“At the root of all power and motion, there is music and rhythm, the play of patterned frequencies against the matrix of time. We know that every particle in the physical universe takes its characteristics from the pitch and pattern and overtones of its particular frequencies, its singing. Before we make music, music makes us.”
- Joachim-Ernst Berendt
Music is a form of yoga and yoga attunes one’s whole being to the underlying pulse. Music and yoga uplift, deepen and shift consciousness. We have been gathering around music and breath and movement and the power of celebratory play under the open sky for a long time.
We are born into a world of rhythm. We go through an initiation, through the sound that began in the womb as our whole being developed around the “dum dum” of our mother’s heartbeat. Rhythm was the way we could feel the oscillation in the outside world. As our mother’s heartbeat increased or decreased we began to feel the alternating effects of tension, stress and calm. These inner rhythms reflect the outer rhythms of day and night—the activating rhythms that initiate creativity and action, and the quiet rhythms of sleep and relaxation. Our body is a rhythmic symphony and our heart rhythm is still like our mother’s heartbeat, the great conductor. All of the oscillations that we experience from our thought waves, to our emotions, stress, and states of flow, can all be mapped by their rhythmic signature.
Science is now understanding what yoga and indigenous cultures have known for thousands of years: we live in a rhythmic universe and our whole being responds to its music. From shamanic cultures that have worked with the healing power of rhythm, music and movement, to the music therapy of ancient Greece or the Indian system of raga and rasa, rhythm and music have been understood and utilized for tens of thousands of years for healing.
Music is medicine, whether it is for simple upliftment after a long work week or for life-altering, mystic states of communion. Recent studies have tracked how heart health can be enhanced through the power of music. Our hearts’ rhythm entrains with the rhythm of music, whether it is the stimulating charging rhythm of ecstatic kirtan or tribal trance DJ, or the meditative sublime flow of a bansuri flute or slow-roots dub.
Music not only has a positive affect on our heartbeat, pulse rate, and blood pressure, but it also affects respiration, equalizes brainwaves, reduces muscle tension, regulates stress hormones, boosts immune function, stimulates neural pathways and increases our emotional bonding and openness to love.
From a yogic perspective, the entrainment power of music is linked to our heart rhythm, which is the source of consciousness. When we relate to our consciousness as rhythmic vibration, symbolized in the two-sided drum that accompanies Siva’s cosmic dance, we can more easily experience states of meditative flow where our perception and attunement to ourselves, each other and life is at its highest.
Music is healing, and movement with music is a union from one of the oldest yogas on the planet. The world’s love of music began in the womb. Our innate response to rhythm is an inborn reflex documented by the National Academy of Science and every parent on the planet that has observed the rhythmic nature of their toddler. For a brief 2,000-year blip in western human history, dance was in an underground spiral—a period when movement was repressed and when there was an ambiguity about embodying spirit.
The world of music and rhythmic movement appear to be in an upward spiral as the worlds of science, art, and spirituality agree upon the tremendous gift of not only music and movement, but chanting, bonding and play to the human and collective spirit. Festival culture is a primary example of this positive collective momentum to experience the unifying power that yoga can bring to these worlds of expression.
Yoga and music attune us to our core rhythms, which are in danger of being stressed and fragmented. Festivals are the gathering places where the diversity of human rhythms come together once again. Festivals such as Wanderlust, Tadasana, Yoga Rocks the Butte and Bhakti Fest, are providing spaces for collective regeneration through yoga and music, and are reinvigorating community and creativity at all levels—an invisible force linking us back to our ORIGINS.
Shiva Rea, M.A. has been dedicated to the creative pulse awakened by her participation and studies in movement cultures in India, East and West Africa, the Caribbean, Nepal and Bali. She offers prana flow yoga and leads yoga trance dance in festivals collaborating with DJ’s and musicians from Wanderlust to Burning Man.
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