A Beat You Can Breathe To: Yoga and Music

Music Affects Our Emotions – We know intuitively that music affects our emotions. It hits us deeply, unconsciously…

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by JC Peters

Have you ever noticed the music yoga teachers play in class?

Music Affects Our Emotions

We know intuitively that music affects our emotions. It hits us deeply, unconsciously,  elevating us, calling forth an old memory, or even causing us to squeeze on the gas pedal a little harder. Neurologist Oliver Sacks, in his book Musicophilia, explains that the parts of our brains that understand music are intertwined with our limbic (emotional) and motor (movement) systems. Sacks writes, “Rhythm in this sense, the integration of sound and movement, can play a great role in coordinating and invigorating basic locomotor movement.” No wonder we can’t help tapping our toes when a certain song comes on the radio.

Your Breath

In Vinyasa or Flow yoga, we intend very clearly to connect with the rhythm of the breath. We breathe Ujjayi, a slowed down, smoothed out breath that sounds a bit like a whisper, and link every transitional movement to either an inhale or an exhale. Your breath becomes a dance partner, and when you are really in the zone, your breath leads the dance.

Classically, Ujjayi breath is a four count inhale and exhale. Some teachers count the breath out loud, but a good song in 4/4 time with a steady tempo can get everyone in the room breathing together effortlessly. The yoga playlist is an unsung art: if we listen with our bodies, a good groove can help, while an irregular beat can throw us off. What we need is a beat we can breathe to.

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Yoga Playlist

The yoga playlist can also set musical moods, from calm and contemplative to fiery and intense. Since we hear music both physically and emotionally, we must be mindful about using it in a practice with such physical and emotional resonances. Whether it’s Tibetan monks chanting or Avril Lavigne, we must acknowledge that the music we choose creates an emotional flavor for our slow dance with the breath.

Many of my students love my yoga playlists, but I’m also aware that some of them must really, deeply hate them. Everyone has their preferences, and some people like their yoga in silence, with the steady beat of the heart as their only metronome. It’s good to acknowledge that you can’t please all the people all the time, but in the end, the music isn’t for my students. It’s for me.

Entrainment

If you put a few pendulums in a room together, swinging at different phases, they somehow hear or feel each other and sync up. This is called entrainment, and it also happens in a yoga class. As the teacher, I need to be the pendulum whose rhythm everyone else matches up with. No matter what’s going on in my life, and even if no one else notices the actual tunes, I know my playlist will get me in sync with the tempo and mood I am trying to share.

In your teaching or home practice, explore how music affects your movement. Some songs even make me want to do backbends or inversions, while others make me crave deep, seated forward folds. There’s a secret language in the music that can accompany our dance with breath. As the poet Mary Oliver has said, “Rhythm is one of the most powerful of pleasures, and when we feel a pleasurable rhythm we hope it will continue. When it does, it grows sweeter.”

This post was originally published on Spirituality & Health. To view the original post, click here.

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Gentle Flow Yoga – Take it Easy

“Take it easy, take it easy – don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy”. Who would have thought The Eagles could sum up…

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“Take it easy, take it easy – don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy”. Who would have thought The Eagles could sum up what gentle flow yoga is all about?

Not all yoga classes have to be preparation for the Olympics. In fact, gentle yoga is just that, “gentle”, while also being invigorating and helping keep your body toned and in shape. This video from Pilgrimage Yoga, “Gentle Flow with Jamie”, shows how you can benefit from “taking it easy”. And, as it turns out, taking it easy or gentle yoga actually helps to not let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy!

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What is Gentle Yoga?

Gentle yoga is not as strenuous or difficult as “regular” yoga. Movements in gentle yoga are slower and not as difficult to get in and out of. Some of the postures, or asanas, are the same as you would normally do. However, this is not a flow where you go from down dog to plank to upward dog and back to down dog in one breath. This is gentle, slow…..easy! That doesn’t mean you’re not getting anything out of it. As we will see, it’s quite the opposite.

Like a lot of yoga sessions, this one starts with setting an intention and a proper seat position. This forms a good base from which to do other postures. Jamie walks us through a seated stretch for the side body, a seated twist and finally a seated forward fold.

After sitting, we move to tabletop pose where we are led through a series that includes Cat/Cow, modified Warrior II on one knee and Child’s pose (balasana).

Also included in this session is some instruction on Pranayama breathing – specifically alternate nostril breathing.

Benefits of Gentle Yoga and Breath

By it’s nature, gentle yoga connects movement to breath – and that’s a great thing! Since each movement is linked with the breath, we enter the posture gradually. This preparation nurtures the joints, muscles and connective tissue. In addition, some other benefits of gentle yoga include:

• Increased flexibility
• A calmed mind
• Stress relief
• Enhanced range of motion
• Balanced digestion
• Improved sleep patterns

Pranayama, or alternate breathing techniques, further assists with feeling more calm and centered, reduces anxiety and has been known to improve sleep patterns.

The video demonstrates the proper way to hold your fingers and walks you through the process of inhaling and exhaling through one nostril by blocking off the other and then doing the same with the other nostril. Surprisingly, this technique, which has been around for a long time, has students reporting they feel more calm and centered and that it helps mitigate intense emotional feelings and helps them sleep better.

Gentle Yoga and Pranayama in Daily Life

Gentle yoga and pranayama can be practiced most anywhere at any time. Sitting at your desk at work is a perfect time for a break of alternate nostril breathing. Likewise chair yoga, which can also be performed at your desk, is a form of gentle yoga. You can also practice gentle yoga at home, even from your bed. Practically speaking, gentle yoga and pranayama are available to the yogi to practice anytime, anywhere.

The overall approach to gentle yoga, however, can be summed up by our friends The Eagles:

Lighten up while you still can
Don’t even try to understand (well, maybe try)
Just find a place to make your stand
And take it easy.

Who said yoga had to be difficult?

Namaste

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Bliss Flow Yoga – Online video review

Throughout my practice of yoga I focused on understanding and improving the various poses (or asanas) of yoga. I have strived for…

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Throughout my practice of yoga I focused on understanding and improving the various poses (or asanas) of yoga. I have strived for the correct alignment and maximum stretch each pose can provide.

In short, I have attempted to break down every pose I’ve learned and improve upon it during my practice.

Breaking down each pose and getting more in depth is definitely worth the effort, however, another level of challenge in yoga is putting several poses together in a series or what is called “flow”.

What is Flowing Yoga?

Flowing yoga is when a few or several poses are “put together” in a series where you “flow” or go from one pose to the other while utilizing your breath to guide you from pose to pose. An example of this is Sun Salutation A or B where one “flows” from a standing mountain pose, through a forward bend and then on to a warrior pose, plank and down dog/up dog or cobra.

In this particular video with Lena Schmidt, the flow pattern she has created provides a good workout with great variety and excellent instruction. The session starts off seated and gentle with the intensity increasing as the flow gathers steam, but it’s not strenuous. Lena walks you through poses such as pigeon, down dog variations, twists and reverse table top. There is an excellent blend of seated and standing poses along with twists.

Benefits and Application

One benefit of flowing yoga is that all muscle groups receive equal attention, creating balanced strength throughout the body. The continual flowing movements help stretch and elongate your muscles while they are being strengthened, allowing you greater mobility and range of motion.

Focusing on the inhale and exhale of your breath results in a positive, calming effect on the central nervous system. Physically, sweat expels toxins and re-energizes your body. Mentally, the synchronized breathing relaxes your mind and helps to release any blockage of energy flow throughout your body.

Knowing and practicing the individual asanas of yoga is extremely important in that they are the base for a flow sequence. You can’t do a good flow unless each pose has good form. That said, if you’re feeling confident about your individual poses, you might want to give a flow session a shot. It will take your practice to another level and offers enormous benefits. Should you decide to flow, I would highly recommend this video. Go…and flow!

Namaste

Watch this video now:

Lena Flow 30

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