Ashtanga Vinyasa is a musical form. The postures are strung together like the notes of a melody, over a constant drone of breath. When we move through the postures with a steady cadence, the music of the practice begins to emerge. It comes from some unseen place inside us, whistling through our backbones, and bowing the strings of our hearts. And like any moving piece of music, it gives us a feeling of intimacy with something much larger than ourselves.
The Ashtanga sequences build posture upon posture in ever expanding patterns. These patterns, like musical compositions, play with our inherent sense of form. They create internal tensions that rise up, reach crescendos, and fall back down to the root. Our bodies are the instruments that play them. And we have to keep ourselves tuned, from the pelvic floor to the soft palette, so the breath can reverberate through the central channel at just the right pitch.
The experience of music is the experience of relationship. And the experience of relationship is the essence of yoga. Yoga is a linking together, and so a revelation of the interconnection of things. And so with music as well.
Music has no substance, no material, and only an ephemeral from. It is not a temporal pattern of notes, but the way the notes hangs together in our consciousness, arousing our emotions, exciting our expectations, and reminding us that we are sustained, in every breath, by something unseen. When the notes fade, the music continues on, like a thought passing through our minds.
There is something within us, a kind of sensitivity, that is inspired by music. It allows us to appreciate geometry, mathematics, poetry, painting, and every other form of fine art. In Ashtanga Vinyasa, we explore this sensitivity viscerally, with the full sensory potential of our bodies.
Each posture has a resonance that we can feel for some time after it has dissolved. And as we move through the sequencing, we experience each posture in relation to those that came before, just as we might experience notes through their various relations in chords.
In time, as we listen closely, we become aware of a common vibration, a root note, that runs through them all. And in focusing on that vibration, that silent nada, we can feel the unity of the postures. And if we become truly absorbed in the experience, we can even feel the unity of the various forms of consciousness that they represent. Through this experience, we can awaken within ourselves a profound sense of intimacy with other beings, a sense that stays with us long after practice is done. That sense of intimacy is the music of yoga.
photo and video by Agathe Padovani