Designing a playlist is very similar to pairing wine with a gourmet meal – you want the music to compliment your yoga sequences. Music, like yoga, sets the mood. It is therapeutic, affects our mindset, and elicits a myriad of emotions. Music makes us feel. Combining music and asana practice can have a very powerful effect if done well.
Songs should match the energy level of the class. Have you ever gone to a candlelit restorative class set to disco or heavy metal? No, because that’s about as chill and relaxing as jumping into an ice bath.
Slow moving yoga like Yin, deep stretch, or classes for beginners pair well with more ambient background tunes – think Euro Lounge or Americana. Save the more upbeat genres like pop, hip hop, and electro for Power Yoga, Vinyasa, and other yoga classes designed to get your blood pumping.
Know your audience. Seniors in your Gentle Yoga class do not want to hear the new Taylor Swift. The class you lead at the church does not want to yoga to gangster rap.
On the other hand, those 20 and 30-somethings on their mats first thing Saturday morning are ready to sweat out last night’s cocktails. They will probably be willing to overlook a few questionable lyrics if the beat can help them groove through six sets of abdominals. Honestly, they probably won’t even notice questionable lyrics over the sound of their abs screaming. I, personally, am a huge fan of giving an especially loud cue when I know profanity is coming up.
How to build your playlist.
- Push play and go! Match the length of your playlist to the length of your class. Teaching is way more fun when you can focus on your students, your sequence, your cues, and not have to mess with your phone.
- Stick to one or similar musical genres. As much as I love both The Weeknd and Black Sabbath, it is difficult (if not impossible) to place them on the same playlist in a cohesive way.
- If you like to begin class by verbally guiding students through pranayama or other exercises to help set the class tone, consider instrumental music. For most of us, it’s easier to focus on one voice at a time.
- As a general rule, there should be a direct correlation between yogi heart rate and musical BPMs (beats per minute). As breath flows and movement builds throughout the asana practice, so should the tempo. As cool down begins, the music should slow as well.
- Abdominal exercises are best approached like running – people need super upbeat music to help power through.
- Choose a calming song for savasana. Instrumental music is great because there are no lyrics for wandering minds to attach to. If there are lyrics, make sure they are either positive or neutral. Yoga practices often leaves us feeling raw, vulnerable, and emotional. If you can avoid making the mid-breakup yogini burst into tears during her time for meditation because the song just happens to be about love in some abstract way, do it.
Where to find music. Friends, family, your own personal stash of musical favorites. Take requests, ask for suggestions. Pandora, iTunes Genius, Spotify playlists and radio. I draw from a playlist comprised of songs I hear in passing that I think might be good for yoga class. Mix and match songs that you love with the tolerable songs from the radio that your students will love.
In the end, make sure you’re playing music that moves you. When you’re feeling inspired, that energy will leak into your teaching and into the hearts of those whose practice you guide. Plus, you’re the one hearing the same playlist over and over. Life’s too short for mediocre jams.