Last night’s music and yoga

Yesterday evening I was way too excited and  jittery feeling. I was not at all in the right headspace for yoga class. Music helped to calm my mind a little. I listened to something intense and sobering on my walk to the studio: Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. Too beautiful. Such passion (in our current sense of the word, as well as the ‘original’ (Greek) sense that was much more specifically about ‘suffering’) and longing and love and faith. Although I’m not Christian, nonetheless I find this touching, so here’s a tiny excerpt in the wonderful nineteenth century translation by Edward Caswall:

At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last.

Christ above in torment hangs,
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying glorious Son.

O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
make my heart with thine accord:

Make me feel as thou hast felt;
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ my Lord.

Then more music in class. We always start a Jivamukti class with some chanting, but this time my teacher played the harmonium for us as we chanted lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu. Big surprise. Maybe he introduced this innovation while I was off having fun with my hamstring. I was really interested to see how it worked as an instrument (always, always intellectual curiosity) and to watch him playing, but instead I kept my eyes closed and tried just to melt into the sounds. It was a beautiful ‘together moment’ and reminded me why I love coming to class — to be inspired by my teacher and my fellow students all doing their best, to feel their energy (and hopefully sometimes to share mine), to recognise that we all face our own individual challenges in our practice of yoga.

I need all the reminders I can get at the moment, since class feels a rather alien place and so different to home practice that I feel really challenged in all sorts of ways. Mainly in concentration. But that is everything. In retrospect I should probably have just spent the whole class just sitting and listening to the music and people breathing rather than attempt asana practice when I knew my mind wasn’t with it. A meditation in sound. I’ll try it sometime.

It feels like a long time ago that I first came to this class and experienced my first chanting. Back then my question was “why?”, rather a series of “whys?”. Why chant? Why these words? Why would I want to incorporate chanting as part of my yoga? I’m glad I didn’t actually ask any of these things. Instead I’ve settled into simply experiencing this offering in the class and seeing where it takes me. I still understand so little, but I’m trusting to the answers to reveal themselves over time. I cannot quest after the meaning of ‘OM’ with my intellect, I can only experience it, if I will.

And finally when I got home my husband announced that he’d been thinking of taking singing lessons. Why? Because he reckons I love singing. Me, not him. But he would take singing lessons for this reason. Wow!

If you’re interested here’s the Jivamukti folk’s take on the similarity between harmonium playing and asana practice:

4 thoughts on “Last night’s music and yoga

Add yours

  1. The sacred nature of making music is deeply rooted in Indic culture, I think. For 5 years I took tabla lessons with an amazingly talented and devoted Afghani tabla player. It was a very spiritual pursuit for him. He was completely devoted to his tabla guru and to his practice. It was inspiring, but also a bit overwhelming, coming, as I do, from a culture that more often secularizes music and music-making.


  2. Interesting! Was this a more overwhelming experience than asana practice, I wonder? We secularise that too, and it can be very intense to experience it in a more spiritual way, I think.


  3. I absolutely find the class practice challenging in a whole new way especially after doing so much home practice for so long! I was in that jittery kind of headspace too last night before class- child’s pose almost always calms me down and grounds me though, I love to spend a good few minutes just in child’s pose listening to my breath before the start of class. My first experiences with kirtan and chanting were when I was living in a yoga community last year- at first I was not down with it at all. My ego was all like what is this thing that I do not understand and cannot do 😉 then we watched a documentary on krishna Das and one thing they said in it was something like don’t bring that energy to kirtan, if you don’t wanna sing then be at peace with that and that’s better than forcing yourself to sing and feel uncomfortable. This made a huge difference for me because I’m really shy about my singing so after that I started feeling way more comfortable and loving kirtan and all its meditational benefits 🙂
    Again, I have written an essay on your page, my bad 😉 Ps- that is so sweet of your hubby 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. thanks kiwiyogirunner – I love your ‘essays’. it’s a privilege to have you write such thoughtful comments on my blog (lucky me, I say) and share your experiences. We often coincide in what we feel, it seems! I totally get your comment about the energy you bring to chanting/kirtan. What made the chanting in class so beautiful wasn’t our amazing musicality but more the fact that we just did it, with the right intention/heart/energy. I don’t think my teacher is a natural musician (I mean that in the nicest possible way), but that fact that he offered this to us anyway was wonderful. I reckon if his ego wasn’t stopping him, mine shouldn’t either… and I am a truly terrible singer!


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