Live music is playing at a yoga class near you; let it take you out of your head into a new groove.

Michael Franti accompanies a yoga class at the yoga Journal conference in San Francisco.

………. “In less than a few minutes, we’d been whipped into an ecstatic state”………. Scenes like this might not be the yoga norm, but an increasing number of teachers and musicians are working together to create an invigorating hybrid of live performance and physical practice. This fusion spans genres and moods, sometimes leading to rapturous dance but other times inviting extended periods of quiet contemplation. It’s a natural marriage between two disciplines that, at their core, are designed to bring about a transcendent state of mind. This merging of sonic and physical, while not devoid of ridiculous moments, could mark an evolution in the way we experience yoga.


Thirty years ago, the occasional teacher would put on a new age, space-voyage cassette during class, but most yogis practiced in silence. The idea of bringing music and asana together had yet to take shape when Swami Satchidananda, the founder of Integral Yoga, was invited to speak at 1969’s Woodstock festival. There, he observed how powerful music and vibration are powerful enough to be the beginning of peace before leading a chant.

“So, let all our actions, and all our arts, express yoga” he encouraged the crowd. “Through that sacred art of music, let us find peace.” Satchidananda was bringing yoga to the music scene back then; now, folks are bringing music to the yoga scene.

In the late 80’s, a few people began giving yoga a musical jolt. Steve Ross, a former studio musician, was one of them….Music is the score of the practice, letting you forget your personal drama, he asserts. Also, it’s fun, and to Ross’s mind, yoga should be fun.

“I don’t think every single yoga class should be a dance fest,” says Nicki Doane. “Sometimes it’s a distracting element when you’re trying to get into your own stuff. But in terms of opening people into a heart space, yoga and music complement each other beautifully.” Music takes people out of their heads, she says. It allows them to calmly focus on their breath, no matter the location.

“Yoga and music both allow you to feel and express your own rhythm.” Says Ashtangi Edie Brickell.

And for many people practicing in silence is key to finding that internal rhythm – which is why yogis who love to groove to the beat also enjoy the quietude of a nonmusical practice.

“We’re surrounded by music and noise,” says yoga teacher Judith Hanson Lasater. “For many people, yoga class is the only time in their day where there’s a chance for quiet.” Practicing in silence offers an introspective moment. “When there’s more stimulation on the outside, you’re pulled out of yourself,” Lasater adds. So you have to arrive to your own sense of balance, knowing when you’ll respond to a big blast of heart-opening vibration and when you’ll be happiest looking quietly within yourself.



            The growing interest in live music in yoga classes, says Russill Paul, the author of The Yoga of Sound, stems from a cultural need to connect yogic energy to a “mother tradition.” Yoga in the United States, he says, has developed more as a communal experience than as an individual practice, and the music component strengthens the communal experience. Unlike India, he says, the United States lacks a cultural energy framework for practicing yoga.

            “Music is a way to connect to these larger cultural energies,” he says. “That’s why it’s making more and more of an impact.” In other words, our Western yoga infrastructure is so new that the practice is still in process of evolving to fit our needs. We don’t have a long yogic tradition, but we have a great musical one. The rise of music in yoga classes, Paul says, is almost a subconscious cultural drive to bring the two together.

            “Now comes the question, ‘Where does American yoga go from here?’ More and more we look for ways to develop an authentically American tradition of yoga,” he says. “This is a great avenue that can be explored.”

            Musicians are certainly tapping into the convergence. Earlier this decade, Joshua Brill was playing ambient guitar soundscapes at conscious gatherings around Chicago. “People would come up to me and say, ‘This would be great for yoga,’” he says. He answered an ad on Craigslist for a guitar player for a candle-light yoga class in Chicago, and he left the experience transformed.


                                                        From Yoga Journal