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Music, Music, Music (A 2015 KISS MY ASANA Prequel Sequel) March 2, 2015

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 31-Day Challenge, Books, Changing Perspectives, Donate, Hope, Karma Yoga, Mantra, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Texas, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Writing, Yoga.
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So if you’re feelin’ down and out, got no place to go now
Just sing along to the music y’all, let it fill your soul now
Because everyone deserves music, sweet music

“Everyone Deserves Music” by Michael Franti & Spearhead


My best friend in college always said life has a soundtrack. I know, everybody says that now – there’s even an app for that – but this was back in the 80’s/90’s and it wasn’t a thing, it just was. And what it was to me was true, in part, because I had been hearing a super eclectic soundtrack all my life.


I heard all the sounds of the country, mixed with all the sounds of the city. I heard vinyl and 8-track tapes before cassettes. I spent a good portion of my younger days thinking my Beatles-crazed friends were fans of Wes Montgomery. I was in a girl band that sang songs like “Lettuce Entertain You.” And I once got a speeding ticket for flying down an open highway to Mahalia Jackson (with my maternal great-grandmother and grandmother in the car).


My maternal great-grandfather owned a super club on the Chitlin’ Circuit; my dad played first chair trumpet in high school – even though he was tone deaf; my immediate family took road trips where most of the stations along the way played old school country; one of my maternal great-uncles had a basement full of classical; one of my first cassettes was dubbed “Hollering Oats” by my family; my mother took me to my first live rock concert; and at some point along the way my friend J. Ben taught me it was OK to play rhythm & blues, country, and heavy metal on the same mixed tape – you just had to have a theme…or not.


There are answers in the music
And there are answers in the words

– “Be Good” by Hothouse Flowers


Fast forward to now. After years of working in the performing arts, I started teaching yoga. I’m quick to tell people that I didn’t take the teacher training to teach – I took it so I could answer questions. What I had no way of knowing when I started this little adventure was that some of the questions I would end up answering would be about the music I play during class.


Rewind to my first yoga classes. There was no prerecorded soundtrack. In fact, I think I practiced for a couple of years before I took a class with music, and another couple of years before I practiced with a teacher who played non-classical/instrumental music.


Rie Congelio introduced me to musicians that (at the time) weren’t being played on the radio (in the U. S.) and taught me how much fun it could be to flow to your breath, while simultaneously dancing to the music. Down the road I would be spend a year practicing to Steve Ross’s eclectic soundtrack on Oxygen’s Inhale; look into the physiological, neurological, and emotional effects of music; and eventually practice in studios where people just basically played a bunch of random stuff because it had the “right” tempo and it was something they liked to hear.


What hasn’t ever left me; however, was what preceded my musical conversation with Rie. I was in Savasana trying to figure out why the very quiet song seemed so familiar to me, and why my body seemed to be so tuned into it. When I spoke to Rie after class, she said she picked the song because it was soothing and it was in Gaelic; and therefore, unlikely to be a distraction (seeing as we were in Southeast Texas). Little did she know I was studying Gaelic at the time or, that in that moment, I would start really thinking about how much music could enhance or undermine the practice of yoga as meditation.


And every cry is a song
And every song is a prayer
And our prayer must be heard
Fill the air

– “Isn’t It Amazing” by Hothouse Flowers


Music can serve as white noise (or maybe it’s brown noise). It can serve as an extra wall, filtering out distraction from outside the practice space. It can serve as a controlled distraction, a known quantity, to hone our focus/concentration. It can also, unfortunately, just be a distraction. And yet, I know people who never “hear” the music – even when I play Ozzy Osbourne – and I know people who will practice to a song for years before they listen to it. Other people will go so deep into the song, they get beyond it.


In Yoga Sutra 1.2 Patanjali writes “yogash citta vritti nirodhah” (“Yoga ceases the fluctuation of the mind.”) Inherent in this statement is that fact that the mind fluctuates. Left to its own devices, the mind will, at some point, start looking for a distraction. So I give the mind music for several reasons. First, in some meditation traditions people are told to think the word “thinking” when their mind starts wandering. It’s a reminder to get back to the meditation. When I pick a theme for my classes, I also start picking music that supports the theme by serving as a reminder when the mind wanders. Second, Patanjali (in YS 1.17) outlines four (4) levels of attention/concentration/meditation: (1) gross, (2) subtle, (3) bliss, (4) and absorption. In their commentary on YS 1.17, Geshe Michael Roach and Christy McNally compare the levels to (1) being aware that music is playing; (2) examining the words and melody (maybe humming or singing along); (3) enjoying the song, being overcome by its beauty; and (4) being so absorbed that nothing else matters, everything else disappears. Finally, research has shown that when people hear a song they haven’t heard in a long time, their blood pressure changes. Breathing and breath awareness can also change because of the tempo, volume, and musical key.


This is a song that nobody knows
I couldn’t begin to describe how it goes
But it makes me cry or laugh right out loud
It’s a song that I sing when there’s no one around

– “When There’s No One Around” by Garth Brooks


Last April, I posted 30 Poses in 30 Days for the KISS MY ASANA Yogathon. I am doing the yogathon again this April to raise money and awareness for the adaptive yoga programs at Mind Body Solutions. This year, however, we are gearing up early. So, in an effort to get people excited about practicing yoga (or practicing more yoga), I’m posting 30 Songs in 30 Days during March. I know, I know, some of you are already thinking, “Hold up, Myra, March has 31 days.” Yes, it’s true, and since this post has at least a baker’s dozen linked song references, plus two (2) unlinked song references, AND one song contains at least ten (10) musical Easter eggs, consider each one a little musical lagniappe (a little something extra, freely given with a purchase).


~ Thanks for spending a little time with me. NAMASTE ~

(Check out Freegal at the Hennepin Public Library.)




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