Meditations on sound

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 June, 2010, 12:00am

The moment I realised Lady Gaga was a huge pop phenomenon was when I was changing stance to her hit Bad Romance in a 'power' yoga class - even studios are playing her music these days. It was nonetheless a perfect choice for the more physical form of practice. The thumping beat kept us moving and energised. I doubt 'Gaga Oh-la-la' would have worked as a meditation mantra though.

As a yoga student, I am open to all kinds of music when practising. In yin yoga, for instance, when intense hip-opening poses are held for as long as five minutes, it helps to have mellow sounds such as the chiming of temple bells playing in the background to soothe both the mind and physical intensity. The sun salutation calls for more rhythmic tunes to facilitate the flow.

And when I am upside down - in a headstand or handstand - I am often too busy concentrating on my breathing and balance to pay attention to anything else going on around me.

The handful of instructors I have are sensitive (and sensible) enough not to play music that might throw me off balance, although I have noticed those who have a background in fitness training tend to play music at a volume that might drown out their own instructions.

But yes, music works beautifully with yoga. There are students out there who choose instructors based on their playlists and musical tastes, which can range from Sanskrit mantra to pop, trance, jazz, alternative, reggae and classical.

I have practised to the music of Zero 7 (Do You Believe), Sting (Fields of Gold), Jason Mraz (Make It Mine), Fatboy Slim (Right Here, Right Now), Avro Part (Spiegel im Spiegel), Chopin (Nocturne No1 in B Flat Minor) and the beautiful invocation om namah shivaya gurave.

However, once the stereo system in the studio broke down and we all practised to the sound of our breathing. It was a calming and wonderful experience.

It's not surprising then that when I asked cellist Matthew Barley what music he used to listen to when he was practising yoga, he replied: 'I always practised in silence.'