I'm crazy about music. I love all sorts of genres, but am especially fond of reggae, dub, 90s hip-hop, and eclectic world beats. If you've ever joined one of my classes, you know that my passion for good music carries over into the yoga studio- I always listen to music when I practice, and I don't water down my musical preferences when I make playlists for my classes.
No matter what sort of music you are into, putting together an effective playlist for a yoga session is a fine art that requires time, energy, and effort. I've been asked recently how I go about making my playlists, so I thought I'd write a blog to share my strategy. Here's a step by step breakdown of the quest to create a kick ass playlist. To help illustrate my process, I'll take you through a new playlist I created today.
But first! Why listen to music during yoga?!
I strongly believe a good playlist will enhance, rather than detract, from a great yoga session. To me, music and yoga are both very similar - they are both ways to connect to the present moment. When an artist creates music, he or she is sharing a part of their spirit, and revealing their inner selves- the same thing applies to a yogi cutting through their layers of samskaras to tap into their Higher selves. A yoga teacher/DJ friend once announced in class that "Music and Yoga are the same... because both bring you closer to God". Wise words, indeed.
Our bodies are designed to move and when music is playing, we naturally tap into that desire to flow, feel, and breath.
Step 1: Know your class
It's also important to consider the setting. Teaching in open air spaces is wonderful, but if extra noise is involved, you don't want to overwhelm the students with sounds. If it's raining hard, for example, I'll shut off the stereo and let nature serenade my students instead. If you teach near a noisy road, music can be a good way to cover up traffic sounds (as long as you don't also drown yourself out, of course!)
For this blog (and for tomorrow morning's class), I'm creating a 90 minute dynamic vinyasa playlist.
Step 2: Pick a theme
The playlist I created today was based on dub reggae, which is one of my favorite genres. Lots of dub songs are instrumental, and the funky beats keep yogis moving and grooving while they sweat.
Step 3: Choose songs
Don't worry about organizing your songs in this step! You'll do that later. For now, make a playlist in your iTunes library and just add a bunch of songs that you are considering adding to the playlist. Add more songs than you actually need- you'll pare it down later.
A good way to find songs is to select a song that you want to include, and to use iTunes Genius to find similar songs (right-click the song you like, then select "create genius playlist"). You can also search for the song you want to include on YouTube, then pick the YouTube playlist from the search results, which will give you 50 or so videos. These are both great ways to source tracks for your playlist (and to discover awesome new music!)
Step 4: Move your asana
Step 5: Organize the songs into a final playlist
0-5 minutes: Welcoming the class/ general intro (asking for requests, etc.)
5-10 minutes: Meditation
10-20 minutes: Warm up, moving towards standing
20-30 minutes: Sun salutations
30-60 minutes: Dynamic sequences, including inversions, maybe a peak pose, etc.
60-75 minutes: Seated and supine sequences, including twists, forward folds, backbends
75-85 minutes: Savasana
85-90 minutes: Closing
So, when I build my playlist, I choose songs that suit the energy level of each particular section, and time my playlist appropriately. For me, a 90 minute class only needs about 75 minutes of music, since the first 10 minutes and last 5 minutes are without music. I also have 60 minute playlists that I use in classes where I do more mediation and pranayama, and therefore have more quiet time.
Once you've got this done, you're ready to name your playlist. To keep things organized, I name each playlist first by the style of class ("vinyasa" or "yin", for example), then by the duration, and then with a title that suits the playlist. This makes it easy for me to sift through my playlists at the beginning of class and pick the playlist I want.
Step 6: Get back on your mat
For more of my yoga playlists, click here.