DJ Sol Rising at Wanderlust 108 DC, 2017. Photo by Thurston Willis.
Writing a playlist for class isn't as simple as adding all your fave songs to a list and pressing go. There are a thousand things to keep in mind—the body to breath connection you're looking to augment only one among them. How do you create something that keeps people engaged in movement that also allows them to go deep into their mind at the same time? Writing a yoga playlist is an artform, and can be daunting, especially if you're a new teacher. We asked world-renowned yoga DJ Sol Rising, DJ Taz Rashid, and DJ Jesse Blake to share some of their secrets. Want to experience their smooth stylings IRL? See them live at a Wanderlust 108 or Wanderlust Festival this year! For tickets and more information, click here.
DJ Jesse Blake's Top 3 Tips
Consider dividing your class into sections based on overall energy and intensity. Then think about the music for each section based on energy level, rather than the specific content, genre or style of music. Most yoga classes have a narrative arc of energy and creating a playlist that mirrors that energy level as class unfolds can yield way better results than worrying about playing a specific style of music or vibe.
The music in your class should be a genuine reflection of your own musical tastes! There's no right or wrong music for a yoga class. As long as the energy of the music is in resonance with what the bodies in the room are doing at a given time (see #1 above!), the most important thing is that you genuinely feel the music you're playing. Ideally the music is part of your self-expression and can help you differentiate your style as a teacher.
Consider using music specifically designed for yoga (a great example is this guy here—spoiler alert, it's me!) My music often has lots of ebbs and flows, so it can work in multiple energy environments and can feel like it's changing as your class does. In addition, lots of yoga music is instrumental, which is great because then the music doesn't compete with your voice and instruction.
[caption id="attachment_103879" align="aligncenter" width="768"] DJ Jesse Blake at Wanderlust Squaw Valley, 2018. Photo by Lisette Cheresson.[/caption]
DJ Taz Rashid's Top 5 TipsTell a story. Music can help create a sound-bed for a story or an immersive experience for the yogi during class. The tracks a teacher selects can carry certain messages, and convey energy used at certain times to reveal an asana narrative during the class. If there are certain words which come to your mind as you create a certain experience, check out your library of music. Maybe you have songs already that carry these words. It is important to keep in mind that the song should be placed in a sequence of music to fit a scene or sequence energetically. I would recommend using no more than 2-3 tracks with verse/chorus style lyrics. These typically tend to do best during long holds later in the practice when there may be less instruction. Breath and beat connection. Music can be used to help bring together a breath and beat connection by syncing up movement and music. The practice begins with deep breaths, but throughout the class the heart rate and breath will usually increase in intensity. For example, the music can be used to lock in to movement by matching the breath in and out with the kick drum of the beat in the music in a 4/4 count. If a teacher is trying to accomplish this, it’s important to pay attention to the tempo, speed/bpm (beats per minute) of the song. Let's add fun. Music adds fun to your practice whether is a funky groove or an awesome remix of a known song. Yoga has a reputation of being a serious practice, but it can also be light, fun, and celebratory. Mix it up and add some fun beats to your playlist! Music can help the healing process. Let's face it, we all have things going on in our lives which may cause stress, anxiety, etc. Yoga can be emotional for people as our muscles carry a lot of stress. When these stressors are released—taking heart or hip openers for an example—there might be an emotional release along with it such as tears and releasing sighs. It is nice to be aware of this possibility as a teacher and play music which can be supportive for these deep holds and emotional moments. Creating energy. Music can generate energy needed for challenging postures and sequences which require a lot of strength. Abs, strong warrior sequences, boat pose etc.—pump up those jams to give the class a lot of energy. Don’t use angelic music or massage music during the parts of class that require your students to strong and vigorous in their movements.
DJ Sol Rising's Top 3 Tips
Create a structure. Map out the class in terms of a basic yoga flow. An example of a basic structure is Opening, Build, Sun Salutations, Peak, Land, and Rest. Creating a structure helps to organize your music. Sections can also be further broken down. For example within Land, I’ll create an ambient and beats section.
- Surya A/B
- Land (Beats, Ambient)