Picture this: you walk into a yoga class, prepared to get your om on, but the young animated instructor proceeds to play a mix of upbeat chart-topping hits.
For some yogis and yoginis, this might be a sign to leave the class and never come back, but others actually respond well to that kind of music.
We must, therefore, ask: is yoga better practiced with background music or in silence?
This question is one that’s divisive among the yoga community, and both camps do make very valid points. On the one hand, Yoga practitioner Kaitlin Quistgaard argues on Mindful that yoga is a way to “stretch the mind”.
She recalls classes where she was challenged to fine-tune her awareness and eliminate all distractions in favor of deep meditation.
However, she’s also observed that many studios currently focus on building strength and improving flexibility without much emphasis on meditation — which is supposedly the ultimate goal of the practice.
Advanced practitioners would agree that playing music adds yet another layer of distraction and prevents you from meditating.
For some yoga teachers who curate playlists, however, music can be used to facilitate the flow of a class.
We previously suggested creating a playlist to get yourself moving on days when you can’t seem to be bothered to do anything.
Songs with an upbeat tempo can certainly help you flow through your yoga sequence.
Music can be a powerful motivational tool for students who are new to the practice and have most likely been enticed to try yoga as a workout.
There’s nothing wrong with that, as asanas are an important part of the overall yoga process (along with a cute pair of yoga leggings - imo).
There are also others who find the idea of silence uncomfortable. We found an interesting read from Elite Daily that explains that the fear of silence is real and is actually called sedatephobia.
This is when people get anxious when faced with silence such as in libraries, during awkward pauses, and just the general idea of an eerily quiet place.
People like this will definitely find more comfort with some type of background music played during yoga. Otherwise, their experience with yoga might become stressful, which shouldn’t be the case at all.
Indeed, music has long been used by many as a tool to reduce their stress levels, and perhaps the question we should be asking isn’t whether or not music is compatible with yoga, but what type of music actually is?
Findings from a study by the Public Library of Science indicate that listening to nature sounds led to lower levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone - we all need that, am I right!?
But reducing stress only worked when natural sounds like rippling water were introduced.
Fortunately, there is a wealth of nature sounds online that can be accessed by yoga practitioners and yoga teachers alike. The effect of music on stress relief is important, because it’s also one of the goals of yoga, which means that the two can go hand-in-hand.
It’s one of the reasons many working professionals turn to yoga as a way of unwinding from work. It’s also why yoga and meditation are used as wellness tools in the corporate world.
Maryville University states that psychology experts have become valuable across different fields, as mental states directly impact one’s ability to perform at work or learn new things.
Our stress levels also affect our lives outside of work, especially in the way we connect with others. Music can therefore help a lot in this regard, especially when it comes to combatting stress during one’s yoga practice.=
At the end of the day, whether music is a crutch or a tool for yoga is ultimately a matter of preference.
As a teacher, you’d have to be more careful in selecting your music as not everyone will have the same taste, and the effects of different genres can vary.
For your personal yoga sessions, however, you can certainly go with whatever you’re feeling that day as long as it helps your practice.
I'd love to know your thoughts - do you listen to music while practicing, enjoy nature sounds or just complete silence? Comment below!
xo - Jenna Hall (Evolve Writer)