In yoga, we surround ourselves with sounds that help us get into the right state of mind and connect to our inner selves...chanting mantras, ocean breath, singing bowls, the soothing voice of the teacher are just some of the ways we incorporate sound into our practice.
Modern yoga has taken this connection further by introducing music to the practice. Research shows that many forms of modern yoga practice are more effective when accompanied by music. From traditional Indian music and Tibetan singing bowls to digitally composed melodies and ambient sounds, music offers its own set of benefits, which are amplified through yoga.
In the perfect world, finding focus is easy. You close your eyes, and boom - a state of total concentration. Unfortunately, in the real world, finding focus takes work. We need the right environment in order to minimise distractions, the right time, the right mindset… Switching your focus from daily responsibilities to your yoga practice is the opposite of easy. Music can be used as a bridge that leads us to the inner focus and helps us stay in the present moment. It serves as a constant that we can always return to if our mind starts to wonder.
A well-rounded, dynamic yoga class usually has a structure, and music can be very useful to guide you through various stages of the practice. At the start of the session, you would typically set a few minutes aside to breathe and centre. This is a time of stillness and contemplation, preparing the body and mind for the asana practice. When the movement is introduced, it takes time to warm up and build momentum. At the peak of the practice, we often focus on continuous movement or challenging poses. Afterwards, it’s customary to wind down and guide the body back towards stillness. The last 10-15 minutes of the class are usually set aside for relaxation in a restorative pose such as Savasana or Viparita Karani. Incorporating a well-designed playlist takes the students on a journey and gives them cues as to the direction of the practice.
As well as being mindful of the body and mind, the keen awareness of one’s surroundings is a significant part of the yoga practice. This includes being aware of the outside factors, such as sounds, smells, temperature and visual stimuli. However, finding a path to the state of acute awareness can be challenging. Music acts as a great tool - an ever-present sound, it can serve as an anchor that helps you tune in with your other senses.
When we hear music, our natural response is to move. Sometimes, that movement is subtle, like, tapping your foot or bobbing your head to the beat. Some music invokes the desire to jump, kick, flap, spin, wiggle and twist. As yoga teachers, we want to awaken that thirst for movement in our students, whether we are teaching a face-to-face lesson or sharing the practice online. Choosing appropriate music for a yoga class is instrumental in helping us achieve that goal.
Having your breath in check is very important in all contexts of yoga. During meditation, our breath helps us stay centred and focused.
There have been multiple studies that confirmed the positive effect music has on blood pressure. A study published in 2018 found that combining breath work and music can be effective in regulating blood pressure. You see? Music and yoga are a match made in heaven!
If you are teaching a dynamic class, such as Vinyasa or Hatha Flow, you want to choose a playlist that reflects the pace of your session. For slower, strength-based yoga classes, look for music that encourages steady concentration. Restorative yoga, on the other hand, calls for soft-sounding, relaxing compilation.
The music from most streaming services and CDs requires you to have a music license for commercial yoga classes. Unless the cost of the music license is covered by your venue, your best bet is to find a source of royalty-free music. That way, you can also teach online classes or record your sessions for a YouTube channel without worry. Check out our selection of royalty-free music at WSHQ.
The music you choose should complement the yoga session, but not overpower the teacher. If you let the music take over, the people in your class won’t be able to focus. Just like yoga itself, finding the right music for your classes is a balancing act.
Creating your own custom playlist can take a lot of time. Instead, consider investing in a professionally created playlist. These yoga playlists are carefully designed to enhance your meditation and asana practice. Furthermore, they might inspire your personal yoga practice!