The Sacred Alchemy of Music and Yoga
BY FRANK FITZPATRICK
The two areas of my life I’m most passionate about
are music and Yoga. Rare is the day that I don’t engage
in both. They have literally transformed me, making it
impossible to imagine where I would be today without
them. Each, on its own, has helped me create a greater
sense of inner peace, facilitated healing and self-accep-tance, and allowed me to connect more deeply to my
own soul and the subtle energies in and around me -
ultimately creating a greater sense of joy and vitality in
A vital part of Yoga for me has always been my asana
practice. With a well-integrated practice and my love of
music, it seems natural that the combination of the two
would take the transformative experience to a new level.
While I have taken countless classes where the music has helped to enrich and deepen my experience, it
is not always the case. I recently had to excuse myself
from a Yoga class taught by a teacher I totally admired.
She played cool music throughout the class, but her selections simply felt out of alignment with the energetic
principles of the postures themselves. As a result, my
nervous system started to react like an experiment gone
Music, like Yoga, is a form of energetic alchemy, as
powerful as the asana practice itself. In a Yoga class,
when people are by definition “opening,” the effect of
music on the subtle bodies is amplified. By adding music to the mix, teachers are playing with that alchemi-cal balance within their students, directly manipulating
the vibrational frequencies of their bodies, minds, and
Does that mean we should avoid using music in the
classroom? I don’t advocate either using or not using it
when practicing or teaching. What I do encourage, however, is using music with the same level of conscious-
ness and integrity that we apply to the asana, vinyasa,
pranayama, and meditation practices we are trying to
support. Although some music may seem to be harmless
on the surface, there is a risk that the unconscious use of
music could lead to undesirable results.
This creates a bit of a quandary. Understanding the
complexity of how music engages our brain, shifts our
emotions, and affects our nervous systems and energetic
bodies can take a lifetime to comprehend. While there
is information in the ancient texts on music as a Yoga
practice (like kirtanam or Nada Yoga), it appears that
music was not traditionally mixed in a Hatha practice.
For this reason, and because most teacher trainings rarely delve deep into the subject, there is little within the
tradition that teaches us how to effectively use music in
combination with asana.
To make it more confusing, just as there is no one-asa-na-fits all type of sequence, there is no one-song-fits-all
solution. Based on each student’s constitution, their prior association with the music or artist, their openness,
personal tastes, and their emotional state, each practitioner will have a different experience while listening to
the same musical selections. Individual students in a
group class can adapt their postures and pace to better
suit their own needs, but they cannot change the music
that is playing in the room.
In order to create a more cohesive experience, the first
step is to be intentional about the effects of the postures
and sequences we choose. The next step is to apply that
sensitivity to our music choices so we can better align
the energetic properties inherent in each selection with
our desired outcome of the practice.
One basic approach might be to avoid playing music with faster tempos or erratic and complex rhythms
during a moon sequence or set of postures specifically