This is the second article in a series on how to teach life changing yoga classes that will ensure both you and your students will blossom and flourish in their practice.
“Music melts the separate pieces of our bodies together” ~Anais Nin
Sometimes, I like to make believe that my life is a movie—and one of my favorite aspects to a movie is the soundtrack. I remember early in my yoga career when the studio’s stereo was on the fritz. (It wasn’t really broken by the way. It was just that the 30 girls working at the place needed one of the male students to finally show us the right button to push.) That was the week I realized the importance of music to the yoga experience. Hearing certain songs can bring back a whole array of memories, some you love to remember and others you could live with out. I have found that when I take the time to design a new music mix for each of my classes, I become instantaneously inspired and I can’t help but pass that inspiration on to my students.
Here’s a formula I have developed over the years that synchronizes movement and sound to calm, invigorate, center and inspire each student.
Beginning of class: At this point in the practice your students are rushing in from a busy day. They are looking to quiet and center their minds before they move into the practice. The best music for the beginning of class is instrumental, quiet pieces. I like to use classical music.
Sun Salutations: Now you want to get your students bodies moving. So bring in some lively music, something upbeat that will get them pumped.
Standing Asanas: Again, pull in some upbeat music. It’s a good time for inspiring music because this is when our students start to get in touch with their bodies. We hold emotions in certain areas of our bodies. When we loosen up those areas and connect to meaningful words or music, it is a perfect recipe for shedding not only stress, but pent up emotion we may otherwise not be aware of.
Seated Asanas: It’s now time to ground the body. Intense, deep, slowing music is perfect at this point. Our emotions ebb and flow with music, as does our heart rate. Now that our students are sitting, the heart slows and the awareness becomes more intense. This is where students really get in touch with where emotion is being held in there body. Keep this in mind with lighting and music. The dimmer the lights the more free students are to let go and feel. This is a great time to pick tracks that really speak to you since students have the time and space to listen to the words.
Savasana: Pick a very slow and deep piece of music at this point. After all, this is the time when our students are suppose to be sinking deep into their bodies to receive the benefits of their practice. Note that, in part because of the music you’ve provided, this could be a very emotional time for some of your students, so be very sensitive. Low lighting is ideal in case you have emotional students who might want privacy. Also allow plenty of time before the next class so that the students that were deeply touched by your mix are able to gather themselves without being rushed.
Authenticity is key when creating a mix to inspire your students. Copying another person’s playlist is out of the question because it isn’t likely to pull out the same excitement that your own mix would. Watching your students ebb and flow with the asanas and music is incredibly empowering. You learn quite quickly of the power you have over your student’s emotions.
Here is an example of one of my own mixes that can penetrate even the coldest of souls:
Beginning of class:
January Rain- David Gray
Electrospell- Simply Meditation
I Was Brought To My Senses- Sting
Ice- Sarah McLachlan
A Whiter Shade of Pale- Annie Lennox
Why Should I cry For You- Sting
Love Is Blindness- U2
Sort of Revolution -Fink
Breathless- Cat Power
Truly, Madly, Deeply - Ray LaMontagne
Svanire- Ludovico Einaudi
You’ll be amazed at the impact a little extra musical effort can have on you and your students. You can even theme your classes around the music you play. I have mixes titled “Rainy Day Yoga”, “Goddess Yoga” and even “Bruce Yoga.” (Who doesn’t want to hear The Boss when in bakasana?) You can even take request from your students-- a simple act that can make all the difference in the world. So come on my fellow teachers, get to mixin...
Image: DJ Drez
Sarah Stevenson, a.k.a., The Tini Yogini, is a Certified Yoga Instructor in Southern California. She has a degree in Behavioral Psychology and teaches not only yoga classes but also life affirming workshops. She also writes for www.beachbody.com, which provides effective home fitness dvds for all fitness levels including the extreme fitness Asylum workout
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