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Episode 132: The Art of the Yoga Sutras

melissa townsend quote

This week’s guest, Melissa Townsend is the author of two beautiful books about the Yoga Sutras. Townsend, a long-time yoga student, artist, Sanskrit enthusiast, and psychic, wasn’t always enthusiastic about the sutras. But in the same way that psychic visions come to her, so did the idea to use her art to share the Yoga Sutras. On this episode, I had the opportunity to ask her all about the creative process of her Yoga Sutras art and translations. We’re also joined by Stephanie Snyder, a popular yoga teacher who loves to study and share the sutras.

We have an in-depth conversation about why we all find this work fascinating, talk about their approach to studying the sutras, and explain why the text is so much more than just the meaning of words or interpretations that you read. You might have to listen to the episode to understand, but I promise you’ll be glad you did. It might just change the way you’ve been approaching the study of yoga philosophy.

ALSO: Melissa and Stephanie are doing a free event at Lovestory Yoga on December 14th, 2018. Come by for refreshments, a Yoga Sutras discussion, Melissa’s art, and copies of her books available for purchase. Learn more and register here!

RECOMMENDED AND RELATED LINKS

REGISTER FOR THIS FREE EVENT:
An Evening With Melissa Townsend & Stephanie Snyder: Yoga Sutras Discussion, Art Showing & Book Release

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: A Visual Meditation, Book 1

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: A Visual Meditation, Book 2

Episode 32: Stephanie Snyder – How Chanting & Playlists Create Connection

Episode 39: Richard Rosen on Patanjali in Modern Yoga Practice

Episode 122: Applying Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra to Your Daily Life

Episode 117: Jason’s Favorite (Non-Asana) Yoga Books

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Drop the Technique. Just Dance.

Before we get to the post, a quick, shameless plug for my upcoming trainings. You can join me live at my 500-Hour Yoga Teacher Training in San Francisco, London, or Hong Kong. I also have three separate online teacher trainings, focusing on arm balances & inversions, sequencing, or anatomy.

Yoga in Music Class | Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana | Andrea Ferretti | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method

I typically think of Jason as the contrarian in the family. He’s insightful and he excels at communication – especially when it goes against the grain. Last week, Jason wrote, In Praise of the Quiet Class, a piece that talks about how, contrary to modern yoga norms (yoga in music class), he’s never played music during yoga class in his 20 years as a teacher.

And as I read it, I found that my own inner contrarian was rising up to meet his contrarian. So, I wanted to add my voice to the topic. You see, I truly enjoy and value taking yoga classes with music from time to time. So much so that I interviewed Stephanie Snyder for the podcast this week to talk about how she does it so skillfully.

Stephanie talks thoughtfully about why she includes music in class: Chanting and playing music help facilitate rhythmic breathing. Music in yoga class can be a great bridge for folks who aren’t ready yet for complete silence. And it can evoke emotion that can draw people into themselves and into a more inquisitive, receptive state.

You can hear her talk about all this more articulately than I on the podcast. But what drew me to stay up late on a Monday night writing this for all of you was the following little revelation that I can’t shake.

Music in Yoga Class: Drop the Technique and Just Dance

I studied ballet through my whole childhood. By the time I was 12, I was dancing seven days a week and spending all day Saturday and Sunday training and rehearsing. When you take a ballet class, you begin with the technique at the barre. You meticulously warm up your feet, ankles, legs. Eventually, you move to the center of the room and continue honing your technique – pirouettes, arabesques, more tendus. You drill and repeat, drill and repeat.

Then, at a certain point, you learn a piece of choreography and you DANCE. You let go of the inner critic that hounds you about your knock-knees or your pronated feet and you put all of the steps together and you express yourself through your body. It’s FUN and the music is beautiful and there’s a levity in the room that fuels everyone simultaneously.

Clearly, there’s a place for that single-pointed focus on technique just as there’s a place for letting go and dancing. The closest I’ve come to that feeling of letting go of my inner taskmaster during yoga is in classes with music. I love technique-oriented yoga classes. They hone my focus and affirm to my ego that says, ‘You’re trying really hard therefore you are doing something right in your life!’

I also love classes with a good playlist because they allow me to drop my technique and just be in my body moving, breathing, and doing the yoga poses that I’ve drilled and repeated for the past 20 years. During certain times in my life or even certain times of day (like after a long day of work and commuting), I want to drop the technique and just dance. I want to forget about my fussy wrists and my crappy backbends and I want to move and breathe and express – even if, especially if nobody’s watching.

Like Jason, I know there’s a place for both quiet and music-filled yoga classes. And if you only practice to music, I implore you to consider adding a few minutes of pranayama or meditation in silence to the beginning or end of your day or your practice session.

But if you’ve never tried a yoga class to music? Or if you had a bad experience 10 years ago? It might be worth trying again. You might just unlock some moving, breathing, emotive part of you that’s not of the mind, but of the moment.

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Episode 32: Stephanie Snyder — How Chanting & Playlists Create Connection

I know, I KNOW, my husband wrote an extremely popular blog post recently on why he has never played music in his nearly 20 years of teaching yoga. And yes, it’s been one of our most popular posts to date with more than 3,000 shares.

So, I guess this makes me the family contrarian: I like going to classes with music. And not all classes with music are loud or distracting or counterproductive to introspection. On this episode I decided to talk to Stephanie Snyder, someone I think of as the queen of the playlist. She offers her intention behind including music in class, her thoughts on the tradition of sound in yoga, plus she was kind enough to share some of the mistakes she’s made over the years.

BONUS: One of Steph’s favorite bands, Young Moon, create the soundtrack for this episode.


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RECOMMENDED & RELATED LINKS
Lovestory Yoga
Kevin Paris Music

MUSIC
Young MoonLove is a Light, Fell on My Face

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