One of the reasons I don't get up at the same time as my husband in the morning ~ aside from the fact that wallowing in bed is something that I'm good at and things that you're good at should be practised as many times as possible so that you can get even better at it ~ is because he is a "radio person".
Yes, he is one of those people who, as soon as he rises, has to click on the radio or otherwise fall into a morass of gloomy despair. Six Music is his nicotine hit; his caffeine high, his cold shower.
I, on the other hand, prefer the silence of the grave. Please don't wish me a cheerful good morning or, God forbid, whistle. Instead, raise a slow hand and a quiet eye in acknowledgement that I am upright and able to put the toaster down without bursting into tears.
At the weekend, my husband and I spend the day dancing around each other's auditory preferences. Given half the chance, he would leave the radio on all day. I would leave it off, happily immersing myself in the blissful warm bath of noiselessness.
He finds this troublesome and, I suspect, a little bit creepy. I cannot explain to him the balm I find in the sound of a ticking clock in an empty house. In turn, I cannot understand his need for constant distraction and, if I'm being honest here, secretly think him defective.
For the past few weeks, I have taught lessons as a music-free zone. At this time of year, it feels good to work with the slower, quieter pace of the season. Background music in a yoga class is always a hot topic of discussion. Purists would shudder and say no, music keeps the attention outwards preventing moving within. Others would say it can serve as a focus to a scattered mind.
Here's what I have found.
ALL THOSE IN FAVOUR, SAY WAYO!
1. Look, when you're new to yoga sometimes it's nice to be distracted from what's happening in muscles you've just discovered. Because newly discovered muscles can be quite shouty, it's hard to find any inner stillness over their noise. Music gets you feeling that everything is normal, nothing to see here, move along there now. You can hum along, affecting nonchalance as your thighs quiver in time.
2. Music can act like adrenalin and an anaelgesic all in one, particularly when used in a high energy flow class. There's a point in these classes where you're almost willing on a heart attack so you have a valid excuse to stop that doesn't affect your moral worth as a person. The fact that you could just stop anyway because, y'know, it's yoga, doesn't always cut it with the ego. A great tune with an unrelenting, rhythmic beat can keep your vibe flowing and make you feel like a superhero.
3. While yoga is about developing your inner stillness, that can be pretty damn scary place to be if you've never done any yoga or meditation before. Suddenly you're a five-year-old alone in the dark where humming 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' to keep the fear at bay might be a pretty smart bogeyman defence strategy. Gentle music with natural sounds allows you to travel inwards and smoothes that first introduction to yourself. Think of the music as an adult's hand, guiding you to where you need to be.
ALL THOSE AGAINST, SAY NAY-O!
1. Because silence has become a precious commodity. Our ears are assaulted every which way we turn: in shops, in lifts, in public lavatories, on public transport. Sound is imposed upon us, distancing us from the present moment by distraction and emotional sleight of hand. We also impose sound on ourselves; many of us can't function without earbuds lodged firmly in place, as if we were striding through life to the soundtrack of a movie in which we're the star. By giving our ears a break on the mat, we have the opportunity of giving our mind a break. We need to find our real motivation, dahlings. One that belongs to us, not one we've borrowed.
2. In class, silence enables us to unplug and, ironically, tune in. Without background music, we can hear the rhythm of our breath, our heart, our outer patterns and inner thoughts. It's easy to sleepwalk through a class on autopilot ~ slap a foot here, plonk a hand there, twist a bit. When we move in silence that autopilot gets flipped to manual and we begin to take control, becoming more responsive to the messages coming back from our body that otherwise might have gone unnoticed.
3. A silent class really can become a moving meditation as we surrender to the gentle push and pull of the breath, the beat of the heart, the flow backwards and forwards across the mat. It soothes, centres and restores. Yoga just got real.
So, what I'm saying is that there is a place in yoga for music and that maybe purists need to unbunch their knickers and enjoy the breeze. But I'm also saying try a little silence too. Otherwise I may have to accidentally drop the radio on the hammer again...
What's your preference and why? Leave a comment below!