The fool-proof way to create a powerful vinyasa playlist
Have you ever been to a yoga class that is challenging, has *all* the vibes, has a teacher with amazing energy, and is in a gorgeous studio space… but for some reason the music simply doesn’t vibe?
I know I have.
And it (personally) drives me crazy.
Why put so much effort into planning your class, refining your cues, building your community, only to drop the ball with music that doesn’t fit? This turns music into a distraction instead of an asset.
Don’t get me wrong - you can have a killer yoga class without paying much attention to your music. Hell, you honestly don’t need any music to have a great yoga class.
But in my experience, music can set you over the edge. It can be the final puzzle piece to creating a cohesive and immersive yoga experience. It can create a sense of energy in the room and build the heat as the class moves.
So, where do you begin?
Music You Shouldn’t Play in a Yoga Class
Let’s start with what not to play. Music is really, really subjective. I get that. Regardless of your taste for music, here are a few tips I recommend:
Avoid playing music that is popular on the top 40 radio stations. Your students might listen to these songs every single day during their commutes and - chances are - going to yoga is a chance to escape all of the hustle bustle. Top 40 songs might remind students of their long commutes. And frankly, they may be really, really sick of these songs (who else hates how the radio only plays the same songs for several months?!)
Avoid heavy metal or other songs that might “hurt” the ears. That is, unless it’s a heavy metal yoga class. Which by all means, go ahead.
Steer clear from vulgar & offensive language. You are a professional!
How to Build a Vinyasa Yoga Playlist
Now that you know which songs to avoid, it’s time to start collecting songs you love. I repeat - songs you love. You’re going to be listening to these songs over and over again as you teach your classes, so be sure you actually enjoy them!
First, think about the structure of your vinyasa class. If you design your yoga class anything like I do, it will look similar to this:
0-5: breath work in savasana or child’s pose
5-10: warm up
10-15: Sun A’s
15-20: Sun B’s
20-25: Core work
25-45: Standing sequence, including standing back bends, balancing postures, warrior series, twists, and more
45-55: cool down, backbends, and inversions
Ready to build your playlist? Let’s break it down:
5 minutes: breath work in savasana or child’s pose
As you know, the class starts and ends in a relaxed setting. This would be a great place to start with selecting music. Find songs that make you feel relaxed and calm.
5 minutes: warm up
I like to turn things up a little bit more during the warm up with a song that is still relaxing but with a beat in the background.
5 minutes: Sun Salutation A’s
Sun Salutations are where you can really bring the heat. This is where your students are starting to build heat anyway, right? Find a song that eases students into the movement but encourages them to build power.
When you start to move into Sun B’s, especially if you move breath-to-movement, this is where the music needs to match the energy. For my classes this is the peak of my music. The most energetic song I play during the hour happens at this moment. Students can feel the energy and will pump up their breath and focus.
Tip: avoid using a song with words during this section of class if you are moving breath-to-movement so it’s less distracting and so you can articulate over the music with your voice.
My favorite breath-to-movement songs: Beads on the Wind (Instrumental) by The Human Experience, The Journey by Sol Rising, and All We Need - Instrumental by ODESZA.
5 minutes: core work
Yeesh, core work. Everyone’s favorite part of class! Whether you choose to place core work at the beginning of class, in the middle like me, or at the end of class, I suggest providing a pleasant song with a steady beat that you can move to. Think: crunch up on the beat; lower down on the beat. Bicycle twist right on the beat, bicycle twist left on the beat. Etc.
20 minutes: standing sequence
We’ve arrived to the meat and potatoes of your class. The part you’ve been building towards. A time to slow down, open up, work on balance, strength, and flexibility.
I’ve noticed students tend to get a little tired during the section of class - particularly on the second side! To combat the fatigue, keep your music energetic.
I love songs that have a strong beat but a calm melody. My goal during this part of class is to get students to calm their minds when their bodies are tired yet still find the energy and strength to move foward, and the music should reflect this!
My favorites: Go Now by DJ Taz Rashid, Nobody Has to Know - Instrumental by Timeflies, Wandering Sadhu by Desert Dwellers, Mangalam (Sean Dinsmore’s Chillums at Dawn Remix) by Prem Joshua, OM by Hippie Sabotage, and Blue Marble by Yuton Beach.
10 minutes: cool down
Finally, the tough work is done and you’re down on the mat. During backbends, inversions, ½ pigeon, and stretching, I suggest playing songs that are so beautiful you want to listen to them over, and over, and over again. You know what I mean, right?! They might be beautiful for a variety of reasons - perhaps the artist has a tremendous voice or there is a stunning piano melody. Either way, play songs that make you feel alive, safe, and at peace.
5 minutes: savasana
This is perhaps the most important song selection you will make. Seriously. If students are distracted during savasana due to your song choice, you completely missed the point of savasana!
Option one: play no music. Let students melt into their meditation hearing only the breath of those around them.
Option two: find a song that is so chill, you forget it’s there. It eases into your thoughts and breath and becomes seamless with the sense of meditation.
The trick to building a good vinyasa yoga playlist
All in all, find songs you like. Songs that reflect your personality - and songs that you would actually listen to outside of yoga. If you teach from a place of authenticity, your music should reflect you as a person and you as a teacher.
You can get started building your vinyasa playlist today: go to Spotify. Sign up for an account if you don’t have one yet. Browse the pre-made playlists, find other yogis to follow (maybe Yoga Girl, Yoga Journal or Wanderlust), and start saving songs to your own playlists!
To get you started, here is one of my 60-minute vinyasa playlists:
And don’t forget - have fun! Creating a yoga playlist can be a LOT of work, but is always worth it!
Love and light,
P.S. I have a TON of playlists on my Spotify account. Follow my playlists and use them in your classes - I don’t mind at all! ;)