2011/01/stylish-blogger-award.html

    OM Chloe

    • Posted By: Karen (author) 1/28/2011 @ 12:03 pm

      Thanks for this, Chloe! Awesome! We’ll “pick up” the award shortly. :-)

  6. Posted By: Daniel 2/5/2011 @ 9:33 am

    It is distracting, what else is there to say. During asana practice you have to listen to your body, not to Jay-Z. It’s not even yoga anymore when people dance on music, it’s more like “yoga-inspired jazz ballet.”

  7. Posted By: Yoginilady 2/5/2011 @ 5:50 pm

    I can not listen to pop or rock n roll when I practice because then I start to dance and there goes my yoga. I have not yet learned how to bugey to yoga.

  8. Posted By: tina 4/30/2011 @ 9:39 pm

    I prefer no music or maybe just some lit drumming,certainly no vocals, The alignment and the mindfulness Plus tunes don’t mix, Sorry, If you want to buggy go to zumba