Mudita: Experiencing Joy Through the Joy of Others
Mudita is sanskrit for experiencing joy through the joy of others. As an empath, I feel what those close to me feel - I absorb energy. This weekend, I had the pleasure of working with sound energy and the power of music to heal through the Sound Therapy training provided by Prema Yoga Institute in NYC. There was so much joy in that studio, it reminded me of musical rehearsals in middle school.
What is Joy? What does it mean to practice “joyful yoga.”
One of my first teachers at Pure Yoga, Tanya Boulton, said in a class once that “you don’t come to yoga to kill it.” I audibly laughed in the middle of that yoga class because I did, in fact, come to yoga that day to kill it. What I’m trying to kill in any moment ebbs and flows; sometimes I’m trying to kill the day’s energy, sometimes I’m trying NOT to kill someone in my life who is causing suffering, sometimes I just need to stimulate my energy and get my body moving. I don’t know many practitioners who first come to yoga as adults because they are feeling joyful and fabulous all the time. Many of us come to yoga to kill something. We don’t know any better in the beginning. What we realize later is that instead of killing anything, yoga brings all the buried shit in our lives to the surface. Yoga makes you feel everything, and it kills nothing. Yoga is about life, not death, and one of the ways yoga brings me life is through the music in my practice.
When I began practicing yoga, I avoided feeling. I didn’t want to practice yoga to feel, I wanted to practice not to feel. It is only recently that I’ve learned to appreciate that though years of talk-therapy didn’t help me deal with early childhood trauma, my yoga practice, (therapeutics, specifically), helped me deal with my shit in a way that is healthy and productive and mindful. It is not easy, but it allows for joy. That joy isn’t just rooted in asana practice, it’s rooted in the sounds I am hearing while I am practicing. I never practice at home without music, I never teach a class without music, and I always forget when I wander back into a Bikram class that I have 90-minutes of music-free, memorized dialogue as my only sound therapy. It isn’t going to hurt me, but it isn’t always as joyful for me, either.
My experience this weekend in Sound Therapy training gave me the experience of truly joyful yoga. Music has consistently been a driving force in my life. I sang on a number of stages through high school, and as an adult, I still wait for Friday album drops even more aggressively than the teenagers I teach. I’ve been late to work because I was still listening to a song in the car, and I’ve shushed passengers on long road trips because I would rather listen to music than people. Music can be soothing, stimulating, irritating, or just plain awful. Our relationship to sound is one of the first relationships we develop. it isn’t a coincidence that the yoga teachers I connect with most are those who either sing to me or have playlists that motivate, inspire, or evoke a reaction or emotion that I didn’t before realize was dormant. I have judged many a yoga class because the playlist was clearly not premeditated, and my only other physical passion, Soulcycle, is also all about the playlist. Sound Therapy is Yoga, it brings joy, and I am again reminded that the more joy I learn to create myself, the more joyful I will feel. Stay tuned, (pun intended), for some musical instruments in my future. The singing bowls I worked with this weekend were fire af, and will probably be my next investment.