Adding Muisc To Your Yoga Classes



Planning to put that great ambient yoga music download on loop and let it go for the length of your yoga class? Think again before you play just any old sound track during your painstakingly planned yoga journey. Just because it grooves your moves when you practice at home alone doesn’t mean it will support your spoken instruction and pacing in your yoga class, or support your students in their dive in to bliss out asana experience.

Check out the instructor discussion board on LinkedIn and one of the most active threads you’ll find over time is the one discussing music in yoga class. The first question is not even what kind or how loud or how to integrate yoga music into your yoga class, but whether - to be or not be. There’s a deep vein of wisdom out there reporting that music during yoga class is not traditional or focusing or contemplative. The prime argument for this point of view is that the path of yoga is to withdraw the senses - sense withdrawal is the fifth limb of yoga - and when you play yoga music during your yoga class you intentionally engage a sense you’re meant to be drawing to your inner music.  

But have you ever listened to the “quiet” in your favorite yoga studio? To assume that a yoga music free environment will be more meditative than any given selection is usually mistaken.  To compete with your inner music you’ll have busses, street fights, random drum music punctuated with car brakes and backfires. For this reason alone, I’ve always gone the route of playing music during a yoga class. At least the distraction will be intentionally chosen.  

Perhaps a bit too binary to think that a music free yoga class will cultivate your inner listening more than intelligently chosen yoga music. The key word here is “intelligently,” a quality the music I’ve chosen for my yoga class has not always possessed. Through trial and error I’ve discovered that many songs I love and even work for me during my home practice are worse than street noise to teach a yoga class over. Even some tracks sold as “yoga music” aren’t necessarily conducive to spoken instruction.

For instance, I love Love and Happiness by Al Green to groove into my morning yoga practice; it brings me right into the moment with my feet all squishy on the mat and my breath like a revelation every minute. Turns out, though, Al’s voice and mine clash when I’m trying to talk students through their first Salute of the practice, and in a way that is not so conducive to that squishy mat feeling. Handel's Messiah - pure physical exaltation for my personal practice. Just sounds like uptight elevator music to students listening to anatomically precise instruction and their inner muses simultaneously. Classical Sitar music? You’d think it’d be perfect, right? Traditional, meant to mimic and invoke the subtle order of the universe... nope. Creates feelings of anxiety and overload, at least for the students in the yoga classes during which I tried it. Yep, plural. I’m a great fan of persistence, which sometimes pans out, but not here.

If you’re a DJ at heart or in fact, or if you’re the person in your group who everyone asks for mixes and would still make mix tapes for all your closest buds if you could find the equipment, then mixes of popular songs may work for you. You can check out popular yoga teachers’ websites for their yoga music playlists, or peruse iTunes. Give it a test run before unveiling it for your yoga class, though, unless you want some uncomfortable repetition and knob turning.

For those of us going for a more mellow or simply less pop vibe, remember that just because a track or CD labels itself “yoga music” doesn’t mean it will work under your voice. Consider the length of your yoga class and what song will be playing for your Savasana. It is possible to draw together a custom playlist of yoga music that complements your voice, rhythm and vibe from music familiar to you. Think instrumental, middle range - neither too high nor low pitched, some silence between notes and only gentle, predictable bass lines.  

Having portable, battery powered speakers for your mp3 player is essential if you’re going to be moving around very much. Test your player in a large space and even outside. Premium services like Spotify can give you a wide range of choices, or you can simply buy the tunes you like and build a standing yoga playlist. Having a standard groove can help to soothe and calm your students as they enter the room and all the way through class.

Regardless of the mood you set with your music or lack of it, give your chosen background a test run before going live and choose music that not only complements your theme, but supports your students in listening to their inner teacher.

Comments (1)

Said this on 1-21-2012 At 12:02 pm
These are all great musicians who create music perfect for a Yoga class.

Stevin McNamara

Subway Bhaktis
Jack Harrison
Roop Verma
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