It was the nicest day in months that I’d set aside to once again experiment with “art” music’s more pragmatic uses, and see whether classical music playlists for yoga could realign my chakras and bring my sun-starved, cold-ridden body back to life. Unfortunately, the sudden warm weather meant that after a couple of beers in the park, my chakras had other ideas, not least when it came to standing on one foot like a luxury bird. But could classical music help?
This time I enlisted moral support from my significant other, who had mentioned yoga in passing weeks earlier, and as such had no excuse but to take part. She’s absolutely not a fan of classical music, and will immediately ask why I’m “listening to this shit” if it comes unexpectedly on the radio. While some of you might think that reeks of philistinism, I saw her as a potential convert, ready to be brought into the fold of our broad church—via ancient Indian physical exercise.
As seems to be the developing mode of operation with these things, a quick YouTube search brings up “Mozart~Meditation~Classical Relaxation (Yoga Music),” which turns out to be the second movement of his Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra in C Major. From this YouTube provides me with a playlist of similar videos to play through automatically, selling themselves mostly as classical music for yoga or mediation. Standing on the creaking floorboards of my one-room apartment in our T-shirts and underwear, we quickly realize neither of us knows how to do yoga, and that Mozart isn’t offering any clues. A second search brings up “Absolute Hot Yoga” which promises to “improve balance, strength, and flexibility while simultaneously promoting internal harmony of both body and mind.” Tripe harmony—Mozart, body, and mind. The video then tells us that we should do the exercises in a room heated to 39 degrees Celsius. I quickly mute it before it makes any more insane suggestions and decide that we should replicate the poses and stretches onscreen while listening to the music, rather than do what it tells us—better to risk pulling a muscle than have us both found weeks later by my landlord after succumbing to heat exhaustion, baked into the floor like two sad pretzels.
We start with the “downward-facing dog,” which is easy enough, and I’m reminded that I did indeed do yoga once before in India on a giant duvet, and that like other 19 year olds who travel to the country, the yoga helped me find myself. It just happened that the version of myself I found had fallen asleep on the duvet during the first stages of an Uttanpadasada. The music switches to the Sarabande from Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor as we transition from dog to “ragdoll.” Watching “Absolute Hot Yoga” back later with the sound on, I’m told that this position—which involves bending at the waist and hanging your head upside-down—is supposed to flush your brain with fresh blood. But upside-down, the blood rushing to my brain doesn’t feel too good, and the flute from the Bourrée begins to taunt me, jigging and hopping about my ears while the afternoon’s beers swill from the pit of my stomach to the top, and the bad blood my liver hasn’t yet got to work on begins to flood my gray matter. I turn to my partner in crime to make sure she hasn’t collapsed. She’s mostly OK, just turning very red.
Next thing, we’re trying to stand on one leg while the blood drains back down to our limbs, while simultaneously stretching the other out in front, and bending the top part of our bodies towards it so that the forehead touches the knee of the extended leg. This is, of course, impossible. What’s more, the Badinerie starts playing, and we begin to hop for balance. I try to grab onto her as I start listing to the side but she dodges me with a precise one-footed jump, savvy to my attempts at sabotage. I regain my balance but she comes crashing in on the right and I’m left picking myself up off the floor as she hops triumphantly in step with the flute. I’m fairly sure the ancient Indians didn’t intend yoga to be competitive—but, in a world of Lululemons and wielding foam mats on the metro, that’s what it’s become. We begin to compete to be the last one standing, there just isn’t room for the two of us to balance. I fall again and think I see my sacral chakra rolling about on the floor. I can’t feel my third-eye anymore. Bach continues to tease, and by the time the flute stops its damn fluting, my mind-body connection feels anything but harmonious.
“I need a cigarette after this” she says to me, “but the music is very good for yoga.” It appears that despite the difficulties, yoga is working its magic, and classical music might have a reluctant new fan. Or it might be the residual winning feeling from the hopping joust she’s just beat me in. The next track plays and we’re back to Mozart—I pour a glass of wine, and, like somebody in the video’s comments writes, “I feel sophisticated as fuck.” I do begin to wonder why such playlists always recycle the same Mozart and Bach, and question whether they’re really that universal—how would yoga be to Schoenberg, Grisey, or Oliveros? In some ways, my newfound approach to yoga might be more in tune with the haunting meditations of Feldman’s “Rothko Chapel,” where unlike the Hollywood-tanned video participants, there’s an underlying not-quite-rightness to my stretches.
As we resume to the pomp and circumstance of Mozart’s Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro,” my convictions about the suitability of the music solidify. We assume an elaborate squatting position, with our arms extended and only our toes touching the ground as if reluctantly using a filthy latrine. I think about poor Wolfgang Amadeus, what he might have thought had he known his masterpieces would be accented by the grunts and swears of two people vastly unprepared for the self-inflicted stress positions they were performing. After again attempting to balance on one leg and half-squat in a position called the “eagle” we lose form, flap about with our broken wings, and eventually decide to call it a day. Contrary to its joyousness, the Overture becomes the soundtrack to failure and envy as we watch the perfect human beings on screen effortlessly fold themselves into different shapes in their sauna without so much as breaking a sweat. I collapse into bed and give my poor chakras a rest, only to wake up the next morning with a stiff neck and newfound bitter aversion to the music of Mozart. ¶