Creating a Sonic Space with Music
To be completely honest, it kind of annoys me that as a yoga teacher I am expected to provide music for my classes. My job is to teach people how to use this meditative, embodied practice to deepen their understanding of their true natures. That it is also my responsibility to provide musical accompaniment seems a bit outside the job description.
This being said, I must admit that I do use music in most of my classes. Perhaps I feel it is expected of me. Perhaps it is also my own reluctance to share silence with my students.
Perhaps it is also because I recognize the potential music has (when used thoughtfully) to add a unique potency to a class — one that can actually help facilitate the meditative experience. I have seen and personally felt how a well-sequenced playlist creates a sort of “sonic space” for students to explore and express their own internal rhythm.
Music, just like everything else, is energy. As instructors, we are the conductors of not just the musical energy, but of all the converging energies that rise and fall during our classes. To craft a sonic space that compliments every energetic element in a class, is at once, an art and a dance. And as teachers, we are all going to have our personal flare.
I do not believe that there is a particular kind of music that is any better or worse in a yoga class. I also don’t believe that there is a special formula for creating playlists.
What I do know is what seems to work for me: sweeping, almost haunting melodic arrangements, big cacophonies of sound that somehow highlight the silence over the sounds themselves, and if there are lyrics, the message has to be in alignment with my teaching.
One more thing I know is that the energy and style an instructor brings into the room can make a playlist work for them in ways that I would not be able to for me. We are the conductors. If the music we use resonates with us, we will be able to guide our students to receive it in a way that resonates with them as well.
Ultimately, if we are conducting the energy of our rooms well, the music we play will fade into the background of our students’ awareness anyway. They will eventually trade their attention on a swaying melody or inspiring refrain, for the sound of their own breath and the wisdom of their own mantra.
When this happens — and as teachers we can tell — it’s not the sounds that our students are lost in, it’s the silence within themselves.