The Art of Using Music in a Yoga Class
Support for Yoga Teachers Looking to Add A Little Something Extra To Your Class
Melodies, chants and song have been a part of the music in yoga for as long as yoga has existed. The ancient texts such as the Vedas & the Upanishads are full of melodious chants especially the Samaveda, which means the song of knowledge. This in addition to the vast culture of classical Indian music as seen music, song and chanting weaved throughout the practise of yoga.
The vibration of sound whether made by you, a musical instrument or recorded leaves a vibrational imprint on the surface of your body and every cell in the surface tissues receives the sound.
“Yogas chitta vritti nirodha”
If we take it back to The Yoga Sutras and the 8 Limbs of Yoga, the practise of yoga is a journey to stilling the thought waves of the mind so that the practitioner may achieve enlightenment. You need to ask yourself, does playing music in your yoga practise support this intention or not? Be careful to not mistake stillness and silence as the same.
For many, the skilful use of music can in fact help to calm and soothe the mind however for others, or as a result of the selection for music, it may in fact have the opposite effect of stimulating the mind as music can be thought provoking, bringing memories to the surface or evoking an emotional response.
It is also worthwhile remembering the 5th limb of yoga, Pratyahara – to withdraw the senses. Playing music is an external stimulus which draws on the sense of hearing. However, if by appropriately working with sound we can withdraw our senses to the immediate environment around us and to the present moment we are progressing on the path towards total Pratyahara.
For me personally music is a big part of my yoga, it brings me into the ritual of my practise, it connects me with my creative flow, my soul’s dance and focuses my mind of the sacred devotional journey of yoga. Music frees me from the mundane and elevates my experience.
An ancient India metaphysical system, it is the yoga of sound and healing. It holds true that universe and all that exists in it, is the manifestation of sound vibrations, called nāda. This concept states that it is sound energy in motion which form the building blocks of the universe. In this model, by working with the vibrations of sound we can rebalance our energy for greater harmony with the world around us. Nada sound healing can be used to support healing in the energy body and physical body.
This is a spiritual path of love and devotion, acknowledging the divine in everything. It is practising love and gratitude for lovesake, a sweet connection to the sacred magic of this universe and our precious human lives. Music, mantra and chanting are key tools in this yogic path. Chanting and kirtan (devotional song) bring mantras alive with melody and rhythm to elevate their vibrational quality. It is the meaning of the mantra, the resonances of the vibrations and the intention of devotion that make Bhakti Yoga such a powerful and transformative experience.
To Raise Vibration
In offering yoga, we bring positivity into our communities. Simply put we want people to feel better, more alive, more present, more connected. Yoga creates an upward spiral to joy, positivity and happiness. Music is a powerful tool to raise vibrations so we can oscillate at a higher more positive frequency. Through music we can tap into our feeling centres to explore and release negative emotions we’ve been suppressing and make more space to open our heart and welcome in joy. Be warned, though sequencing yoga asanas which can stir strong emotional reactions, such as backbends, with highly emotive music can have a huge effect on your students. If you choose this path be skilful, respectful and make sure to do no harm.
Not a Crutch
Often times newer yoga teachers rely on music in class to cover awkward silences and support them in creating an atmosphere. It becomes a crutch, and then you forget your iPod one class and panic ensues. Music is there to enhance your classes and should be as skilfully curated as your yoga lesson plans and sequences so that it is deepening, guiding or motivating your class.
Creating a Playlist
Planning the perfect yoga playlist is art and a science. You can’t just throw random songs together and expect the class to flow well. So how do you plan a yoga playlist to elevate your class?
- Sign up to spotify premium to make your life a lot easier! The £9 / month is worth every penny and I swear Spotify knows me better than anyone else in my life!
- Unlimited music – never buy a record again
- No adverts
- Stream music, create playlists, save your favourite songs, find inspiration, share with students
- Download your playlists so that you can play on your phone in class without internet access
- How to use Spotify as a Yoga Teacher
- Create playlists to categorise the music you like, have a playlist for each category or pace of a class
- Centre & Connecting, Warm Up, Sun Salutation, Standing Flows, Seated/Supinne, Savasana
- Still, Slow, Medium, Maximum
- Start listening to music and if you like a track click on + sign to add it to your list of songs and the © to tell Spotify you like it! Also add to any of your above playlists if you really like it! This information and interaction is really important as the more Spotify gets to know what you like the better the algorithms will work and then Spotify will start recommending music for you.
- Discover Weekly – a personalised Spotify playlist generated for you every Monday with new music
- Release Radar – a personalised Spotifty playlist generated for you every Friday with new releases from Artists you like
- Listen to other people’s playlists, and Browse. Spotify has it’s own playlist which you can listen to for inspiration, I love:
- Now you’re building up a library of music you like start to create playlist to share publicly in your yoga classes. Start by creating a few generic playlists that you can use any time that you trust with work for you such as:
- “Slow & Steady – a 60 Min Yoga Playlist”
- “Powerful & Pumped – a 60 Min Yoga Playlist”
- “Chilled & Mellow – a 60 Min Yoga Playlist”
- Progress to creating yoga class playlist specifically for individual classes matching the theme, asanas and tempo progression of that lesson plan
- Licensing, be aware of licensing laws!
- Personal Taste, you can’t please everyone, if it works for you go with it!
- Look for inspiration everywhere
- Choose songs with lyrics work with your theme
- Careful with songs with lyrics, can be really distracting
- Does your voice blend into the tone of vocals if so talk between the vocals
- Cover songs and acoustic variations of popular music work well
I hope you find this useful and come to love the addition of music to your classes as much as I do.
For further inspiration, check out my workshops pages and join me on a CPD Workshop.