Q: Tell me about your approach to music in yoga classes?
Kim Weeks: I have been teaching for 17 years and I decided to not use because I get really distracted by music. I love music so much that I want to dance. A lot of people think of yoga as dance and I respect that, but what I am doing is trying to teach people how to increase their personal awareness of what is happening inside their body.
As an Iyengar teacher, I am teaching such a wide of postures. If you are teaching [vinyasa] or rocket yoga or …something else that has repetition.. I can understand why music would [be of] But in my case, every class is different. Iyengar said: “The mind is the hardest part of the body to teach.” I take that super seriously. I want students to focus within.
Gopi Kinnicut: For me, sound is sacred when used as a channel to self-awakening. I use sound as a sacred portal [in my classes]. [In the physical practice] mantra can help people elongate the breath in movement – like using RAM in the exhalation to humble warrior pose. I always begin and end my classes with chant – it seals in the intention at the beginning and at the end people leave with a sacred vibration.
Music invites students to be here, present in this heart space. It is there to help awaken our inherent nature of who we are and cleanse the conditioning [of our world.]
Q: Do you use music when practicing by yourself?
Gopi: Yes. I use kirtan when I practice. The rhythm is [important to my choice] because it helps me come into an internal space.
[Usually] I practice with soft kirtan, but occasionally I choose an intense rhythm to get rajistic energy out of me [so that I can continue the internal journey].
Kim: Sometimes I use music when I practice by myself because music always affects my mood. Sometimes I really enjoy that. [But] most of the time, I prefer silence because I have almost always gotten pulled in by the artist that I am listening to and the rhythms. I just see [music] and [practicing] as different. I see them as two different media. It’s not good or bad, its just two different media.
Q: Have you ever used music in a class?
Kim: The only time I have ever played music, has been Tibetan gongs or super chill [music] that you hear in a massage place. So songs of bells, or birds chirping. But music with lyrics, I just can’t do it.
Gopi: I use sacred sound of mantra and chant. Sometimes I use music in my asana classes, but I use the spiritual songs of kirtan or music without words…[I choose this music] with a deep bass tone. Music should follow the ebb and flow of our inner journey. [Sometimes I] use the external beat for the energy so that the vibration is carrying [my students] through their practice.
Q: Does your own personal story play a role in your decision about music/sound in your classes?
Gopi: I went to teacher training for yoga after [deep and resonant] practices in Bhakti. I saw that there was a hunger [for spiritual awakening]. I feel that I’ve been given a gift – to tell people about the authenticity of the practice.
Kim: I am a musician. So my mind really goes [to the music] and I am analyzing the composition and the key, the tempo and all of it. [For example], I remember listening to a beautiful song, I think it was Jeff Buckley singing Hallujelah …. He played one of the most haunting version of Hallujelah… and I was listening to it in savasana and I [was thinking that] I didn’t want to be listening to this song now. I should be focusing in on me.
So that is when I decided not to use music.
Q: Tell me a little more about your yoga story.
Kim: I have been doing yoga since 1990. I learned it abroad and then went to New York City in 1995. I had never been to a yoga classroom that had music. I remember my friend invited me to a class who said to me, you have to come to my yoga class. And there was music. The music was chanting at the end and I just didn’t understand [the chants.] I was open to it. It was a different methodology and I believe and support the idea of anything that increases peace in the world.
Gopi: A lot of people don’t know this about me, but I lived in an ashram for ten years, [steeped] in meditation, mantra and chant for hours every day. I had given my life to God. [After I left the ashram] I wound up teaching meditation and [asana] yoga at studios in Ireland, becoming involved in the yoga community. [Throughout these experiences] I continued my [formal] studies of scripture and aruyveda. Then I went to yoga teacher training.
Q: Tell me more about being a musician.
Gopi: [Laughs]. I’m not musically inclined. I’ve learned to play a few things on the harmonium.
I feel a responsibility to reawaken the interest in spiritual practice. When I first came to DC no one would chant [in my classes]. I invited them to just listen. Over time, [students] enter a different place – find a new motivation for their practice. I believe in the power of mantra, in the power of grace.
Kim: I love it. I play guitar. I grew up playing piano and I was in a conservatory program. I learned really complicated music over a long time period of time. I stopped when I went to college, and it is a regret. So, when I closed Boundless Yoga [a studio I owned for several years] and my kids were little, I founded the Petworth Coop…. and this other mom [in the coop] had been a punk rocker. We decided we wanted to get a band together to put some truth to motherhood and feelings. We decided there are so many projections on us [as mothers]. There is so much turmoil and anguish and loss of identity as a mother. We wanted to sing about the darkness and the beauty too, so we founded it. We played together for three solid years and [right now] we are taking a break. We are all so busy.
Kim Weeks (E-YRT 500, YACEP Provider, Certified Iyengar Teacher) has practiced yoga for more than 20 years; taught for 17. Voted three times DC’s Best Yoga Teacher, Kim founded Boundless Yoga in 2001 and today uses it as a school to apprentice and train teachers. She is founder of Kim Weeks Well, a wellness educational and consulting company. Kim teaches at YogaWorks and Unity Woods Yoga Center, and you can find her at kimweekswell.com.
Gopi Kinnicutt (E-RYT 500) brings 10 years of lessons she learned in a Bhakti Ashram to the local area as the founder of Bhakti Yoga DC. She is focused on bridging the philosophy of yoga and the authentic traditions coming from India, making them accessible to the modern 21st century yogi. Her classes combine dynamic fluid yoga sequences, infused with deep spirituality, mantras, breath work and kriyas to release untouched energy and Prana.