This question comes up all the time in my Facebook group for yoga teachers. It seems like an innocuous question, and I’m more than happy to answer it, but it’s interesting because it really gets people riled up!
First there is the Music Camp:
These are people who love music and feel like it really supports and inspires their physical practice. They love teaching with music, and spend tons of time crafting playlists that have inspiring music organized to fit the arc of the class. These music lovers sometimes play popular, well known music as a way to connect more deeply with their students and get them more engaged in the practice.
Then there is the No Music Camp:
These are people who never practice to music and don’t teach with music and are incredulous that anyone would suggest it! They argue, and I don’t totally disagree, that the music is a distraction, and it doesn’t at all support the aim of bringing the attention inward to facilitate presence, healing, or enlightenment.
Well, you know what to expect from me by now right? As a very consistent Middle Path Girl, I align with both of these camps…and sometimes within the span of one day!
What?? How could that be?
Here’s my take:
Music can often be a really helpful tool. Period. So sometimes it supports and inspires a practice, my own or my students, and sometimes it distracts. It totally depends on the person or people practicing, and what they need. The kind of music also makes a HUGE difference.
I play music in most of my group classes, which are Fridays at 10am and 12pm, for the locals in the house….:) and I play music in about 20% of my private sessions. Some private students always get music, some never get music, and other students get music sometimes. If I think it will be helpful to play music for one of my private students, I just use one of the playlists I’ve made for my group classes.
What is the intended benefit of Music As A Tool?
I will play music when I teach if:
- my student is super frantic and I think it will help them calm down
- my student seems distracted and I think it will help them focus
- the energy of the space we are in is yucky for some reason, I’ll use music to shift the vibe in the room
I’ve got a few rules I adhere to about 90% of the time:
- No popular music. You never know what kind of emotional connection someone might have to a well known song. It’s not fair to bring that into the safe space of a yoga class. Plus, it’s distracting.
- No music with English words. If people are listening to lyrics, and following along with a story, they are definitely not turning their intention inward. I think this tends to be more distracting than helpful.
- Not too much strong drive in the beat. I use music with enough of a slow rhythm that it helps people deepen and slow their breath, but not so much drive that it feels like we are dancing and have to be on the beat!
- I don’t use a ton of super short songs, and when I do, I repeat them. This playlist and this playlist both have a few good examples of that. When the song changes, you’ll sometimes see people wake up and focus in a new way. This is a nice moment, but if it’s happening every 90 seconds, it is distracting.
- The music should not take center stage. I like music that is gentle and soft. It should simply provide a container that people can relax into.
If you want to see some examples of this kind of DJing in action, you can follow me on Spotify right here! I’ve got about 25 public yoga playlists you are welcome to use!
Do you play music when you teach or practice? Which camp do you fall into? 🙂 Leave a comment and let me know right here!