Sweet taboo: Music

There seem to be just a few more touchy subjects within the Ashtanga world than playing music during practice. We’ve touched on it a few times, including here and here (our most commented upon post to date). Few people seem to be agnostic about it.

The thing is, music can be beneficial — at least to the physical side of things. There’s new news on that front, via the always handy New York Times. It’s about music’s ability to boost a high-intensity interval workout.

Here’s the key takeaway:

The volunteers all reported that the intervals had been hard. In fact, their feelings about the difficulty were almost identical, whether they had been listening to music or not.

What is interesting is that their power output had been substantially greater when they were listening to music. They were pedaling much more ferociously than without music. But they did not find that effort to be more unpleasant. Without music, the workout struck them as about the equivalent of an eight or higher on a zero to 10 scale of disagreeableness (with 10 being unbearable).

With music, each interval still felt like about an eight or higher to the riders, but they were working much harder during each 30-second spurt. The intensity increased but not the discomfort.

Polled by the scientists at the end of the experiment, all 20 riders said that if they were to take up interval training on their own after the study, they definitely would listen to music to get themselves through the workout.

So, to a question: Can there be a role for music within an Ashtanga practice?

Here’s where I think the answer could be yes: when researching or exploring new, difficult poses. I think that experience can be near enough to the intensity of an interval workout. (For so many, this seems to be all about Kapotasana.) And what I mean is an initial exploration of the physical side of asana, of the reaching and crunching and stretching and ouching as one attempts to find the calmness and stillness of a “proper” pose. Of the discovery of where your body — your grossest kosha — can go before you begin to peel down into the deeper sheaths.

For that, probably turn the music off.

There’s also this: Music also can just be a nice change of pace and scenery.

Posted by Steve