I never really realized just how much my neighbor’s ujayii breathing actually sounds like Darth Vader, or how much the thud of your classmate who can’t keep their balance (OK, fine — I’m that girl) bothered me in yoga.
Until I tried silent yoga. The Sound Off Yoga experience takes those nuisances out of the equation by giving each yogi a set of wireless, noise-canceling headphones, which they use to tune into what the instructor is saying — and tune out of any distractions.
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Shhhhh! The Sound Off Experience
The idea for the unique spin on yoga came to Castel Valere-Couturier while using the technology at a music festival in Hong Kong. (The “silent” craze started with disco parties and is rooted in the music scene.) “Everyone was there to listen to great music,” he says, “so it was the perfect place to test it.”
As a typical high-strung New Yorker, I was hoping to achieve total zen but went in with low expectations. I was worried the headphones would fall off the second I dropped down into down dog. (Really, how do they stay on?) I was certain the equipment would malfunction for me and only me…and nobody would be able to hear my cries.
The Vinyasa flow started off slower than I would have liked, and I found myself frustrated at first with the workout. Until an imperceptible shift happened.
Suddenly, I was achieving that perfect flow, where the asana (or physical expression of the pose), the breath and my monkey mind melded into one.
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It felt as though the instructor, Julie Serow, was speaking directly to me since all other sound was blocked out. “Feeling as though you are receiving individual attention in a room full of other people is quite a special sensation,” says Serow. “It adds a whole new aspect to the act of listening which is such a vital part of the yoga practice that we often forget about if we are caught up in outside distractions.”
And sure enough, it was easier to pay attention and be mindful — something I usually struggle with, especially during a 60-minute class. Though I had to look up a few times to see form, Serow’s cuing was straight on and I didn’t need to look around much for extra clues. She also walked around and made adjustments where necessary.
Tuning In To the Music, Out of My Brain
By quite literally tuning into the instructions in my ears, I was able to tune out most thoughts other than what I wanted for dinner after (hey, it’s a class, not a miracle). But I’d reached my own personal nirvana: focusing on my own practice, not whether the woman next to me was getting deeper into poses. (She was.)
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Carefully curated music — either live or with a DJ — adds another layer to the Sound Off class. Usually music can feel like it’s an afterthought to the practice. It’s either way too loud or too quiet, but in this case, I could control the volume myself.
In a typical yoga class, I’ll only close my eyes in savasana and if we are chanting at the beginning of class. But shutting out the world visually added a new layer to the experience.
“Closing the eyes definitely allows for a deeper aspect of sensation, and less worry about whether one is doing the pose well or not,” says Serow. “Yoga shouldn’t be about competition, but rather a full sensory and blissful experience.”
It’s a lesson worth remembering even without headphones.
Currently, you can experience Sound Off at Yo Yoga in NYC or at a pop-up event. Check Sound Off’s website for an event near you.