The Meditative Rhythms of Yoga Music

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Isn’t music always about the way you feel or the way it makes you feel? About its ability to transport you to a different place and time? It is this inseparable link between music and mood that makes it so therapeutic. It can make you feel happier, excited, inspired or simply stress free and peaceful. Music is an organised collection of sounds that can give you a touching emotional experience, which can stir up memories or lead you down a new path of imagination and possibilities.  

Irregular or disorganised sounds; however, are just unpleasant noises. We are constantly exposed to such noises in our day to day life, externally as well as internally. From doorbells to ringtones, sounds of machines, TV, loud horns etc., urban life is mostly devoid of pleasant and natural sounds. Further, these noises impede a state of deep relaxation and make it even more difficult to hush all the internal chatter or noise.

How often do you find yourself distracted by unwanted sounds such as a phone call or random screams from the streets during a savasana or meditation session?  In today’s modern urban life, we are surrounded by noises and distractions, which can damage our physiological and psychological health. The mind thus craves for something pleasant, something natural, something that can resonate with the inner state of being – like an experience similar to Yoga, a practice which takes your mind off the external distractions and enables you quiet the monkey mind.

Sound and music therapy have been widely used by ancient cultures like the Indian, Mongolian, Tibetan, Mayan, Chinese and Shamans as chanting, mantras, singing bowl, drumming therapy, etc.. It is based on the fact that everything is vibrating at certain frequencies. Jonathan Goldman, author of Healing Sounds, and founder of the Sound Healers Association, writes in his book ‘Through sound it is possible to change the rhythm of our brain waves as well as our heartbeat and respiration… the combination of both  the scientific and spiritual approaches to sound is mandatory for true discovery and exploration of the ability of sound to heal and transform and it is important that information about sound is coupled with personal experiences with sound.’

As per Raga Chikitsa, an ancient Indian manuscript that deals with the therapeutic effect of raga Ragas of the Indian classical music (Shastric Music) are created according to the deep knowledge of harmonious consonance between the seven swaras and chakras. This is why classical musical compositions are found to have significant positive effect on the mind-body system and also have the potential to awaken the otherwise dormant faculties.The therapeutic sound and sound therapy techniques are delivered using tonal and rhythmic instruments and voice, which have been shown to affect physiology, neurology and psychology with a form of reflective enquiry (a kind of questioning).

The genre for Yoga and Meditation music has seen a mix of different styles and expressions and there has also been an increase in the number of live-music Yoga sessions in the past few of years. From tracks facilitating the individual’s quest to look inward, devotional tracks of bhakti genre, ambient or ethnic tracks, music with binaural beats to up-beat tracks for a power-packed vinyasa session … the world of Yoga music offers a variety of options that can further enhance your Yoga experience. In keeping with the contemporary yoga styles and traditional Yoga philosophy, Yogi and Music Producer  Yotam Agam has been exploring the gentle relation between Yoga and Music. Read on to find out all about his musical journey to Yoga

JY: Tell us about your musical journey to Yoga.

Yotam: Music has always been the carrier of my life!, everything I have and I am experiencing in my life is always infused with music. It is music that brought me to India and it is in India where I had first started to practice Yoga.

Years of parallels,  practicing yoga and making music, brought a natural transition to cross the boundaries over between my music and my mat and to innovate and create. Today, everything that I do is around the beautiful combination of Music and Yoga.

JY: Is the link between Music and Yoga similar to link between Mantra and Yoga? If not, how are they different.  

Yotam: This is an Interesting question. I have spent years trying to understand what is a “MANTRA” for me.   

Today I clearly see Mantra as a complete sound experience. it can be :

A way of using sound to create energy within the mind and the body.

A word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.

A sacred word, which is believed to have a spiritual and psychological power.

The repetition of Mantra can encourage the mind to enter a meditative state. It is like music that nourishes us in many ways. Likewise, when we practice Yoga, when we become aware of the breath cycle, we aim to relieve our mind of all the distractions…so yes the link is similar.

JY: Today, most of the yoga studios and yoga alliance certified teachers play music in their classes. Is music an important aspect of teaching Yoga? Why?

Yotam: I don’t think that music is an important part of the practice. It is the listening which is the important part; our ability to listen to others, to ourselves and to our body is what matters the most. This is also the goal of your practice … to be in sync with all that is.  And music is like another tool that can help you achieve your goals in the practice.

Music is accessible, fun and easy tool for most of us to connect with. But it has to be the right music. Thus being guided by the right kind of music is as important as having a good yoga teacher.

And music being such a diverse genre, just like Yoga today  ;-), it offers so many options to match different styles and schools of Yoga, be it Vinyasa flow or Blindfolded Yoga. If music is introduced in a supportive manner to the class… it can be a powerful tool that will further enhance the practitioners experience.

JY: How does a beginner in Yoga relate to music? What kind of music is ideal for beginners?

There is no right or wrong. I strongly suggest that as a beginner you should practice in silence and the only music you should listen to is that of your own breath and the voice of your teacher. As you develop your practice, you can introduce or familiarise yourself with other dimensions like Music – to support and deepen your practice.

With regard to what kind of music you should listen to, well… you should listen to whatever makes you happy!

JY: Is meditation music different from music played in asana classes such as vinyasa? Primarily because one is about stillness and the other about flow.

Meditation music, is music that makes you, even for a fraction of a moment, be in the present and forget your past and your worries. While for me it can be any music, I do understand that it is primarily associated with slow, calming and chill music. If you agree that sound has influence on our body, then using slow and lush music definitely affects different areas of your brain and helps calm your mind, which leads you into a meditative state.

Hence there is a difference between tracks played in a vinyasa class and music played for meditation. A vinyasa flow session usually plays music that will support a fast heart beat.

JY: What kind of music inspires one to look inward ? That being the goal of Yoga…

I like to work a lot with DRONES & INFINITE sounds , sounds that are never ending, have no beginning and no end, they create a supportive environment for me to focus my mind on the practice and look inwards.

Simple example is a Shruti Box sound, but being extremely digital I produce a variety of sounds that inspire me.

JY: Your take on other elements of music – mantras, lyrics, volume and instruments.

I believe that an element does not have to be defined; it is all about sound bytes. When you create or select your playlist for any practice, make sure the music has the space you will need for your practice. If it sounds beautiful or perfect on headphones when you are traveling in the bus or metro, it may sound completely different when you play it while you practice.

Thus all elements are welcome… just that they have to be crafted in the right manner.

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JY: What is the inspiration behind your latest album – In The Event Of/That. 

The inspiration is the gentle relationship established between my personal journey on the mat and my personal growth as a musician. The boundaries have been completely dissolved and I produce as I practice.

The real inspiration is not the songs but the subtle details of my journey, captured on my recorders, from people conversing to ambience sounds, subway and city spaces, and on top of all that is the musicians that are gifted and share their talent with me on the mat.

It is a kind of an Audio Journey into my world. Just close your eyes and listen.

JY: Which is your favourite track from the album?

That’s a really tough one …. but if am to choose one then it would be LAMA. It’s the chant of Buddhist monks of Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Mysore, blessing the Covelong Point festival and opening it with a prayer. The Tashi Lhunpo and Covelong Point communities and I go way back, and the projects I have been involved in are beyond amazing …seeing this manifest into a blessing at our very own Yoga and Surf festival makes this a very special track.

JY: Other Yoga music albums or singers you like ?  

Mahesh Vinayakram (leading artist in the field of Carnatic and world music) has been, and continues to be a huge inspiration to me. Other musicians that I admire are Padma Shankar (internationally acclaimed violinist and vocalist), Moby’s  music for meditation, Jesse Blake (Wanderlust festival resident DJ)  and Sol Rising.  

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