Songs for the Soul – Healing Through Yoga Music
The beneficial effects of yoga are well documented, as are the relaxing and motivating effects of music. Imagine, then, how powerful it is to combine yoga and music for health. Traditionally, yoga is practiced in meditative silence but many more practitioners, such as myself, are experiencing the enhanced healing power of musical accompaniment to daily yoga practice.
The use of what I call ‘soul songs‘ in yoga instruction can be extremely valuable, especially for those who could do with a little extra help tapping into their source and learning to find wellness through a calm center. Anyone who, like me, has to contend with the daily fatigue and pain of fibromyalgia will also know that sleep and proper restorative rest can be hard to come by. Finding relief in yoga and relaxing music led me to create specific compositions to enhance the healing and soothing benefits of meditative musical yoga practice.
There are many yoga institutions embracing this new approach to wellness through music but the real power comes from choosing the right kind of sounds to enhance that desired deep relaxation and mindfulness. Achieving this balance requires careful combination of an intricate blend of ancient and classical music, Eastern, Western, Oriental and Occidental traditions.
Yoga and music are clearly complementary, especially when considering Karmendriyas and Jnanendriyas: the five organs of actions and five organs of sense. These organs are all receptors and transmitters with which we receive and give. Our ears are a vessel for sound but they are also able to give their attention to sound; both receiving and giving as deliberate, external actions. In this way, we can actively choose to enhance the positive effects of yogic instruction by ‘giving ear to’ beneficial sounds that help on our path to wellness.
Using piano-based soul songs during yoga is a way of keeping the mind focused and present. The effect is similar to that of the verbal cues familiar to students that help them prevent the mind wandering and settling into negative and unhelpful patterns of thought. Music, when composed and used correctly, can be a powerful tool to aid in the regulation of breathing and controlled movement when transitioning between asanas (poses).
Musician Patrick Bernard explores the theory of ‘music as yoga’ in his book of the same title, discussing how sound can heal, just as yoga does. Dr. Mia Olson even uses music and yoga to help revitalize her music students and aid their performance by teaching them yoga and mindfulness, thereby reducing the toll on the body of repetitive strain when learning an instrument. There is limited research into the effects of music in combination with yoga but there have been a number of studies showing that soft instrumental music, such as in Soul Songs, has the positive effect of calming the mind and lowering stress and anxiety. Music is also often used in operating theaters and has been found to enhance post-surgical recovery.
In a group setting, the right kind of yoga music allows for a gentle yet immediate bond to be formed through shared experience. This helps all students to enter into the calming center of yoga practice and to reduce outside distractions for even greater benefits for both physical and mental health. Yoga music binds together each movement to create a unifying flow, with soul songs both a part of the journey of each class and an important tool to achieve this restful atmosphere. Some forms of yoga, including Shakti practice, have a long history of using sound to stimulate the chakras and prime the sensory organs for the transition to elevated levels of awareness and openness. Chants and mantras have a musical quality in Shakti yoga and are combined with moments of silence to allow students to listen to their inner sounds, thoughts, feelings and rhythms, just as with the Soul Songs composed for use in my own practice.
- McCaffrey R., Music listening: its effects in creating a healing environment. J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv. 2008 Oct;46(10):39-44.
- Stern JR, Khalsa SB, Hofmann SG., A yoga intervention for music performance anxiety in conservatory students. Med Probl Perform Art. 2012 Sep;27(3):123-8.
- Back-surgery.com, Music During Surgery Reduces Stress and Aids Recovery, April 2nd 2012.