Our worlds are full of sounds. Some are soothing and sweet, some are exciting and energizing. Sometimes we yearn for silence — a break from the constant stream of sound that we sometimes do, and other times do not control.
A yoga practice with emphasis on inner quiet can be a respite from our sound-filled worlds. When the main perceptible sound is the gentle and natural ebb and flow of the human breath, our inner senses have room to flourish. A calming of the inner being certainly may be facilitated by listening to our favorite music; the genre is entirely personal. There are no "objective" arguments to be made for any one genre of music to accompany a yoga practice, or for the presence of music at all. There is also no "objective" reason for an entirely music-free yoga practice. It is wonderful that we have the freedom to choose!
As a child of a music teacher, and as a former musician and executive in a music business, I have a keen appreciation for the role of music in our lives. I also know that imbalances occur when we take in too much of any good thing.
There are times when my external senses need to rest so that I can reconnect with inner senses that are often subdued, if not completely silenced, by external stimuli. Occasionally, though not always, I need a yoga practice with as few external simuli as possible – no music, no mirrors, no props. It's a practice where the focus is not on technique, perfect alignment, assists, modifications, modeling instructors, or cool music.
Mind — Breath — Body. That's all.
Silence and Sense
The Moment I Did Not See the Sun Rise,
But Felt the Earth Move
Early one morning during a stay at Paradise Inn on Mt. Rainer, I awoke before sunrise and made my way up the steep trail to Alta Vista. Looking south (away from the mountain) one seems to stand on top of the world. All was silent; I was the only one there. I waited, full of expectation, to experience a marvelous sunrise.
"Sunrise." In reality I know that the sun does not "rise." The illusion of sunrise is simply the result of the earth spinning about its own axis. At the very moment the sun appeared over the eastern ridge, I consciously persisted in acknowledging true celestial mechanics, and, for a brief moment, perhaps a second or less, I broke through the illusion! — No, the sun is not rising. I am the one moving, riding this huge earth-ball, turning with it. — I wanted to throw my hands in the air and cry "Whee!" Alas, non-reality quickly set in, and no longer was I the one moving, but the sun. The illusion had once again become my perceived reality.
Iyengar writes: "Happy is the man who knows how to distinguish the real from the unreal" (Light on Yoga, 22). In that fleeting, brief moment at Alta Vista, I was both amazed and amused in breaking through the illusion and feeling what was real. It was a moment of profound awareness. That moment made me quite happy then. It still does. A moment, a lifelong memory — facilitated by Silence.