Music has the power to create a transformative and immersive experience during yoga classes. As a yoga teacher, crafting an effective playlist can enhance the ambiance, energize your students, and deepen their connection to the practice.
Here we will explore the art of creating captivating playlists that complement and elevate your classes. Whether you're a seasoned instructor or just starting your teaching journey, these tips will help you curate playlists that inspire, relax, and uplift your students.
Understand Your Intention
Before diving into the realm of music selection, take a moment to reflect on the intention of your class. Are you teaching a dynamic vinyasa flow, a gentle restorative session, or a themed workshop?
The music should align with the mood and purpose of the class. Consider whether you want to create a calming atmosphere, boost energy, or guide a specific emotional experience. Remember that when you choose to use music in your classes, you are also putting on the hat of DJ. Intention with your music is just as important as the physical movement, sequencing, breath work, and connections you make with your students. Your playlist has the power to motivate but can also distract if not curated with intention.
Know Your Audience
As a yoga teacher, it's crucial to understand your students' preferences and needs. When curating a playlist, while we often want to pull songs together that we like, we have to remember that we are creating an experience for other people that are choosing to come to our class. Keeping in mind that you may not know what they're personally going through and music can have a powerful impact on their experience. The right songs can enhance the experience and songs that distract can have the opposite experience.
Some things you might consider include the different demographics of your class, such as age range, musical tastes, and cultural backgrounds. If you have regular students that attend your classes, you might even ask them what they like and use what's going on in their life. This can help you pick songs that align with their journey.
This might be done by choosing songs that are uplifting to your audience when they're going through a hard time, or songs that are more soothing when they're faced with something challenging. Observe the energy and vibe of the group. Engaging playlists should resonate with your students and create a welcoming space for everyone.
Another thing you can consider with your audience is the time of the day. A 6am class will have a much different feel than a 6pm class. At 6am your students are likely in your classroom because they're just getting their day started and want to wake up. Think about song choices that help uplift and get their day kicked off. And at the end of the day, most students are likely looking to release their day and get ready to wind down.
"The secret ingredient is music that calms without making one sleepy, drives without overdoing, and is emotional without being specific to a particular theme." - DJ Drez
Find the Right Balance
The key to a successful yoga playlist is striking a balance between the music and the yoga practice itself. The music should be supportive and complementary, rather than overpowering or distracting. Aim for a seamless integration of sound and movement, allowing the music to enhance the experience without overshadowing the instruction or meditation.
Think about what you want to bring attention to. After all, it's fairly normal for students' minds to wander during class. As a teacher, you want to curate your class experience in a way that you aren't adding to the distracting thoughts that often surface throughout class. If you are using specific meditation, intention setting, or themes in your classes, avoid songs that that have words while you are talking. Songs with lyrics, and even songs that are too upbeat, can take away from the beautiful and well throughout out messaging that you are trying to convey in your words.
Create a Journey
Craft your playlist as a journey that aligns with the progression of the class. Begin with calming and grounding tracks to help students arrive on their mats, gradually building up the energy as the practice intensifies (for flow style classes where more rigorous movement is introduced). During peak moments, choose more invigorating beats to energize the room. Finally, wind down the class with soothing and melodic tunes to facilitate relaxation and introspection. The goal from beginning to end is that your music should enhance the practice, not distract from it.
The Beginning of Class
Think about at the beginning of your class when you are setting intention, maybe talking about a specific theme that you're working with, introducing specific breath work, or maybe you're using moments of silence. However you are choosing to begin your class, typically we use this time arriving, taking time from getting to class to being in class, and empowering our students to ground in the present moment (instead of focusing on what they might have had going on before the arrived to class).
If using an upbeat song, a song with words, or even a popular song that could trigger distracting memories and thoughts, it can work against your goal of these first few moments of class.
The Middle of Class
Depending on the style of class, the physical part practice and sequencing you have planned might vary. Think about your music during this portion of class in a sense of matching the mood and energy of the music to the movement. If you're building heat, moving through sun salutations, or have a fiery flow planned, you might want your music to be a bit faster and even play it a bit louder. If you have shapes and sequencing planned where you are moving slower, have moments of longer holds, or even some slower yin or restorative style shapes being integrated, find music that matches that energy.
The End of Class
As the practice comes to a close, we typically find slower movements, more yin style holds, deep stretching and movements that will help prepare us for savasana. Think about songs here that can help the body's nervous system down regulate from the activation they likely just moved through. In order to curate an effective savasana, the cool down sequencing we create is only as good as the sounds students are surrounded by.
If you are winding class down (physically) but still have up beat music playing, there's a good chance the student's nervous system is remaining activated instead of making that transition to rest and digest (allowing the benefits of the physical practice to settle in). Think about songs that can slowly wind down into your final ending song and shape, that part of class that everyone looks forward to: savasana.
Your savasana is that time where we find stillness - not only in the physical body and by slowing the breath - but also in the mind. Song choice during savasana can have a bigger impact on your student's ability to enter this meditative state than you realize. Ensure you have a song selected that is slow, soothing, relaxing and one that will enhance the experience of this crucial part of the practice. If you are choosing a song that has words, think about one that is meditative in nature, one that can whisk your students away and keep the chatter in the mind quiet.
"Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form." -Plato
Explore Various Genres
Experiment with different genres and styles of music to keep your playlists diverse and engaging. Consider incorporating elements of world music, ambient sounds, classical compositions, or modern tracks with soothing melodies. Explore genres like instrumental, electronic, acoustic, or even spoken word. Keep an open mind and let your creativity guide you.
Seamless transitions between songs are vital for maintaining the flow and focus of the class. Avoid abrupt changes that can interrupt the students' concentration or breath. Utilize crossfades or fade-outs to create smooth transitions between tracks.
Experiment with transition times to find what works best for the pacing of your class. If you are spending 5-minutes at the beginning arriving, grounding, setting intention, etc. make sure you have 5-minutes worth of ambient music planned. As you're ready to introduce movement, think about a song that will seamlessly link your ambient vibe you started with to music that moves.
Then, keep this sentiment with your transitions throughout your class. As you are preparing for sequences that move, incorporate songs that move. Likewise, as you are transitioning into the end of class or moments of stillness, pick songs that have this same energy. Before you play your playlist in class, listen to it back! Make sure it flows, connects, and matches the energy you have planned, beginning to end.
Keep Playlists Fresh
To keep your students engaged, regularly refresh your playlists with new tracks. Keep an eye on music trends, explore emerging artists, and seek recommendations from fellow instructors and students. This continuous exploration will infuse your classes with a sense of novelty and surprise, ensuring your students look forward to the unique auditory experience you curate.
Remember that crafting effective playlists for your yoga classes is an art that combines intention, creativity, and an understanding of your students' needs. By selecting music that resonates with your class's purpose, creating a journey, and incorporating a variety of genres, you can elevate the yoga experience for your students.
Curating playlists takes time and can often be as important, if not more important, than the physical practice itself. Dedicate time to do this so you feel prepared, confident and ready to deliver an elevated experience in your classes.
Need some inspiration? Here are a few of our favorite Spotify profiles from the Elevate team that might give you some examples of how to curate playlists for your classes: