Sound pervades your life. It’s a big part of the human experience. It’s one of the first senses you experience and one of the last to leave. So, it’s not hard to understand why you want music in your life – in your car, in your earbuds as you work out and in your yoga practice. As you know from your yoga classes, the pacing and intensity of the music becomes part of the practice. Drumming makes Sun Salutations go so much faster, so much easier as you match your breath to the beat. Bells and chant provide a stream that helps you flow through vinyasa sequences. But, just as each chakra has its own sound, each person is moved by different types of music. An hour of “Om” might deepen one student’s practice. But, that’s not the only option. For Jivamukti founder David Life, using modern music is his way of fusing a 5000-year-old discipline and the priorities of today’s world. “Hip hop musicians are today’s poets,” he said during a class at the World Peace & Yoga Jubliee, Loveland, Ohio. For Life, the choice of music is also about drawing students’ attention to the voices he sees as making a statement on society—just like ancient poets and sages.
Regardless of whether you enjoy hitting the mat to hip hop in class, when it comes to your home practice, the options are wide open. What you choose to practice to is a matter of preference. Before you hit iTunes or Pandora, think about how you want your practice to make you feel. If you want a relaxing practice, obviously, you’re going to be seeking out softer sounds with a slower beat. For some energizing Ashtanga or Vinyasa flows, however, you may want to look more up tempo. Or you may want to link the rhythm of your breathing to the beat, so music with a regular pulse can actually help keep your breath calm and steady during more challenging poses.
Once you know the pace of your practice, you can think about choosing songs that manifest your intention for that day. Are you looking for music that helps you imagine yourself in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) on top of an actual mountain? Are you looking for ambient sounds that subtly support your yoga without requiring your concentration? Are you looking for devotional chants that help you relate to the divine? Or would you rather crank up your favorite hits and start a yoga party of one? Whatever you decide, here are some picks to get you started:
If you want tracks that don’t put themselves center stage in your mind as you practice, these ethereal pieces add depth to your practice and help you slow down from the mental rush of every day. The exotic flavors of many of these songs also give your ears a vacation.
Songs to try:
If you’re looking for a more dynamic approach to music with yogic roots, you might want to look at artists whose work marries myth and ancient concepts with more varied kinds of sonic storytelling. Melding influences from Madonna to Indian chant, these pieces take a global view of both sound and issues (Emmanuel Jal wants his music and activism to help bring peace back to his home country of South Sudan). Stylistically, these songs range from hip hop to pop.
Songs to try:
If you’re feeling like turning your practice up to an 11 today, thinking outside the box of traditional yoga music can be fun. You might find that it’s easier to approach challenging poses or keep your energy level up through a practice when you are accompanied by your favorite iTunes playlist.
Songs to try:
Whatever you choose to practice to today, play with letting the music direct your intention for the practice and see how you feel. As you move through the poses, focus on how you feel with a variety of different sounds. You might be surprised at how much what you hear affects your body’s capacity to stretch, strengthen or balance.