Article by Joshua Killingsworth
If someone calls the names Yanni, Dido, Ariel or Enya, does it make you think of yoga relaxation music? If you are a Westerner, it might. Not typically names one would associate with traditional yoga music, these artists have given many yoga practitioners modern alternatives for practicing an ancient art.
When most people force themselves to slow down long enough to perform the series of postures, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques that have now come to be known as yoga, they realize there is a bit of a shift from the long-held Hindu practices. While they may indeed experience some form of enlightenment while engaged in yoga, the focus is on being fit – mentally and physically.
Hindu sounds alone are calming. The reverent chants that have been a part of the Hindu practice since the origins of yoga in 1500 B.C. have been easily recognizable as a path to spiritual enlightenment. Those who are not familiar with Hindu practices, however, should not confuse it with yoga. The practice of yoga has no intent to lure converts to its coffers. As a more universal practice, yoga is now a fitness practice. The series of postures, which are not always easy to hold, make you more flexible and give you much more stamina and strength. An added benefit is the reduction of heart rate and blood pressure, which are known to help eliminate stress.
A U.S. yoga practitioner would likely not go into a music outlet or type into an internet search engine names like Antion Vikram or Sat Katar. These names are not part of American mainstream culture. The sounds of these artists, though, are a mixture of traditional Hindu musical instruments (table, santoor, sitar, sarangi), mesmerizing chanting and lyrics that conjure reverence for most things holy. It is the music of the sacred and has been used to accompany Hindu ceremony for centuries. It is not the only choice for yoga, however.
Contemporary practitioners of yoga can opt for a wider range of sounds. Their primary emphasis is on relaxati on and s ometimes, that means combining different cultural elements than those that have always been used. The number of people practicing yoga in the U.S. has driven choice as a commodity. In its 2008 “Yoga in America” study, the Yoga Journal reports that more than 15.8 million people in the U.S. are practitioners of yoga. An estimated 18.3 million more people who do not practice confessed that they have the desire to practice. If those figures were not enough to drive the case for variety, the American economy boasts .7 billion a year on yoga products. A buying base that large has the power to demand what it chooses in product. As a result, alternative jazz, fusion and sound art, inspirational music, New Age and classical music have joined the yoga music trend.
There is no narrow definition anymore of what makes for appropriate yoga relaxation music. The range of choices has forced the limits of this genre of music to be broadened, and in some cases, redefined. By necessity, yoga has had to become a versatile fitness art. No matter which artist the yoga practitioner chooses, the music comes in the language of relaxation, which needs no translation and is universal.
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