Yoga postures and raga music are counterparts. The music is open ended and flows into eternity like the room full of bodies saluting to the sun and moon.
The music is so intertwined with the movements that neither is noticed…they are two strands of a double helix. One that pop music has no business being part of.
I am grateful for the spread of yoga and its popularity. The more yoga you do, the better you’ll feel and you will spread that glory of self and being.
But when the teacher fills the room with empty music that has no relation to the spirit of yoga, then it’s one more distraction — and a very intimate one — that will have to be put aside to have a proper practice that aligns you with the spirit.
Why would someone want to listen to pop music that does everything it can to destroy the meditation?
If the music is born out of devotion to the ego, then it has no reason to be played in a room full of people who should be obliterating the ego in an inward cosmic dance of godhood…
I was in a class the other day while thinking about poor music choices by yoga teachers and on came some Krishna Das.
“Finally,” I thought. “I can work with this.”
Kirtan music can work just as good as ragas because it is born out of a devotion to our higher self.
But the glory was short lived. For some reason Dave Matthews came on next.
In another class with equally disturbing music my brother Michael asked the teacher, “Have you ever considered playing ragas?”
“What’s that?” he said, looking puzzled.
“You know, Indian music, like Ravi Shankar?” is what Michael asked but the teacher’s demeanor was the same as if he were asked “Have you seen any space aliens lately?”
Yoga is what connects us to the higher self.
When the raga weaves seamlessly into the practice one becomes the raga and the raga becomes the posture. You are connected, in the moment. All is bliss.
I don’t write this to upset teachers, they are wonderful. I write this to make them more conscious of music choices. There are plenty of teachers who guide the students beautifully on their hour or 90 minute journey into the self.
But the music should enfold the practice like flower petals around the bud.
In some ways, music is even more of our guide than the teacher. It’s affecting our posture and how deeply we can go into meditation. Any music the students can sing along to is immediately taking away from the inward practice and putting them on the outside again.
And any buddha will tell you the trouble with reaching out instead of in.
“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music,” the wise Aldous Huxley said.
When it’s not a music of pure devotion, it takes away from the practice even in ways we don’t notice.
So please yoga teachers, the next time you step into your shala, step outside your culture and say “Namaste,” then play some Ali Akbar Khan instead of Adele.
You can pop in some of the diva’s tunes on the way home and sing along…