I am a dancer, so naturally I love moving my body to music. Music awakens parts of my body that are habitually disengaged, or may have otherwise remained inert. It also helps me express my moods and emotions in a healthy way. Because of its ability to unify attention and build a collective energy, I use music in almost all of the yoga classes I teach.
While music can play a powerful role in yoga practice, there are still a few guidelines for teachers to consider when curating a yoga playlist.
1. There is much to be said for choosing music that is not among the top 40. Don’t pull your students into the headspace of a drive in the car or a night out with friends. Yoga is a practice of moving inward, toward stillness, and pop songs are deliberately produced to create the opposite effect.
2. Music has an effect on the nervous system. Cadence, sound quality, and volume should be sequenced as carefully as the asanas (e.g., avoid crescendos in savasana). There are a number of interesting studies on the impact of music on the nervous system and the use of music in therapeutic settings, including Barry Goldstein’s book, “The Secret Language of the Heart.” (For an excerpt, go here.) The basic consideration is this: when structuring your yoga playlist, ask yourself what exactly you want to give to your students in this moment.
3. Language matters. If the songs you choose for class have lyrics, be very clear what message you’re reinforcing with those lyrics. Be respectful of the individuals who may show up for class, and be respectful of yoga as a centering opportunity (and not a sing-a-long or a barbeque). I am not suggesting that everything be G-rated—simply to consider the space and to honor your students.
Each of the following playlists has a slightly different flavor. The first list establishes a fluid rhythm that slowly builds to a peak and then quiets down into a soothing, mantra-soaked savasana. This is intended for the flow practice that dances and the practitioner who likes to remain in motion.
This next playlist supports a more grounding physical practice, perhaps with longer holds or a slower pace. The progression is toward pranayama or meditation. Still rhythmic and well-paced, the music will not detract from a quiet moment.
Enjoy practicing along to these, sharing them with your students, or using them as inspiration to create your own playlists. And comment to let us know what types of playlists you'd like to see on YI in the future!