Yoga and Music in India

How Hatha yoga and music connect… I will here share my experience of being a Hindustani musician as well as a Hatha Yoga practionner for about 20 years. Recently I have completed a 6 weeks retreat at the Himalaya Shanti Ashram of HIYC which helped me a lot bringing all this together !

The goal of Hatha Yoga is to experience peace and freedom. This can be only experienced in a quiet mind and body. The all job is then to minimize the noise from the mind and body… only through silence, the self will be accessible.

At the body level, silence is gained by reducing the body pain. Tensions and tightness are the noise that our body feels more or less loudly as background sensations.

At the mental level, the noises are the arising of thoughts. Some louder than others will keep silence at a far distance. Allowing thoughts to go away without reaction helps silence to come back. According its deepness we can have different quality of silence.

In meditation, according to the techniques, we keep our awareness on a particular part of the body, or on an object, an image, or a sound etc… In Vipassana meditation for instance, the use of the breath in Anapana keeps us at present time. Breath can’t be past or future and the spot under the nostril is where we can feel the air coming in and out.

At a first level we can compare the silence experienced in Yoga practice and the silence played in music:
In traditional and classical forms of music, the musical sounds come out from silence. In many eastern music, the gap between two musical sounds can be extended for quite a long time. In that case the silence is filled with the resonance of the sound played before and the intention of the sound coming after. Silences can then be felt with a lot of difference in term of emotion. We can easily experience it when a piece of music ends: the feeling will be really different according to the type of music and the interpretation.  

Musical silence can also be played only by a part of an orchestra. In North Indian classical music, the use of the Tanpura gives a drone that starts first and ends last without silence. The musician will play over the drone using silence to create spaces in his music.

In that case, the drone can act as a tool to stay present. Actually, while tuning and playing the Tanpura, the focus is entirely on the sound. The nature of its sound with a long rising sustain, a low attack as well as a rich harmonic range create a surround effect that helps us to keep our awareness on the sonic vibrations.

At a second level, we can compare the impact of being into the music with some meditation techniques used to be “at present”:
By nature the vibration of a sound is present. It can’t be past or future and it keeps changing. Now let’s take the example of Hindustani music where improvisation is the foundation. When a musician plays, his awareness is on the sound and this sound gives inspiration for what the musician will play next. The future of his creation does not exist…

In that way, the musician keeps his focus on the sound and therefore stays connected with present. This type of music is deeply connected with the soul whereas some more prepared and mechanically played music will stay at a mental level…

Music can help us going on the yogic path so let the music be the Yog, the union between the cosmic awareness and the physical, mental, and energetic body.

HIMALAYAN IYENGAR YOGA CENTRE
Glenn Louvet

Religions, Spirituality and Yoga
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