Should there be (more) music in your yoga class?


Yoga is all about turning inwards. Feeling yourself. Grouding. Getting to know your mental and physical levels. So if that’s the case, why would you play some music in the background? Wouldn’t that be very distracting? We asked vinyasa yoga teacher Fleur van Zonneveld, who has been using music in her classes from the very beginning.

By Eva Dusch

‘I have always played music in my classes. And when the music system is not working, I really don’t like that. It’s a huge part of my way of teaching and I could’t do without. Even though, in most yoga classes and styles, music is not done because it’s about finding silence and quietness within yourself. But for me yoga equals love and music gets you to that point way faster than you think. Recently I was watching this Dutch television show where they talked about how music affects the brain. And it really showed that it  increases feelings of empathy and makes that certain part of the brain grow.’

Social glue 
But that’s not the only reason, Fleur recalls. Yoga may be a highly private and individual practice, focusing on you and only you (no, not that hot teacher or handsome fella on your left side), it also unifies us yogi’s. When opening your heart you’re more likely to gather with other people. Just like music does to people. We know intuitively that music affects our emotions and state of being. And different research from the past years shows that music can and will unify people socially. Music is like the ‘social glue’ that bonds us together. ‘Just notice when you put on music or a song that you really like’, Fleur says. ‘You feel happy, empowered and sometimes your body starts tingling. And with an open heart, you’re more capable of picking up new and positive things from your class. You’ll receive what you need. And that’s why I think it’s so important.’

Although the arguments sound pretty reasonable, not everyone can appreciate her choice for music in class. Because it doesn’t seem to serve the principles of focus and concentration. And we don’t step on our mats to get distracted, right? ‘Well, that’s exactly what I found so interesting about using music in class. All these crazy asanas we do, it teaches us how to handle difficult situations. How to stay calm when dealing with stressful stuff. So when you practice this on your mat, do bring on the heavy storms and craziness. See how you handle that. That’s when the actual practice comes in.’

Musical flavour
When playing music during yoga, you have to choose wisely. Poor selection can create a disconnection between body and brain, but on the other hand, according to different studies you see how certain music can decrease feelings of stress. A study of the University of Berlin showed that sitar music is the only tested genre that actually lowers your cortisol level (which has everything to do with stress). But your playlist will also set the (musical) mood, from calm and reflective to intense and playful. So we should be mindful about what musical flavour is chosen and the physical and emotional resonances. ‘The music should support your movements and flow. It has to match with what you’re doing and teaching. With backbends I use more upbeat music, while with forward bends I like it to be more calm. Personally, I’m always looking for songs with a heartbeat. I really don’t like that typical yoga music, so I have my own playlist. I love music, so I’m always on the hunt for new things and sounds.’ Want to know what kind of music Fleur uses in her classes? Here you have her top favourites:

1. Massive Attack – Teardrop
2. Cinematic Orchestra – Soda
3. Bonobo
4. Moby – Porcelain
5. Bas Peters – No.7

Lecture: How music effects the brain 
If you ask Dutch professor neuropsychology Erik Scherder he will confirm all the above right away. He can tell you all about it and more. Like why music makes you smarter and happier and how it will improve your quality of life. We can highly recommend visiting one of his lectures in Het Concertgebouw (july 7th!) in Amsterdam, or watch some of it online (unfortunately it’s only in Dutch).

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