Yoga and Music: What Is the Connection?

The Debate

There is a great debate that has been going on for a long time over whether music is beneficial in a yoga class. There are those who feel that music makes that movements, poses, and breathing sync much easier when there is music going on. On the other hand, there are those who consider music to be a distraction.

How can you know if music is beneficial for your yoga practice or not? The first thing to consider is that there can never be complete agreement on this factor. The preference for music in yoga is as varied as it is in normal life. People’s choices in diverse types of music vary greatly.

The Benefits

On the positive side, music has been part of human history from the earliest civilizations of man. It is for this reason that music is an integral part of every culture in the world. Even though people may not love the same music genre in a yoga class, given a choice, each person can choose at least some form of music.

Music also has some obvious healing and therapeutic benefits. When combined with yoga, the health benefit is further enhanced. Depending on the postures and movements that one is doing, there is a place for both instrumental and lyrical music in a yoga practice. Understanding this factor can enhance the sense of community, the flow of the movements, self-awareness, and reflection.

Music can be especially beneficial in Vinyasa yoga classes, syncing well with the fast pace and the breathing motions. In some classes, tutors count the breathing motions to help students catch the pace. When music is incorporated, the steady tempo can make it easy for people to perform effortless breathing motions. This is key to Vinyasa yoga practitioners since breath is like a dance partner.

The Downside

According to the co-director of the Pennsylvania Center of Well Being, Dean Lerner, music is organized noise that is bound to affect the human mind. This means that it is not possible to draw your mind and consciousness into a meditative state when music is playing.

Lerner also agrees with a San Francisco based Iyengar instructor, Karl Erb, on the negative effects of music in meditation. There is a chance that music will compete with yoga in achieving the eight sacred goals, Pratyahara. Music may have the effect of acting as a distraction rather than a motivator in meditations.

The main goal of meditation in yoga is to reign in on wandering thoughts and focus them in one place. When music prevents this from happening, then it is not beneficial in yoga. What is interesting though is that there are still times when Lerner and Karl have used music in their yoga classes. According to them, there are times when it is appropriate.

How to Know When It Is Appropriate

With all the diverging points on the benefits of music in yoga, there are factors that one can consider when deciding on whether to use music.

The Intended Goal – If a teacher feels that the music may aid in achieving certain movements and poses, then it would be a good idea to use the music. However, if it appears to be a detraction, then it should be avoided.

Is it Private or Public – Every person has a preference in music that may not be shared by others. If it works when used in private, then it may be beneficial.

Previous Experience with Music – It may not be wise to start experimenting with various genres of music if you are new to yoga. It is wiser to break rules when you have already applied them in the past.

Chaturanga: For The Sake Of Your Shoulders

If you’re not familiar with Chaturanga, it’s basically holding a push up in its low position. Simple yet very demanding! Chaturanga Dandasana is one of the poses that a Yogi encounters often during practice. It is widely used due to its vulnerability. But many practitioners performing Chaturanga have been doing it wrong for a long time and usually this can only be corrected through years of practice or by a teacher’s guidance. Practicing poses with improper form time and again can cause unimaginable damage to your body, so its important to really focus on correct form.

The socket and the ball of our shoulders are different in nature than those in our hips. Our hip joint is stable while the shoulder joint is not in the same regard. The head of our femur rests squarely in the socket, making it independent from other muscles to keep it intact.

But the case is different for the shoulders. The sockets are composed of ligaments and muscles and only the bottom part where the humerus rests is made of bone, creating shallow attachment to the scapula. To make sure that the ball stays intact to the socket, the ligaments and the muscles surrounding the bone have to put in a collective effort and if it fails to work properly, the ball may be dislocated.

So how do you properly perform Chaturanga Dandasanaa without damaging your shoulders?

In any Yoga posture, proper form is important. And patience plays a vital role in the practice. Here’s a secret to build your way to Chaturanga without sacrificing your shoulders’ happiness:

Stability holds the key. Stabilizing your shoulder can save you from injury while approaching Chaturanga. Pull your shoulders away from your ears. Avoid dropping your shoulders too low. This happens when the pectoral muscle is too strong and is used more than the serratus anterior muscles and rhomboids which support the shoulder girdle. Stay at 90 degrees. Do not lower any further or it will force your shoulders into extension, placing them in bigger risk.

Here are two things that can greatly contribute to your stability. Slowly develop them with patience. Don’t rush. Listen to your body. Be mindful of your movement, breathing and thoughts.

Build strength. Starting your journey with no strength at all shouldn’t discourage you. So a great way to assist your weight is to hug your elbows to the side of your body. Keep them in line with your torso and squeeze them against your sides.

Fully engage your core. If the core isn’t engaged enough, it’ll put a lot of weight and pressure to your shoulders, causing you to develop improper form. Make sure that the ribs and abdominals are pulled in, thighs are pushed up and your heels’ pushed back. Hold all the muscles in your body as one system.

Approaching the posture. Start in a plank position. Wrists, elbows and shoulders are properly aligned vertically. To lift your thighs off the floor, tuck your heels to engage the quads. Suck the belly in as you inhale, engaging your core. Exhale, shift your weight forward, lowering the body, keeping the elbows at 90 degrees, in line with your torso. Inhale to Upward-facing dog to release.

Alternatively, if you can’t hold your full weight on your arms, you can drop to your knees. Follow the same principles. It’ll help lessen the weight your shoulders and arms have to carry while still familiarizing your body with the proper form and developing arm and core strength.

Remember to be patient with the practice and yourself. Chaturanga Dandasana is one of the hardest poses that need time and effort to be fully understood. With regular practice and dedication, it is not impossible.

Trust the journey and have fun discovering yourself!