Yoga Music: With or Without Words?

Every Yoga class is different because every instructor is different.  In a vinyasa class this is even more true, not only may the sequence of poses vary each time but so might the messaging or even the music depending on their influence or mood that day.  I love this aspect of yoga because it mixes things up and quite frankly, I get bored with repetition.  I also appreciate that this allows an instructor to show you some of their personality.  These types of things are what leads to a preference in one instructor over another.  These differences and nuances become things we identify with and are either drawn to or away from. 

Photo by Juja Han on Unsplash

I recall one instructor whose classes I kept coming back to as I was drawn to the unique poses she introduced and enjoyed the physical challenge.  Unfortunately, the music didn’t always mesh, it was just as intense as the poses but with a sprinkle of…you never know what the heck you are going to get.   One class would be grunge rock and the next Sarah MacLauchlan radio.  It was great when I had not listened to Bush in 5 years and I wanted to jam out and sweat it out but it was not great when a song I disliked came on and I could not concentrate through the moves and could only focus on when it was going to end. 

My yoga brain would say this is just a challenge, and the music should not affect you and if it is, take it as an opportunity to overcome the disruption and feel content (um…this was pretty much impossible).  The other thought I had was this is her class I should embrace it and who she is (this was easier to do).  I did keep going to her classes, however it made me think if she knew that I didn’t love the daily curve ball would she be open to softening her extremes?  Were there others in her class who found her music choice overshadowed her talent as an instructor of poses and amazing choreographed flows? 

Fast forward a few years and here I was teaching yoga.  It was terrifying at first being responsible for creating a welcoming atmosphere for a group of strangers that may or may not have a particular expectation.  I pulled upon my past experience to create what I felt was a well-rounded class that would be accessible and comfortable for all.  I offered poses to varying levels of expertise.  I created movement in the entire body so people would leave feeling balanced.  And I played what I believed to be mellow music.  Did I want to play mellow music? Nope!  I wanted to play what I liked, what got me going, I had listened to other teachers’ music for too long and was finally free to express myself and my style.  But I held back and I kept it simple for the sake of others, it was a gentle mix, several classic yoga tunes by known yogi musicians, the music always started off slow and meditative and would end the same way and trickle off before we headed into our final pose, Savasana.  I did have a couple of guest influences where I would let someone else propose songs or a theme of songs but generally speaking I steered clear of anything too intense and to be honest I always thought the music matched the pace and style of the movement.

At the end of most of my classes I would invite students to speak to me about whatever they wanted, introductions, their practice, questions and reminded them I am always open to feedback.  I would get the occasional I loved that one song or really good music today or I couldn’t stop signing that song and now it is stuck in my head.  Then on one particular day I had 2 attendees approach me after class to share their thoughts on how the music should change.  Attendee 1: “So you said your open to feedback right?” To which I replied “Yes of course, shoot.”  Then blunted stated, “I don’t really like your music, I’d appreciate music with no words.”   I smiled; she was fairly new to the class but had been to the last several, she seemed passionate about learning yoga and I could tell based on several interactions she was a kind spirited person, by her saying this I felt it was honest unfiltered feedback for which I was thankful and told her I might try it out one day.  Attendee 2: my next dream crusher was a regular, I respected his untethered soul, he always had something nice to say not just to me but to everyone so when he casually mentioned that day after class that class was good but had I ever thought about playing not just a couple songs without words but a whole class and suggested that it would be less distracting.  Here I was the instructor who was playing music that disrupted students, I knew what it was like I had been there.  I had to respond, after all I was here for them and how lucky was I they felt comfortable sharing this with me.  After some time of playing music with no songs I did receive feedback that my music was missed. 

I prefer my classes are a subtle reflection of the instructor and that the music aligns with their teaching style, be that words or no words.  I can’t say which I prefer when I take a class as I believe both have a place.  Sometimes I enjoy words and I catch myself singing along in my head and it gives me strength through tougher poses and other times I enjoy the quietness of no words as it allows me to bring my focus inward.  What is your preference, do you like your yoga music with or without words?   

Here are a couple of playlist I enjoy!

No words:


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