Breathing with beats: the eternal bond between music and yoga.

“Yoga is like music: the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.” – B.K.S. Iyengar

Yoga and Music share a common goal: they help us discover our inner selves and connect us with the rest of the universe. But they offer distinctly different paths. Yoga allows us to unite with the universe by guiding us towards our inner selves. Music unites us with the rest of humanity, and in the process, we begin to discover our inner selves!

One can enjoy music or be healed by it just by listening to someone else play. However, in order to achieve higher goals, one has to learn the art, practice it diligently and make progress. Just as in Yoga!

Besides aiding in our spiritual growth, the practice of Yoga and Music can also help us accrue good health, reverse many afflictions, improve cognitive functions and slow down our cellular aging. There are numerous studies that have demonstrated the importance of yoga and its health benefits.

International Yoga Day

International Yoga Day is observed on June 21 each year all around the world. The tradition was started in 2015 after it was proposed by the Prime Minister of India Mr Narendra Modi at the UN General Assembly meeting. The day was picked as it typically marks the summer solstice (longest day) in the northern hemisphere and also has special significance to yoga practitioners. This is what the Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon had to say about why we need to celebrate International Yoga Day –

“On this International Day of Yoga, I urge everyone to embrace healthier choices and lifestyles and to commit to unity with our fellow human beings, regardless of ethnicity, faith, age, gender identity or sexual orientation.  Let us celebrate this Day – and every day – as members of one human family sharing one common, precious home”.

Famous Musicians Who Practiced Yoga
Many famous musicians, composers, artists, singers – both in India and in the West have been yoga practitioners and/or have incorporated elements of yoga into their music. One of the best-known stories is the friendship between violin maestro Yehudi Mehunin and Yogacharya B.K.S.Iyengar. A friendship that introduced Yoga to the western world and made it a global phenomenon it is today!

(Mr. Iyengar helping Mr. Mehunin with Halasana हलासन)

According to Wikipedia, Menuhin was a visiting his osteopath and spotted a book about yoga in the wating room. He was so intrigued by the subject, that a year later in 1952, he mentioned the book to then Prime Minister Padit Jawaharlal Nehru. Pandit-ji in turn, introduced Menuhin to B.K.S. Iyengar. Their first meeting was intended to be brief but turned into a five-hour session. Menuhin told Mr.Iyengar about his fatigue and insomnia. In mere minutes, Mr. Iyengar put Menuhin in Savāsana  (शवासन) and had him dozing away. The violinist felt the physical benefits of yoga from that first meeting, and the close friendship between the two men developed over decades.

Mr. Menuhin’s busy schedule prohibited him from travelling to India, so in 1954, he invited Iyengar to travel to Switzerland and then London to stay with him and teach him yoga. Accepting Menuhin’s invitation, Iyengar made his first official visit to Europe. With encouragement from Menuhin, Iyengar began his lifelong efforts to introduce the ancient art and science of yoga to Westerners.

At the end of this successful first trip, Menuhin bestowed his yoga teacher with a watch on which was inscribed, “To my best violin teacher, BKS Iyengar. He is the first to teach me how to use my body“. Consequently, Mr.Iyengar’s book Light On Yoga which was first published in 1966 held a foreword by Mehunin which would become the Bible for all yoga practitioners

Another renowned and much-revered artist and composer Phillip Glass was influenced by Mehunin’s teacher Yogi Butalis. He became a vegetarian and a yoga practitioner in the 1950s and has often credited it for his fitness and his ability to be a performing musician for several decades travelling all over the world.

How To Improve Your Sādhana (साधन)

Sādhana is a discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a goal. According to Mr Iyengar a sādhaka, or practitioner, is one who skillfully applies mind and intelligence in practice.

Becoming a musician takes endurance, persistence and the ability to focus for sustained periods of time. Whether one is a beginning to learn music or one is a trained professional getting ready to go up on stage and perform their best, one needs to be both physically and mentally fit. A professional must also be able to bring out the creativity and the artistry in their music. Yoga training helps with building stamina and balance. Yoga can help quieten the mind, enable one to breathe well, and be able to perform under stress.

Listening to music positively impacts one’s Yoga practice, especially children, to improve their ability to concentrate on their postures. Some schools of Yoga use music during training sessions while others use music before or after class.

But systematic music training will prove more valuable to a Yoga practitioner, especially in advance stages (e.g. Pranayama प्राणायाम  or Pratyahara प्रत्याहार ) to build concentration and mindfulness. Learning music over the years helps one to develop the abilities to repeat and rehearse, to be able to see mistakes and continuously strive to improve without requiring any external motivation or stimuli. Playing instruments also physically engages the body and prepares it with better awareness and coordination.

A simple Sequence to get your creativity flowing as a musician
The following sequence of asanas  (आसन) will open up the energy channels (chakras) and enable you to relax and free your body and mind to express your self musically. It is assumed you have undergone some basic training under the supervision of a qualified yoga teacher for at least 6 months and are familiar with how to get in and out of the poses in a proper manner. The sequence may be repeated at least 3 times if you are in a hurry or 12 times if you have more time.

The combination of these poses in the recommended sequence will increase blood flow, lower blood pressure and increase awareness to the body to function holistically. For more details please read this:

Some Popular Playlists To Help Your Yoga practice

If you would like listen to some music before, during or after your Sādhana then you can try works of the following artists from the East and West who have either been motivated by yoga and/or incorporated elements of it in their work:

Artist Representative Album
Dr.Chitti Babu Meditation
Ravi Shanker Shanti Mantra
Roopa Verma Music for Yoga
Bachan Kaur Ilumina
Pandit Jasraj Cosmic Swirl
Artist Representative Album
Yehudi Mehunin La Follia
Craig Pruess Welcome Home
Ólafur Arnalds re:member
Phillip Glass The Hours
Jack DeJohnette Music in the Key of Om

You could even look for some meditation music for sleep or meditation music flute if you prefer the soothing sound of a flute. There are several benefits of listening to music, which will exponentially increase with the practice of yoga.

If you are neither a practitioner of Yoga nor learning to play a musical instrument what are you waiting for? Find a teacher and start right now, as there is no set age to begin your journey of fitness and self-discovery!

Download the Manoke App to help you practice until you become perfect!

Written by