Music and Yoga: PhathuDoesYoga.

Hi, I am Phathutshedzo, a medical student with a particular interest in healing through yoga and meditation.

Yoga is like music. The rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul creates the symphony of life.

B.K.S. Iyengar

When I listen to music I feel as though I am at home, and when I’m on my mat I am exactly in my room. These are two spaces I occupy with no comparison, only reflection.

From as early as I can remember, music has been many things to me – a pass of time, a steady rhythm for chores, a link to special moments and memories and even an escape from reality. I have always found that music has been one of the ways that I could connect with the world. I listen to music from many corners of the world and like Fela Kuti once said, ‘’music is a very spiritual thing’’.

Music on the mind

  • Leads to better learning Doctors recommend listening to music for brain stimulation. It is said that scientists know that listening to music engages your brain as they can see the active areas light up in MRI scans. Researchers now know that just the promise of listening to music can make you want to learn more. In a research conducted study, people seemed more motivated to learn when they expected to listen to a song as their reward.
  • Improves memory Music also has a positive effect on your ability to memorize. In another study, researchers gave people tasks that required them to read and then recall short lists of words. Those who were listening to classical music outperformed those who worked in silence or with white noise. The same study tracked how fast people could perform simple processing tasks and a similar benefit showed up.
  • It can help treat mental illness Music literally changes the brain. Neurological researchers have found that listening to music triggers the release of several neurochemicals that play a role in brain function and mental health.

My yoga practice is a very spiritual one, when I do yoga I am mentally in a space bigger than my mind and when that happens, of course I need the perfect playlist. That does not mean I can only listen to Zen cow bells and whale sounds – although I do like a good background instrument, it could also mean some soulful music from the likes of Erykah Badu, Mpho Sebina or Zoe Modiga.

Yoga on the body

  • Yoga improves strength, balance and flexibility Slow movements and deep breathing increase blood flow and warm up muscles, while holding a pose can build strength.
  • Yoga helps with back pain relief Yoga is as good as basic stretching for easing pain and improving mobility in people with lower back pain. The American College of Physicians recommends yoga as a first-line treatment for chronic low back pain.
  • Yoga can ease arthritis symptoms Gentle yoga has been shown to ease some of the discomfort of tender, swollen joints for people with arthritis, according to a Johns Hopkins review of 11 recent studies.
  • Yoga benefits heart health Regular yoga practice may reduce levels of stress and body-wide inflammation, contributing to healthier hearts. Several of the factors contributing to heart disease, including high blood pressure and excess weight, can also be addressed through yoga.
  • Yoga relaxes you, to help you sleep better Research shows that a consistent bedtime yoga routine can help you get in the right mindset and prepare your body to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Yoga can mean more energy and brighter moods You may feel increased mental and physical energy, a boost in alertness and enthusiasm, and fewer negative feelings after getting into a routine of practicing yoga.
  • Yoga helps you manage stress According to the National Institutes of Health, scientific evidence shows that yoga supports stress management, mental health, mindfulness, healthy eating, weight loss and quality sleep

When I do yoga, my body feels like a song, the prelude is when I roll out my mat and light a stick of incense (white sage and nag champa – the only incense scent that matters). The verse is of course the entirety of my unchoreographed movement, each motion carrying a verse that was written for each breath. My breath is the rhythm and each time I land an asana I have been working on feels like an Anderson Paak feature.

Yoga tips

  • Start with five minutes, five poses, or five counts of breath work
  • Check in on your alignment as you go
  • Use stuff around the house as accessories
  • If your practice sticks and you want to continue, plan to treat yourself to some accessories or apparel
  • Try online classes even if you already have a home yoga practice

I guess music in it’s own right is a sixth sense we all have. The effect that the bass guitar has on my heart is in itself a feeling I cannot explain, but it’s hair raising – a truly visceral and personal experience. On days where my mind will not let my body move, I am still able to calm down and receive healing energy through music. And for that I am exceptionally grateful to all artists that put together these vacations for minds like ours.

Catch yoga sessions with Phathu at Botaki Ba Afrika, every Sunday at 10 am. For more information, follow and get in touch with her below.