Category Archives: Music

By Request: This Week’s Playlist- Talking Heads, Queen, The xx and Ray Charles

A few students requested it- here’s my playlist for this week. Feel free to leave a comment and share any new tracks you’re enjoying right now! 

1 Belle Époque 3012    – Jonn Serrie
2  Once In a Lifetime – Talking Heads
3  Marra Fi Ghnina (Soapkills Remix) – Soapkills
4  Keep The Customer Satisfied – Simon and Garfunkel
5  Rosa Parks – Outkast
6  Another One Bites The Dust – Queen
7  VCR (Matthew Dear Remix) – The xx
8  Everything – Jehro
9  Hare Krisna (feat. Seu Jorge) – Thievery Corporation
10  Everlasting Light – The Black Keys
11  Standing Outside A Broken Phone… – Primitive Radio Gods
12  What Have I Done To Deserve This  – Pet Shop Boys
13  Yin and Yang (Remix) – Soulfood
14  Facing East – Thievery Corporation
15  Night Time Is the Right Time – Ray Charles
16  Divine Beauty – Jim Beckwith
17  Wonderful (The Way I Feel) – My Morning Jacket
18  Who Will Comfort Me – Melody Gardot
19  Om Zone 2.0- IX Steven Halpern and Silvia Nakkach

Music of the Past- This Week’s Playlist and a Dharma Talk from the Universe

So I’m buying a yoga studio, as my local peeps know. It’s awesome, but keeping me completely busy. I’m also subbing a ton of classes recently. Which means that for the last month-ish, I haven’t had the time I like to do the things I like to do. Detailed class planning, themes to discuss, playlist creation, etc… it’s been a practice in itself being okay with my constant flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants state.

So here’s what happened. I finally got to put together a playlist last week, and I just basically threw together some silly songs that I liked and thought, “let’s see if this works.” But then I chickened out about using it for a week. Too weird, I thought, too disjointed. Diana Ross, Cake, and Ella Fitzgerald are going to make their heads spin. 

At the same time, this quote showed up in my Inbox:

You can’t hear a piece of music in advance. When you listen to music, you are hearing the present music at that time. You also can’t undo the past, the music that you’ve heard already. You can’t do that; you hear the music of the moment. Now is a vast thing. Past and future can’t exist without now.  -Chögyam Trungpa*

I printed it and took it with me to class on Monday, and on a whim I started up my weird new playlist. As the songs ticked off one by one, and I saw that the class was enjoying them, I was struck again by the “divine” lesson plans that we are given. I realized that almost each song on this unusually self-centered playlist had a particular memory for me- many associated with a romance that didn’t last.  I couldn’t “undo the music of the past”, but I could listen to the music in that moment as it was and observe my mind’s reaction, both to the memory brought by the music, and the fear in my heart (trying to “hear the music in advance”) that the students wouldn’t like the music, or that it wouldn’t “work.”

A few students asked me for the playlist after class. Here it is- and I’m also including a few personal notes about what “music of the past” is playing when I hear the song. Enjoy!

  1. Stillness (no voice-over) – Gabrielle Roth
  2. I Just Can’t Get You Out of my Head- Helena (how many times in my life I could have said this about someone I swore I’d never get over)
  3. Don’t Wait Too Long- Madeleine Peyroux (I dedicate this song to a certain ex…*sigh* I was the one who couldn’t wait.)
  4. Biscuits- Fink
  5. Upside Down- Diana Ross (I purchased this song for a special event yoga class that was a total flop. Every time I hear one of these tracks, I remember what it’s like to live through the humiliation and come out smiling. It also reminds me of driving in the car with my mom)
  6. Shake It Down- Dennis Rollins
  7. On the Way- DJ Phantom (a track from a fellow yoga teacher soul-sister who shares my neuroticism about class planning)
  8. What I Got- Sublime (takes me back to my college years in San Antonio- driving in this beat-up Ford Escort with my adorable Costa Rican co-dependent boyfriend. Sweet times)
  9. Leave The Biker- Fountains of Wayne (a song my ex husband loved, and I do too. Silly poetry- why do beautiful women settle for crumb-bearded bikers? Why did I settle for so many jerks?)
  10. Bang Bang- Dizzie Gillespie (this is a gift from a friend- I dare you not to love it)
  11. Sunshine- Matisyahu (makes my heart sing)
  12. Hooked On A Feeling (Ooga Chacka)- Blue Swede (another reminder of my ex husband, who is very much on my mind this week as he has decided not to be friends with me anymore. I found this song online after he described it to me, “Have you heard that song that’s like “Ooga Chacka”? )**
  13. Chandini Chowk- MIDIval PunditZ
  14. Linger- Cranberries (when I was in college in PA, before I met the Costa Rican on the Internet and moved to TX, and before I had my 6th car accident, I had this tape in my car. After I wrecked the car the final time by rolling it into a corn field, the tape was ruined, covered with Pennsylvania farm dirt. I also included it because one of my students is a big burly tattooed biker and he suggested this song. He’s pretty awesome).
  15. Short Skirt, Long Jacket- Cake (I want to be this woman)
  16. Collarbone- Fujiya & Miyagi (a suggestion from a newer friend who immediately understood my love of esoteric yoga music)
  17. Missin You- Atu (found it on Aurgasm. Weird, but I love it)
  18. Deny- Yasmine Hamdan (again, Aurgasm. Great mood music)
  19. I Will Follow You Into the Dark- Death Cab for Cutie (Because, dammit, I want someone to feel this way about me, Buddhist beliefs or not. I want someone to be freaking crazy about me)
  20. Black Coffee- Ella Fitzgerald (Back in PA at college, I used to eat at a vegetarian restaurant. One of the waiters was named Ivan. His long hair and general unwashed Patchouli scent appealed to me, so I left my number on a napkin. Romance ensued, and we listened to lots of female blues/jazz music together. I remember standing in his tall front window naked, looking out at Main Street, feeling vaguely tragic and beautiful. Sorry Mom, if you’re reading this. I dumped Ivan after I got bored, and later ran into him while buying clove cigarettes downtown. He had shaved his head in grief. Youth!).
  21. Tangled Up In Blue- Bob Dylan (reminded me of another person I loved- a woman- whose heart I attempted to break again and again. I kept thinking I’d meet her again and we’d get together, someday, somehow. Lucky for her, she moved on).
  22. Into Dust- Mazzy Star (I’m not giving it all away… do you have your own memory of this one?)

*WordPress spellcheck keeps trying to make this name “Turnip!”

**Actually, he made the dog, Sumi, ask me about it. We spoke to each other largely through the dogs, using special voices. It was dysfunctional but a lot of fun. The dogs were often hilarious.

So What About That Music in Your Yoga Class? Some Thoughts.

Krishna Das

Krishna Das, an oft-heard voice in yoga playlists!

If you’ve taken a class with me, you know that there’s always a playlist. It’s a big part of my weekly class planning, and I put a lot of resources into selecting songs that I think might speak to a soul, or bring a smile to a face. I love the juxtaposition of music from different genres and the way that a lyric can surprise you when heard in a different venue. I’ve found lessons in the songs themselves, sometimes, and it’s fun to theme classes in that way.

There are lots of challenges that go along with playlists. Sometimes I may have to detour or go off-course with the “planned” sequence- and the music just becomes inappropriate. Or the students that show up may not be the ideal audience for the list you’d planned. Even worse: sometimes the playlist just doesn’t “gel” with the class. Not to mention that the iPod may go dead unexpectedly, or you have the dang thing on shuffle, or you turned on “repeat” and the same Maneesh De Moor song has been playing for the last TWENTY minutes (“Jeez, this is a long song…”). Whoops. And don’t get me started on the @$%$@ volume.

There are also issues of taste, age, and religion to take into consideration. I have a lot of Hindu-inspired music that I really love. I also have a few that are, if you listen carefully, Christian in message. And although I believe you can enjoy my classes regardless of your religion, if you catch the wrong person on the wrong day, you may just turn them off to what should be an amazing experience. I played Tom Jones’ “You Can Leave Your Hat On” the other day in class, just for fun, and it made me a bit nervous. Really! Have you listened to those lyrics? No more Tom Jones. I can’t take the stress.

The truth is, sometimes I’d really rather not play any music at all. Or, I’d rather it be so neutral and low-key that it’s almost white noise. There are moments in any practice- a quiet forward fold, a juicy twist- where the music of your breath, and the breath of those around you- is like a hushed symphony. Imagine Tom Jones bleating “Baby, take off your shoes!” just then. I’m cringing.

Yoga Spy wrote a great article a few years ago outlining the “trouble” with music in a yoga class. If you have a minute, it’s worth a read, but it essentially comes down to the author’s closing argument. “Yoga,” she says, “is meant to wean us from the sensory pleasures. Can we align pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses, with that oh-so-cool class playlist?” In a follow-up post, she suggests that music can be a way of disassociating from the physical or mental strain of a challenging asana practice. Ouch.

One of the most beautiful “side effects” of yoga is that it teaches you to tune in, to be present to your experience. To learn to live with discomfort. To learn to recognize grasping and aversion, to understand impermanence. Lessons on the mat seep into your daily life until you can’t help but change your way of reacting to the world. How can one be open to the still voice within if Tom Jones, or Pearl Jam, or even Krishna Das is filling the doors of perception?

I’m really drawn to this YouTube video of Maty Ezraty. She’s an iconic teacher trainer. I have a lot of respect for her opinion. She is known for asking her students,  “Do you want to be a good teacher, or do you want to be a popular teacher?” Here’s an excerpt:

“The public kind of directs people in a certain way. People (teachers) want to walk into classes and make a living… and people don’t want to hear that their elbows aren’t straight, they don’t want to hear that they need to work their upper back, they don’t want to hear that they aren’t ready for this pose, and they need to take the easier one… and so being popular, you just give them what they want. Put on the music they want, you know, don’t give them all the instructions… That’s how we can get popular, that way, just taking the easy route. If you want to be a really good teacher, and figure out how you’re going to teach yoga to people, you know, teach them yoga, the essence of it, the truth of it, how to be kind to themselves, maybe pull them back, maybe not always put the music on, because when the music is on, their mind identifies with the music, and it doesn’t really go in, you don’t really listen to what’s going on in there, and it’s not really pleasant always to listen to what’s going on in there, and that’s the yoga, is dealing with that, seeing it, to get free of it.” 

I couldn’t agree more with Maty, or with Yoga Spy. And yet, here I am- playing music in my classes. Have I sold myself out? Do I just want to be a popular teacher? I’m choosing to believe that there is more to me than that.

For my own practice at home- I don’t use music. But as a teacher, I want to bring as many people as I can into the yoga community. I believe that even with the sometimes-nuisance of music in a class, students can experience the benefits of yoga- not just the physical benefits, like increased flexibility, lowered stress, or a cuter booty, but the mental and (yes, I’m going to say it) spiritual aspects as well. A skillful teacher (which I hope to someday be) can guide her students in this direction, if they want to hear the message. It’s crucial, though, that the music not be intrusive, or jarring, or distracting. It should be appropriate, not too loud, and not offensive. Yeah, I have fallen down on these a few times- but I’m not ready to let go of the music. Not as long as it gives people a reason to enjoy class. The other benefits will seep in, regardless.

And lest I sound too gloomy, darnit, music doesn’t have to be just a necessary evil. Good music can be poetry, a tonic for your troubled soul. When choosing playlists, I look for positive messages- or songs that express the human experience- or songs that I can relate to a dharma talk. It sounds a bit grandiose when I put it into words, but I really do my humble best to create an experience for the class.

So that’s my official sort of on-the-fence position on the music in yoga class issue. As we know, though- things are impermanent. Ask me again in a year, and let’s see where I stand.

What’s your take on music in yoga classes? Love it? Hate it? Picky about the genre? I’d love to hear some opinions.