Sound vs. Silence: Which is Better for Yoga?

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Sounds and Yoga

There’s a good divide between yoga lovers about having music or ambient noise when getting in a session, and being in complete silence. While we can’t push one or the other, we can say that when we covered the art of Mantra Yoga (Japa), we do know that chanting it aloud or silently in your mind affects your inner being and directs the flow of energy into and through your charkas and meridians. Otherwise, we’ve got two views on sound and silence during practice, followed by some recommendations for a few good sounds before and after a session.

The Case Against Sound

When you really want to go into yourself, one belief is that sounds is distracting and takes away from your focus. Obviously, if you are listening to gangster rap or death metal, have loud neighbors screaming and traffic noises around you, it’s going to be a challenge to practice regardless. When you truly want to focus on your thoughts and your breathing, sounds, whether they are music or background noise, are a distraction. At the most, ambient noise such as the ocean waves for those who love practicing on the beach are good because they are natural and can help you tune in with the universal harmony. Otherwise, sitting in silence allows you to hear the inner noise and eventually quiet it as you move through your forms.

The Case For Sound

On the other hand, some people love music, and will turn on mantra chanting or Gregorian monks singing, and New Age-y type melodies, because it helps them relax and get them into their flow better than silence. Music is for people who want to really get into their practice by choosing how to drown out other noises with something both pleasant to the ears and uplifting for their spirits. Not surprisingly, some people listen to music because they have a hard time listening to their inner noise, such as thoughts about what to cook for dinner, text messages they are waiting for, or those jerks at work—music can be used as a tool and ally for the yoga student to separate and escape. Also, it helps create a flow as well, kind of like an inner dance to music you are hearing.

A Few Good Sounds and Silent Moments

While it is ultimately up to you to decide on keeping silent or playing music during your practice, what we can tell you are a few hints on necessary silences and augmentative sounds for adding to your sessions:

  • Start out with some silence and end with a silent meditation in corpse position. This creates a framing device that helps make your session sacred and separates you from the mundane world.

  • Before and after the silence, using a Himalayan Singing Bowl or Tingsha cymbals to “tune in” as well.

  • Mantras are great for re-directing your thoughts, and are best done around the beginning and just at the end before you lay in silence.

Yogasync me! Have you ever tried incorporating chanting into your practice? Try a sun salutation with mantra:

Movement with Mantra

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About John Chuidian

John (known to friends as Johnny) is a lifelong vagabond and specialist in international development, whose primary work has been social enterprise in Southeast Asia and East Africa. When he's not busy trying to make the world a better place, he's writing fiction (along with his soon to be released first novel, The Durian Diaries), playing guitar, filming short films and taking pictures or training in martial arts and parkour.

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