5 Tips to Create the Perfect Vinyasa Yoga Music Playlist | The Driven Yogi
Contributor: Rachel Goldman, Vinyasa Yoga Teacher
I love music. Music helps me feel. It helps me express, connect, and release. So for me, the bridge between yoga and music has always been natural. Since I began teaching vinyasa yoga, my goal has always been to teach the type of classes that I, myself, would love to take. That goal has dictated my sequencing, my balance of physical rigor and emotional connection, and how I use my yoga music playlists as a metronome and a pulse that guides the arc of my classes. In my classes, I believe the music that I use helps students enter their practice, inhabit powerful shapes, and eventually, it leads them towards their final resting pose: savasana.
I know there are many yoga teachers out there for whom this relationship between music and yoga feels artificial. So, if music isn’t your thing, don’t feel the pressure to always have a yoga music playlist, or even use music at all. But for those of you who use your playlists as a way for students to move through your classes, here are five tips to help you create the perfect vinyasa yoga music playlist.
1. Understand the Arc and Energy of Your Classes
It's important to understand that a yoga music playlist that works for one teacher will likely not work for another teacher, even if both teachers are teaching the same type of class. This is the beauty of teaching yoga: we all teach classes differently. And for that reason, before you go about selecting music for your playlist, or simply start teaching to another teacher’s playlist, it’s important to pause and really understand your own classes.
What is the arc of your class? Are your classes slower? Do you create high-energy, faster paced classes? Before creating your playlist think about the goal for your class and the different sections in your sequence. Once you understand your classes you can begin to consider what music will help you meet these goals.
2. Creating Your Yoga Music Playlist
Different teachers use different applications to create their playlists. I have found buying a Spotify account, which removes advertisements and allows you to create and structure playlists, works best.* From my own experience, I’ve found that I use slower, more gentle songs for the first 2-4 songs and the last 2-4 songs of practice. The middle of my yoga music playlist is based on how I think the music will help my students move through the standing sequences. When choosing songs for your playlist consider what songs you enjoy practicing standing sequences to in your personal practice. In other classes you've taken, what songs have you enjoyed flowing to?
3. Create a Safe Space with the Music
In order for you to teach to your greatest ability, it’s important to choose music that you feel comfortable listening to. Don't choose music that works for another teacher or that has been suggested to you by your students, unless it also speaks to you. If you include music that makes you uncomfortable or that you don't vibe with, you will be incredibly distracted while teaching. Your playlist must make you feel safe and excited to teach your classes.
Similarly, your music is part of what creates the environment for your students. To make sure they feel safe and included in your classes ask yourself: could the language in this music drive people away or distract them from their practice? Would it be best to find the edited version of some songs in case some students are sensitive to certain language? Is the song you like a good fit for the type of class you are teaching?
Remember, people aren't always going to like the music you choose, just like they aren't always going to like the sequences you create. But if you choose music that you connect with and are comfortable with, people who enjoy your classes will gravitate to you, and people who don't enjoy it will find another class that speaks to them.
4. Practice to Your Playlist First!
I always try to create a yoga music playlist with enough time to practice to it myself before I teach to it. There are many songs that seem good in theory, but once I am on my mat I realize they can actually be pretty irritating to practice to. It’s better to realize this before your class rather than during it. Practicing or spending time with your playlists on the mat is really the only way to ask yourself all of the above questions and process the playlist in its entirety. Listen to your intuition: if a song makes you uncomfortable or feels off while you are practicing, it's likely going to make you feel that way when you are teaching to it, too.
5. Music and Savasana
There is obviously no right way to craft your savasana, but it should be done with intention. The purpose of a yoga class is to help people move, feel, and breathe enough so that they can relax and renew. With that in mind, it's important to think about how music will allow you to create this space for people. Is silence actually the best option for savasana? Do you settle your students into savasana and then start one final song for them? Do you allow the playlist simply to keep playing and have several songs create savasana for your students? Whichever you decide, make it a choice and not just something that happens by default.
As you think about these questions, think back to some of the best savasanas you’ve had in classes and think about how music was used to help you release and conclude your practice. When it comes to selecting songs for savasana, I'm not sure there is a specific recipe for success: for example, one of the best savasanas I ever had was actually to Beyonce's 'Sorry'! Instead, I'd think about what tone you've set in your class and how your class has led up to this release. Is a song you've chosen going to be distracting to the emotional release you've spent all this time working towards? If so, its probably not a good choice to use it, even if it worked for somebody else.
* If you are using paid streaming services, be sure to keep track of your bill so you can write the expense off on your taxes! As a yoga teacher, this expense is part of your job. For further details on tax write offs, requirements, and restrictions, be sure to contact your tax professional.
Rachel's Favorite Playlists
Not sure how to get started? Click the buttons below to be taken to Rachel's sample playlists for different types of vinyasa classes.
Create a playlist that is approximately five minutes shorter than the class time. This allows for silence at the beginning and end of class.
To help you create playlists faster, have a playlist that you simple add songs to. From there you can easily wade through the songs and mark favorites to help you come up with a music playlist that works for your classes.
If you are subbing or are new to a class, I think it is definitely important to create your playlist with a bit more caution. Remember, you are stepping into a new space and you want to see what students are used to, comfortable with, and excited by.
Rachel Goldman is a yoga teacher based in Oakland, CA. She believes the purpose of yoga is simply to feel better. She teaches creative, dynamic vinyasa classes at Hot Spot Yoga and Flying Studios.