As many instructors will tell you, there are few ways more efficient in setting the mood of a yoga class than with a well-curated playlist. If you’ve never experienced the joy of extending into your full expression of wild thing while Hozier’s “Work Song” plays in the background, then you are certainly missing out. Good music has the energy-boosting effect of one of Mario’s gold coins. But I also discovered as a new teacher that planning my soundtracks in conjunction with my sequences helped me to pace my classes without using a watch, which greatly eased the nerves I felt while teaching.
Good music has the energy-boosting effect of one of Mario’s gold coins.
Music-streaming platforms like Spotify have made it easier than ever to create themed playlists. Try these six tips to make your playlist-building experience as peaceful as your savasana.*
As a frugalista, I used every excuse in the book to avoid upgrading to Spotify Premium. However, it was my experience that the service is well worth its cost ($9.99/month for an individual user; $14.99/month for a family). In addition to being able to play your music without commercial interruption, you get instant access to new releases, the option to save music for offline listening, and full control over what you listen to on your mobile devices (free accounts allow users to listen to albums via mobile devices only on shuffle, with a maximum of five song skips per each hour).
There are many ways to build strong playlists without a service like Spotify. But even if you intend only to supplement your music collection with songs from the service, it’s worth upgrading to a premium account to make the listening experience as seamless as possible.
Use Folders to Organize Your Playlists
You will inevitably reach a point of too many playlists, where titles like Gentle Flow 1, Gentle Flow 2, and Gentle Flow 3 will no longer suffice. Spotify allows you to organize your playlists into folders. To do so, select File > New Playlist Folder, and type in the name of your choice. You can add playlists to folders by single-clicking on their names, and then dragging those playlists to the appropriate folders. My favorite way to use this function is to create folders for each class I teach; then, as I create new playlists, I add them to each class folder. This is incredibly helpful if you’re running late and need to pull a playlist from your existing bank of 60-minute Vinyasa Flow playlists.
Extra Pro Tip: If you store your written sequences online, include a link to the sequence within the related playlist document. This way, you’ll have access at all times to both the moves and the music that accompanies them.
Import Your Own Music
With Spotify’s music catalog numbering in the millions, it can be easy to forget that not every song is available there. If you simply cannot fathom a class without Taylor Swift or Bob Seger crooning in the background, then take advantage of Spotify’s “Import Playlist” function. This adds to your Spotify account any music saved to your desktop or mobile device, and you will then be free to add it to new playlists. Be aware that if you’re making a public playlist with local files, tracks not available on Spotify will remain unavailable to your playlist followers.
Extra Pro Tip: Search for cover songs. Dying to use Drake’s “Hotline Bling” in a restorative class, but finding it a bit too intense? Don’t give up too quickly; maybe Glass Face’s acoustic version is just what you need!
Implement Offline Listening to Avoid Spotty Wi-Fi Connections
Spotify Premium users are able to make their music available for offline listening, an extremely helpful feature for those with inconsistent wi-fi or limited mobile data (for streaming). To enable a playlist for offline listening, toggle the switch at the top of the playlist to “Available Offline.” The songs will sync to your phone when connected to a wireless network, and offline songs will be indicated with a green arrow in a circle.
Extra Pro Tip: Detest interruptions? Reduce the silence between song changes by enabling gapless playback. To do so from the desktop application, navigate to Edit > Preferences > Advanced Settings. Then, click the toggle for gapless playback, or create a cross-fade between songs.
Connect the SoundHound or Shazam App to Your Spotify Account
Have you ever heard a song somewhere, and wished you knew the title or the singer? If so, then SoundHound and Shazam are your new BFFs. With just the touch of a button, both apps will use your phone’s speaker to analyze a song (even from your own hummed melody), and find its title, artist, and album. When connected to an existing Spotify account, both apps will automatically save the songs you’ve found to a playlist. To add them to a class playlist, simply copy or click-and-drag them to your preferred playlist.
Extra Pro Tip: Spotify’s Developer Showcase has a number of useful independently created tools that can enhance your listening experience. For example, Sort My Music is a plug-in that analyzes your playlists for acoustic qualities like tempo, beats per minute, and energy level, while Spotify Dedup removes duplicate tracks from your playlists. Take advantage of Spotify’s community of experts!
Create Collaborative Playlists
Empower your students to suggest songs for class by making a collaborative playlist and sharing its link with your students. Those with the playlist link will be able to add or remove songs from the list. This feature is also handy when team-teaching a class.
Extra Pro Tip: If having an open playlist gives you the Type A willies, remember that you can turn off collaborative privileges at any time. A solid rule of thumb is to turn off collaborative rights 24 hours before class, which both allows your students the opportunity to make suggestions and gives you sufficient time to review and revise the playlist to best suit your sequence.
*These tips are specific to Spotify and are not necessarily applicable to alternative music streaming platforms.
Editor's note: Before teaching studio classes set to Spotify music be sure to comply with required licensing.