Using Music as a Powerful Tool for Teaching
My teaching is greatly influenced by my studies in Prana Vinyasa Flow with Shiva Rea and Maria Garré. As far as public classes go, I teach mostly power yoga and Rocket, but I love the opportunity to slow things down with a special candlelight class and always look forward to our lunar flow studies during my 200-hour teacher trainings.
I love music. I come from a family of musicians and it was a big part of my life growing up. One of the most powerful lessons that stuck with me from the Prana Vinyasa 500-hour program is the power of music and our ability to use music to enhance whatever we're doing - especially in yoga classes. Every single time I practiced with Shiva and Maria, their playlists were carefully curated to heighten the experience. If the intention was for us to move slowly and fluidly, the songs embodied the water element. If the practice was fiery and strong, there was a steady, rhythmic drum beat to keep us going. And this makes sense, of course - when I put together my workout or road trip playlists, I like to keep things upbeat with songs I know well to keep me inspired. When I'm working, I like soft, instrumental ambient songs in the background so I'm not distracted by lyrics.
As a yoga teacher, there are tools you can use to amplify your student's experience in class. Seane Corn said it best:
"Your voice is a prop you use, like a strap or block, that can help support and deepen the students experience. Make sure you annunciate (study phonetics if necessary. That's what I needed to do) and that your tones match the arc of the class (more enthusiastic and upbeat during the flow, more grounded, soft and intentional during the forward bends and restorative). As a teacher we are the facilitators of energy. We use what we have to help transform and move the hard into soft, the lead into gold. Our voice is the most evident tool we have to support that transformation. Use yours with awareness."
Shiva taught me that the soundtrack to your life matters. Her playlists are mostly instrumental, and if there is a song with lyrics, there is intention behind them. This allows students to drop into their experience without being distracted by yet another voice in their heads, on top of their internal dialogue and the teacher's guidance. This is something that has always stayed with me and it's the reason I spend at least an hour, sometimes up to two or three hours every week putting together my playlists.
Before I add a song to my playlist, I ask myself a few questions:
Does this song inspire me?
Does it make me want to move?
Does it help me stay in my body or take me out of it?
Does it distract me or allow me to drop into my experience?
I listen through as much of each song as I can to ensure it's the right tempo - if the song is too fast, no matter how slowly I'm cueing, students inevitably begin to move with the pace of the song. I also spend a lot of time arranging the songs in a way that flows with the arc of a class, and making sure each song rolls into the next one fluidly. I stick with mostly instrumental ambient, electronic, or bass-forward beats with an occasional song or two with lyrics. I also love practicing to hip-hop instrumentals (there are actually a lot out there - check out Dr. Dre's 2001 Instrumental album).
The soundtrack to your class matters. However, it takes a lot of time to put together a new one every single week - I get it, trust me. At the end of every training, Shiva and Maria wrote out all songs from their playlists on a white board (this was before Spotify had taken over) and it was one of the greatest gifts they offered me. Every playlist I now have is built off of the music they shared with me years ago, so I love giving back by sharing my playlists with you.
To all the yoga teachers out there hustling and trying to make a living - I hope this saves you an hour or two this week. To everyone who can't make it to a studio to practice - I hope this inspires your home practice. If you're not into practicing yoga, this is a soft and fluid soundtrack to enhance your experience, whether it's driving home from work, folding laundry or going for a walk.
Find my beats of the week on Spotify here:
We must never forget that we are rhythmic beings: Our heartbeat, our breath, the cellular pulse—this is our inner rhythmic universe. Music has an incredible power in the way it tunes us, not just to ourselves, but to our community and to life. -Shiva Rea
Wishing you a soft and fluid week -