Music or No Music?

In a previous issue of Inner IDEA Body-Mind-Spirit Review, we asked: Does playing music in yoga or Pilates classes detract from or enhance the experience? What are the pros and cons?

“I have found that music can be a distraction in a yoga class because it tends to influence one’s mood and speed of breath/movement. I find that it becomes a white noise, like so much of our daily life. It is a very profound practice to be in silence. Many students don't like to be in silence as it may focus too much attention on the constant chatter in their minds. If the intention of the class is to focus on unifying participants’ mind, body, breath and spirit I prefer silence. If on the other hand the intention of the class is to practice asana or physical movement (not a true union of body, mind, breath and spirit) the influence of music can be a great tool.”

-- Carol Porter

“I have over 20 years experience practicing yoga (I am now 74) and have experienced the incredible benefits of the ‘right’ kind of music throughout my 2-hour sessions, which include a ‘joint-freeing series’ followed by traditional poses and a 30-minute meditation practice. Throughout my sessions, I include 2-minute meditation periods, either standing or sitting, to refocus and to listen to the calming music.

“However, if the music is traditional and includes different tunes and includes those awful silences between songs, the flow is broken, people awaken to the breath and lose their flow. It is better to have no music than to have disruptive music.

“There are very few continuous play CDs in the new age arena, but I have found several that work pretty well. The silences between the tunes is not as long as most, so it works well to a certain extent. I am probably the only one who is bothered by the silences, but this is an important issue for a teacher to keep the flow going and music drives the success of the train. I believe quiet continuous play is one of the key elements in a successful class.”

-- Joyce Douglas

“I am a Pilates instructor and I use music in my mat classes. My own creativity is driven by music. I don’t let it run the show, however. I feel it has a pulse that stimulates my soul and therefore my students as well. I certainly do not recommend high-powered, forceful aerobic music. The essence of the class is developed through my music. I create a warm-up song that helps bring everyone ‘in’ to class. After that I maintain a somewhat steady rhythm; not meditative, but inspired. Sometimes I cue into the beat of the music; however, it is more just a stimulus to our auditory senses. The volume of the music is key.”

-- Scottie Johnson, West Linn, Oregon

“I really enjoy music in yoga class. It helps relax the mind and keeps our minds from wandering. I also believe the music sets the tone for relaxation when the students enter the room before class begins.”

-- Janet Davis

“Music seems to decide whether you can close in and focus on your body’s experience or not. Personally I teach three Pilates classes per week with participants numbering up to 30, adding music to the energy would be too distracting. Many participants do not ask for it, which is interesting as we are accustomed to music in all group fitness classes. In my own yoga practice the instructor plays soft and modern rock. There are days when my own experience in my skin is not a comfortable one and the music pushes me to focus on the body at hand or get angry. However, there are days where the music complements my energy and it does not grate or intrude. I find that I hear the lyrics and rhythm more deeply. Music is like breathing, you feel it more intently if you focus on it and try not to fight it.”

-- Fran Philip, Menlo Park, California

“I find that playing music during a Pilates class can be very positive or it can detract and give a very negative experience. It’s important to choose the right music. For me that means music with no words or lyrics. There is lots of great music that is just for Pilates or yoga class but often the sound or type of music on the CD sounds the same so I like to use more than one CD during a class. Music can be very powerful if used correctly.”

-- Ann Stallman, Guelph, Ontario

“Playing music in yoga classes helps provide a soothing background sound that contributes to the mood of class. Appropriately chosen music can enhance the experience by relaxing participants. Soft, unintrusive melodies are most enjoyable. Some music that includes a great deal of repetitive chanting can detract from the experience.”

-- Anita Weisenfeld

“I love music in yoga class, particularly if it is appropriate to the class and flows. I have been in classes where the Rolling Stones and other rock groups are playing and as much as I may like music, it seems to miss the point. I want to relax—not jam out.”

-- Amy Peacock, Charlotte, North Carolina

“I think it depends on the venue. I teach Pilates at both large health clubs and small studios. Music is definitely a plus at the health clubs, where it helps focus on the class rather than the noise and activity outside of the class room. Plus the members are used to music in their other classes. It is simply soft background music. The lack of music in the small studios helps the focus to be on the instructor and the essence of the exercises. I will occasionally play some soft music in these studios to a more advanced class to set a quicker flow.”

-- Linda Roy

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