This week, challenge yourself on the mat by doing the following:
How little sound can you make as you transition from pose to pose while maintaining smooth and stable breath? For example, can you take away any shuffling sounds as you step the legs forward and back, such as in sun salutations? If you jump to chatturanga and into uttanasana in surya namaskar, can you land lighter, perhaps without a sound? This challenge can be executed in every major method of asana, such as vinyasa, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Anusara, Sivananda, or viniyoga.
Moving quietly requires slowing down and finding conscious support from the breath and core. And, this added grace will only help you grow stronger, safeguard the body from injury, and deepen the breath-body relationship. Even the deepest vinyasa yoga practice is not supposed to be an aerobic workout. The breath and heart rate should remain consistent as we maneuver between and hold each pose, and the face and eyes relaxed. If anything, the breath might grow longer and the heart rate slower. Moving as silently as possible will help you get here.
Moving quietly also requires moving with peace. Never force the body in and out of postures. Instead, use your breath to move each limb into position, step by step. If you begin to feel anxious or frustrated, remind yourself that yoga is about embracing the process and not attaining a specific contortion. Moving quietly will also encourage more peace and calm.
What about music?
Over the years, it seems that music and yoga have become increasingly intertwined (in the West). While practicing to a soundtrack can be fun and uplifting, it can also diffuse the focus on the breath and, therefore, conscious transitions. I’ve ended up in some classes where the music is so loud that it’s almost impossible to here one’s breath. I’ll be honest in saying these classes seem more like a dance group and aren’t for me. As a side note, in the seven years I’ve been studying yoga in India, I’ve never encountered music in class. I’ve enjoyed the most beautiful devotional music, but it’s always kept separate from the postural practice.
I’m not suggesting anyone reject music, but instead switch it up. If you always practice with music, try turning it off. If you’re a teacher and always play music in class, don’t this week. When I first started teaching, I felt pressured to play music every day. In fact, it became a bit of a crutch, even though I never practiced to music at home. Whenever I forgot my iPod, the silence felt foreign and uncomfortable. It’s been invaluable to since develop comfort teaching with or without a soundtrack. While I’ve found that playing very little music in class is ideal for me, explore and find out what’s best for you.
Good luck and enjoy moving quietly. Your body, breath, and mind will thank you.
Yoga brings stability and calm into every discipline of Sophie Herbert's life. She is an alignment focused yoga teacher (and perpetual student) and a Whole Living contributing editor. She graduated from the Cooper Union School of Art, where she nurtured her passion for documentary photography. It was during this time that she began her disciplined and diverse study of yoga in New York, Paris, and India.
Sophie has lived, studied, and volunteered extensively in India. She feels grateful to still visit and work regularly with the Deenabandhu Children's Home in Chamarajanagar, Karnataka. In November of 2010, she became an ambassador for Yoga Gives Back www.yogagivesback.org, a grass-roots nonprofit that helps destitute women and girls in India build more sustainable lives. Sophie has also shared her knowledge of yoga at the Prana Yoga Center in Astana, Kazakhstan. Currently, she teaches at the Park Slope Yoga Center www.parkslopeyoga.com in Brooklyn and privately. Sophie is also an avid cook.