Feb 10 2010

Yoga and Music: To Crank Up or Mellow Out

Harry Dinwiddie

Recently, I received a complaint from a student about the music choice I had chosen for savasana. I had never received a complaint before about my playlists, but this one had said it was not yogic. The song, granted, could be seen as offensive (which I warned the class prior to playing it) but the message was positive and needed, in my opinion, to be shared with the class. The songs I play in my classes are not the soft music with Tibetan bowls or anything played by Krishna Das. My music is typically music I like and associate with. Currently this is a lot of indie rock and a lot of these songs are loud and fast. Occasionally I will throw in some hip hop or a playlist dedicated to 90′s alternative music. But the idea that a song is not yogic to me is ludicrous. Its not the music, the beat or the meaning that is important. Its the focus one has toward the music.

This brought up an interesting topic that is usually overlooked in our practice. That is music’s place in yoga classes. Traditionalists could say that there shouldn’t be any music. Contemporaries could say use it as it adds to the flow of the class. When I started out teaching, I believed in the former and that music deserved no place. Yoga needed a place to be sacred and nature is the most sacred sound. Today though, I see it completely different. Music should be used as it enhances our practice and actually challenges us further.

Yoga has the ability to allow our minds to focus. This actually is a much harder task than even the hardest of poses or sequences. Think of your mind as a muscle and focusing on one object for a certain time requires constant practice. This exercise is often in combat with our monkey mind and any thoughts that pop up to interrupt our practice. An hour yoga class becomes rather difficult to focus the entire time but constant effort and practice allow this focus to sharpen itself.

There are two ways to focus during a class. The first is to focus on one thing. This could be an intention, your breath or your movement in your poses. The idea is to never leave your mat and allow all other distractions to not even be a concern. The second way to focus is to accept and welcome the entire environment around you and allow yourself to move freely through it. It may seem like a farce to say to focus on your environment, but allowing yourself to use all five senses to equally take in everything and be amazed by your surroundings is a way to shift your attention to the present. All distractions than are natural and cease to become distractions. Focus itself than is either attention on one thing or all things.

Music itself than becomes a way to hone your focus. Whichever focus is chosen, music can play a part. If the chosen focus is to concentrate on one point, music is a challenge to not focus on it. Think of meditating. Meditating is great when it is completely silent but a struggle when there are tons of outside noises that can distract. Is life silent? Does the world stop making noises when you want to sit? The answers are no. Meditation and focus require a challenge of sorts to keep us strong in what we want to focus on. Music than becomes a challenge to maintain we keep our focus, so that it may make us stronger in our practice. On the other hand if the focus is drawn to the equality of five senses and the present, music becomes part of our environment. When this occurs, the beat gets into our head and the music takes us. We become a part of the song and it lifts us to whatever feeling it is giving us, whether it is slow or fast.

Usually, I offer a choice of songs for savasana. I ask the class “Happy or beautiful?” These refer to two songs I absolutely love and fit perfectly for final relaxation. They are Sigur Ros’ Festival and Ara Batur. These songs emit the wonderful feelings for finishing a great class. It was these two songs that made me want to use music the way I do and without apology. Songs can lift us, move us and put us in places we are uncomfortable with. It seems like yoga and music are similar in that fashion. Why wouldn’t they be shared together?


Harry Dinwiddie will be exploring mixing music, yoga and art as he will be teaching a new class at Eye Level Art at 103 Spring St. Tuesday nights at 6:30 starting Feb 16.

Feb 1 2010

Giving Everything, Because it Takes Everything

Amy Jo Gengler

The alarm rings and I barely stir.  My muscles are sore, still tired and though the sun is starting to come out all I want to do is bury my head in the covers.  I am instantly faced with a choice and this decision will determine the course of everything. 
I have come to realize that choosing ‘comfort’ rarely leads to it, but only makes me more uncomfortable.  As I unroll my mat I start to wonder what the next hour and ½ will bring.  Will I be able to do it?  Will they ask me to do something difficult, or worse yet something that I don’t want to do?  And then I smile, knowing that choosing authentic development is a harsh mistress, indeed.  The things I fear will always be hurled right in my path and I know the answer is ‘yes’ to all of the above.  I will again be faced with a choice and this decision will determine the course of everything.  
We have been in warrior II for at least a minute.  My legs are starting to shake, I want to give up, and then he says ‘are you breathing?’….oh, right I forgot about that part.  The minute I inhale that sweet dose of oxygen, I feel everything release and I move into a place of ease.  He walks up behind me and puts his hands on my shoulders, moving them down a few inches.  My neck and shoulder blades begin to release and I wonder how I didn’t even realize how hard they were working?  Why is it that trying so hard is, well…so hard?  It was only four years ago in this very class that I began to discover that resistance is so much more difficult than surrender.  That trying to be perfect at every asana was so much more difficult than allowing myself to melt into it with ease.  Many of us consistently move through our day with absolute confidence that we are actually in charge.  We fool ourselves into thinking that we consciously know what ‘perfection’ is and that we can attain it whenever we want. 
This practice is based on the premise of cultivating awareness of where we are in relation to time, space, and the continuum of development.  I am always grateful to reach that perfect balance in class when I am pushed far enough to be uncomfortable, while simultaneously given enough time to be present inside of my head, alone with my thoughts even for just a few seconds.  In the middle of this struggle I am challenged to be still in the face of the internal chaos.  As I am confronted with the limits of my abilities, I am also given the opportunity to witness how interested I truly am in development.  When I focus on where I am and where I want to be, I know I have to ‘mind the gap’ between what I know and how I am living.  The practice isn’t over when I roll up my mat and walk out of the studio.  It is only just beginning.  I know that I will be given hundreds of opportunities to close the gap between what I know and how I am walking my talk, and the choice that I make in that moment will determine everything.

Amy Jo Gengler, LAc
Re-Soul Acupuncture & Chinese Herbal Medicine



Jan 27 2010

Yoga Proven Effective in Complementary Cancer Care


By Jack Bleeker

The 21st Century has brought with it tremendous strides in cancer survival and the efficacy of therapies. Among the more important aspects of this progress is the implementation of integrative oncology as an effective model for cancer treatment. Integrative oncology emphasizes not only the use of traditional cancer treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and surgery, but also complementary, non-curative therapies designed to ease the process of cancer treatment for the patient. These therapies can range from acupuncture to meditation, but have proven more often than not to be effective in assisting patients through the discomforts commonly associated with traditional cancer treatment. One therapy being incorporated into cancer care in recent years is Yoga.

The primary goals of integrative oncology are to achieve effective cancer treatment while maintaining patient comfort and relief of stress. Just as Yoga has been used for hundreds of years as an effective stress release mechanism for many people, so too is it now being utilized by cancer patients.

While further research is ongoing, preliminary studies examining the effects of Yoga among cancer patients and survivors support the efficacy of Yoga within cancer treatment regimens, including the combating of symptoms caused by chemotherapy drugs. Yoga has shown to dramatically reduce sleeplessness, cancer-related distress, nausea, and excessive fatigue.

Some aggressive cancers are difficult to treat with curative therapies. Many patients of malignancies such as peritoneal mesothelioma, choose to incorporate alternative therapies such as Yoga, not to supplant traditional therapies, but to improve quality of life and reduce anxiety associated with terminal disease. Therapies which can reduce stress levels and alleviate symptoms associated with aggressive chemotherapy cocktails and radiation treatments can be extremely beneficial not only to patients but also to family members and loved ones of patients.

This is not to say however, that Yoga and other alternative therapies are appropriate for all patients. Patients suffering with mesothelioma, should speak with their oncologist and other doctors to ensure that they are in good enough health to pursue any therapy which could induce mild stress on the body. However, support for Yoga and other well-being-based therapies is growing among the oncology establishment and many cancer centers are introducing sessions designed for patients and family members.  If the ultimate goals of complementary cancer care are to introduce therapies which improve comfort levels and reduce stress experienced by patients and loved ones, Yoga will be at the forefront of integrative oncology now and in the future.



Bower, Julienne E., Woolery, Alison, Sternlieb, Beth, and Garet, Deborah. “Yoga for Cancer Patients and Survivors.” Cancer Control 12 (2005): 165-71

Jan 19 2010

Benefit Yoga Class for Haiti Earthquake Relief


All of us have been shocked and saddened by the news of a devastating earthquake that struck the nation of Haiti on Tuesday, January 12th. Reports estimate that 3 million people have been affected, with as many as 100,000 feared dead. Many people have been wondering how they can help respond to this tragedy and ease the suffering of Haiti.

On Wednesday, January 20th from 6 to 8 PM, a benefit yoga class will be offered at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture. A $10 donation at the door is suggested. All proceeds from the class will go to Partners in Health, an agency that has been working on the ground in Haiti for over 20 years. Your donations will go towards vital medical care desperately needed by those impacted by the earthquake.

Yoga, more than just a form of exercise, is a tool for creating harmony, compassion, and peace – both within ourselves and in the world we share. No prior yoga experience is necessary. There will also be a time for quiet meditation and prayer for those affected by this tragedy.

The class will be taught by Matthew Foley, a Yoga Alliance Certified Instructor. Music will be provided by DJ Anwar Staggers.

For more information, please contact Matthew Foley at (803)361-3842 or foleym@cofc.edu.

$10 Donation Suggested

Type: CausesFundraiser
Network:  Global
Date: Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Time: 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Location: Avery Research Center Ball Room
Street: 125 Bull Street
City/Town: Charleston, SC

Dec 11 2009


Bo Knows Fitness

I was walking out of a Boot Camp class that I teach when I overheard one of our members speaking to another saying they could never do “that kind of workout”.  It made me pause and ask why.  One woman was in her mid to late 30’s.  The other member was in her early to mid 50’s. They both seem to describe themselves the same.   “I eat pretty well and I exercise on a regular basis but I just don’t see the results.” Now, keep in mind that I manage a relatively small club and know most of my members/clients.  I can’t speak to these two ladies’ diets but I do see them workout.  Yes, they may be at the facility two to five times a week, but their intensity is a 4 or 5 out of 10.

In order to elicit a change in your body you must push your limits. Intensity can be defined as great energy, strength, concentration, violence, forcefulness, or passion, as an activity, thought, or feeling.  I often hear, “I walk my dog every day…” but how many people walk with any kind of purpose, passion, or intensity? Have you ever  performed an exercise half way through range of motion? Or “sorta”  completed a yoga pose?  And do you break a sweat?  Or get out of breath?   These are signs in which you are working hard. There are plenty of ways to increase your intensity–which will help you want to workout or improve your current regimen.  Here are just a few:

·         Try listening to music that gets you going

·         Take a group fitness class or workout with friends or a significant other

·         Set a specific goal that you want to work towards.  (i.e. Run your first 5K.  Fit into a certain size dress. Compete in a sporting event.)

·         Workout with Bo Knows Fitness owner, Bo Taylor! 


In order to get a “10” body, you need to put in a “10” effort to your workout and nutrition.  Take time to analyze your workout(s) or lack thereof, and ask yourself if you are working out intently.

Bo Taylor, M.Ed, is the Fitness & Aquatics Manager at the Daniel Island Club & owner of Bo Knows Fitness.

Bo can be reached at 843.478.8888, or check out www.boknowsfitness.com.