Live music & yoga: what incredible, dramatic impact they have on each other!
I experienced this firsthand in February at the Northwest Yoga Conference. Then in March, I had the opportunity to collaborate with a yoga class, this time with a full choir during a performance weekend in Seattle. The yoga class was at the same time as the morning choir rehearsal, so I shuttled back and forth with my cello.
Just before I returned to the yoga class with full choir in tow, I suddenly realized the level of trust that the yoga class was giving us. They were in Savasana (corpse pose), relaxed and deeply receptive after 45 minutes of pranayama (breath and energy exercises) and challenging yoga positions. Murali, the master yoga teacher that I trust with my life, had led everyone into a deep level of openness and dare I say, beneficial vulnerability.
I felt as if I were about to lead the choir into a medical operating theater with 35 bodies laid open before us. I recognized that whatever energy we took into the room as music practioners would have a dramatic effect on their consciousness. We quieted our bodies and minds (not an easy thing for an energetic choir to do!) and entered the room. Their souls were wide open to receive the fullest impact of the music, and the silence was pristine, purified of restlessness. With a surgeon’s delicate touch we used our voices to suffuse a sonic sense of peace, love, and light. Our goal was to help the recumbent yogis feel the infusion of a divine presence that we often feel as we sing.
The effect was remarkable. Many experienced a very deep level of healing, peace, and awakening. As a result, a good number of those who had not expressed interest in the concert returned that evening for our performance. Great promotional strategy!
Yoga is union. Music is connection.
The essence of yoga is union with our divine highest potential. The highest purpose of music, for me, is to connect to that divine highest potential.
Using music with a yoga practice, we get a very clear demonstration of how music works upon us. The best hatha yoga sessions prepare the body and mind for greater awareness of energy, relaxation, and receptivity. We create a deeply calm interior upon which the subtle vibrations of inspired music can be powerfully perceived. A pebble dropping into a calm, rippleless lake creates expanding waves that would normally be missed in the turbulence of restlessness. Hatha yoga also releases energy in the body, opens the heart, and increases subtle awareness of how energy is flowing in the body.
In that receptive state, we deeply feel music’s power.
If we are willing to listen deeply, our souls recognize the divine creativity in the inspired music of master composers. There is something in Brahms, Handel, Beethoven, and many other composers that awakens something deep inside: a call to go within to where our truest enjoyment resides. Music in itself is simply organized sound. But the way we mysteriously respond to music reveals a deep truth: we have inner untapped resources and potential within us—a capacity for higher consciousness or divine response.
Music or Yoga: which is better?
For me, inspired music gives me the same experience of expanded awareness and uplifted consciousness that comes from a deep practice of yoga and meditation. Music enables me to tap into the direct experience of a higher reality.
But here’s the thing: when I collaborate with yoga teachers, we don’t fight over which is more important, the yoga or the music, because we are after the same exact thing: a deep inner response that is best experienced in silence.
Silence or sound?
For me, the best music is that which resonates within long after it’s done.
Just last weekend I had the great honor of performing Ole Gjielo’s Serenity (O Magnum Mysterium) with the Pacific Youth Choir. The music was stunning (hope you can take a listen) but yet the most profound was the silence before the applause. In those 8 seconds, I felt something tremendous between the choir and audience—a deep resonance with something bigger than ourselves.
There are musical moments that we all wish could last forever—gorgeous harmonies, chords, textures and climaxes that we want to hear again and again. But repeat listening can only work for so long before we lose interest.
The good news
In contrast, the divine inner response to music can last for hours, even days, and can be even more fulfilling. Through the practice of yoga and meditation, we can create the capacity to feel this ever-new joy of upliftment and expansion.
So it’s a simple choice: do we increase our energy to keep ourselves open and receptive to a divine response? For most of us, it’s a constant challenge. It’s one I face daily in meditation, life, and music.
When I choose badly and then tire of being miserable, I use inspiring music to spark the divine response within. I calm myself through yoga and meditation to maximize receptivity. And then I ride the wave of inspiration for as long as I can. Then I write, I play, I teach to share that joy.
Please join me on Saturday, June 2 and Thursday, June 21 at Pioneer Courthouse Square for direct experiences for yourself using live cello music and yoga.