Yoga and music are long time friends. The practice of singing kirtan, call and response chanting, is spoken about in the Bhagavad Gita and renowned throughout the centuries as a devotional practice.
Yoga is a sacred method of uniting body, mind, and spirit, and this union can be aided through music. When humans connect with rhythm, it is transformational. Music can transcend conversation, transcend our bodies, and ultimately transcend our state of being. Almost all of us have heard a song from years ago and instantly transported back to an experience, as if the music were an instant time machine.
We can change our mood through music, we can relate with others through music, and we can feel music at a visceral level. When I sing kirtan, I am connected with a divine higher source and feel emotions that I can’t easily put words to—almost an ecstatic bliss. There is a freedom that music provides to move and dance that takes away the common trappings of everyday existence.
I enjoy silent practice and at the same time, I love playing music in yoga classes. With the right playlist, you can create a more meaningful experience for the practitioner. But the class needs to be a reflection of the yoga teacher’s authentic self. In other words, the music needs to be authentic to the teacher.
A few years ago, I hosted a birthday party yoga flow. Since it was my birthday, I decided to be totally myself and play all of my favorite Jay Z and Justin Timberlake tracks. I had no idea what to expect, but the class was a huge hit. More than 50 people packed in the room. Everyone was flowing to the familiar beats, moving body with breath, and cherishing the tribal camaraderie of a shared love for music—specifically, in this case, hip hop music.
This experience spawned a recurring class for me: a weekly hip hop yoga flow. It’s a class that mixes Beyonce with Drake with Tupac, and I almost always play some Aaliyah. The beats are fun, the energy is electric, the crowd is dedicated, and I am authentically myself because these are songs that I enjoy. Playing “Holy Grail” when you’re flowing through some Sun Salutations really sets the tone for a great practice (as long as you’re into that sort of thing).
Which leads to my point: It’s hip hop for me, but maybe it’s classical for you. Or tribal, or electronic, or whatever. Ultimately, this conversation is about what lights you up and connects you to your tribe. We as yoga teachers spend lots of time trying to make our students happy, and what we sometimes fail to see is that when we are happy, they are happy.
So find your hip hop, find your truth, and honor your passion. When you’re yourself and flowing in your life’s rhythm, you send a frequency into the universe that other people vibrate on. And that’s when you really start to see how yoga works—a connection of the mind, body, and spirit of all people, all together, flowing to one great beat.