I have recently been asked this question by a student. After all, you can buy lots of CDs and MP3s that say they are for Yoga. So why won’t you find them being played in an Iyengar Yoga class? Well I have a few ideas. When we practice we are supposed to draw the attention inwards. We are supposed to be mindful, not daydreaming. Our minds are not supposed to wander off. This becomes clear by reading the Yoga Sutras. There the the fifth limb of Yoga is discussed: it is ‘Pratyahara’ which can be translated as ‘withdrawal of the senses’.
When I listen to music it most definitely has the opposite effect. If I try to practice Asana (Yoga poses) or Pranayama (Yoga breathing) when music is playing then my mind is not focussed on my body or my breath, but on the music. One of the most common practices to help achieve the withdrawal of the senses is Pranayama. We withdraw from the external and bring our focus inwards towards our breath, as connection with the external senses and stimuli are supposed to be gradually severed. But doesn’t music count as a sensory pleasure? And Yoga is meant to wean us from the sensory pleasures.
You might not know it, but in many North American Yoga studios it has become the norm for students to practice to a special ‘yoga playlist’. And this is gradually being picked up on in Europe as it is often very popular with students. We all love music, don’t we? And it can really help create an ‘atmosphere’ in a room. But our Yoga practice is not like a party. So, I hope that explains why I prefer to keep my music separate from my Yoga practice.