The first time I ever stepped my ten toes on to a yoga mat was during a Hip Hop Yoga class in Boston. A friend had asked me if I’d like to join her and I couldn’t resist. I grew up a dancer and well always heard yoga was “good for you.”
One hour and 15 minutes later I was hooked and never looked back. People used to ask me, ‘Hip Hop Yoga? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Are you dancing on your yoga mat?’ Not exactly. Hip Hop Yoga was (and still is) a 75 minute vinyasa class set to loud, hip hop music. Bostonians used to flock to these classes to set up their mats inches from the next yogi, sweat and flow to the music.
For me, it was the time in my day that I was able to just be with myself and tune the rest of my daily stresses out. I was working a 9 to 5 job, living paycheck to paycheck, and trying to find my way in the world. If my early 20’s were a roller coaster ride, Hip Hop Yoga was my harness, keeping me from flying out of my seat.
Some may argue there is no place for music in a yoga class. And I see their points. All I know is my experience and what the music is and does for me. And this is why I love practicing yoga to music:
- Presence: Turning my attention to the beat of the music helps me become and stay present. For example, during savasana literally listening to the beat of each drum focuses my mind.
- Pleasure: Certain music invokes feelings of nostalgia. Mark Joseph Stern states, “Brain imaging studies show that our favorite songs stimulate the brain’s pleasure circuit, which releases an influx of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and other neurochemicals that make us feel good.”
- Movement: Music makes me want to move and in yoga this can help open up spaces that may be tight or clogged.
- A universal language: All humans enjoy certain sounds no matter who they are or where they come from.
- Tune Out: When I am moving on my mat to music, everything else melts away. Worries, stresses, expectations. All that matters is me and my mat at that moment.
- Fun: It’s simple people. Music makes it more fun!
And for all of these reasons, I love sequencing my yoga classes to a great playlist and sometimes even live music!