Friday, November 16, 2012

Music & Silence

Breathing. This is the sound I hear of oceans and wind, of expansions and contractions. Releasing whispers. Releasing sighs. When I teach, I most often use music as a way of shifting the orientation of my students away from the external world and into their own energy lines and their own bodies, yet music remains external. It is like a prop that helps extend your spine by lifting your hand on a block, the music disappears and reappears when you need it. That is, if it is doing what I hope it is doing. Music can work against the inner rhythms at times, a mood introduced with words or associations that is distinct from the practice. Yet often a person will not even know what the music was during a class, and simply flow along. There is so much going on, after all.

Yet practice in silence is so deeply tuned to the breath in the body, that I begin to wonder how we ever practice with music at all. The sounds of others breathing can be more powerful and supportive than the music, encouragement to deepen, to let it go, and to feel less isolated. Of course sometimes those exotic sighs from across the room will be distracting! Or that particularly vibrant Ujjayi sound will introduce doubts about one's own quiet waves...

I am not one sided on this, and find music in classes can bring flow and sustain effort, ease tension and even tease out humor in a tough moment. But I am not listening to the music as I teach. Truthfully I hear it when it distracts me, when it intrudes into the silence. I feel it settle the students into the closing asana as we prepare for Savasana, and then I want deep quiet for them.

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