Playing music in yoga class is a divisive topic. While the right combination of sounds can enhance the relaxing ambiance in the studio, the wrong music can make it nearly impossible to reach the meditative calm that is needed to practice yoga.
So, should you play music in yoga class? There is a genre of music specifically designed for yoga practice that you can play during your classes.
|Do’s of music in yoga class||Don’ts of music in yoga class:|
|Have a license to play music||Play popular pop music|
|Use Instrumental music||Over-stimulate students with music|
|Music should align with your teaching style||Play repetitive music|
|Prepare playlists||Distract students with music|
|Balance out the music with the instructor’s voice||Seek out perfect songs|
We’ll discuss this list in greater detail In this article. We will also answer the question, should you play music during yoga class? If you’re not sure how you should go about playing music in your yoga class, read on.
NOTE: If you would like detailed information on music licensing for the music you play in your yoga studio, review my article on the topic.
Should You Play Music In Yoga Class?
The big debate in the yoga community was whether music was useful during yoga practice or not. Some teachers argued that music is not conducive to the practice of yoga and tried to come to conclusions about whether music is suitable for the conscious yogic mind.
Some gurus argued in favor of music and claimed it could be used in a regular yoga class to enhance the atmosphere of the studio. In contrast, others claimed it breaks the spiritual nature of yoga by interrupting the stillness of the studio.
We currently have a genre of music specifically designed for yoga practice that you can play during your classes. Yoga music fills the space without overwhelming it. Instead of disrupting your regular practice, you can feel more relaxed and in-tune with your yoga practice by playing yoga music.
Each yoga student and teacher wants to experience that blissful moment when they are completely in tune with their yoga practice. To get to this moment, you’ll have to feel a profound connection with your body and cultivate spiritual energy.
Yoga music has the power to awaken those senses in your brain that allow you to transform your practice and transform your student’s practice.
Music In Yoga Class: Benefits
The following are the main benefits of playing music during yoga class:
✔ Form A Connection Between Your Students
Music connects people regardless of their age, gender, race, or religion. As humans, we all respond to the same rhythms and sounds. This aspect is why thousands of people line up to attend concerts and see bands – the music brings them together.
If you want to create an environment where your students can form personal relationships and lifelong friendships, you can use music to facilitate that.
Music and yoga connect students who otherwise might have little in common because the same source influences their thinking patterns. They feel the same energy and experience the same stimulation during yoga class. This process allows students to enter a more meditative state and become more present.
✔ Get In The Flow
Getting into the flow is the process of entering a zone with 100% focus on the task at hand. The flow is a zone of intense creativity and productivity.
If your students attend classes after work and want some stress relief, you’ll need to put your students in a yogic mood. To do this, you can use warm-up exercises, chants, and music.
Music can help your students get in a meditative state with only a few minutes of listening, which makes them present and receptive to lessons.
Doing so allows them to learn faster. If you want your students to grasp your lessons in a better way, always make sure to include yoga music as part of your class.
✔ Improve The Mood
Music can improve the mood of each student because it can directly impact their emotional state. The mind responds to external stimuli, and when that stimulus comes from music, it starts releasing endorphins and makes us feel better.
When we listen to energetic music that plays at a high rhythm, we respond by wanting to move fast to the rhythm. Similarly, when we hear yogic music, we respond by getting in tune with our spiritual side.
✔ Immune System Boost
Music can directly boost the functioning of the immune system, as listening to it can increase the body’s production of immunoglobins. Your students attend your yoga class to improve their health and overall well-being, and playing music can definitely contribute to that.
✔ Relaxation Benefits
Yoga music plays at a slow pace, and it helps to relax the mind. In turn, the body starts relaxing, and this creates a soothing feeling in the body.
While students feel great from the dopamine, music can also assist in reducing stress chemicals by slowing down the heart rate, which normalizes respiration and blood pressure.
Music can also halt the production of cortisol, which is the key stress chemical responsible for activating our fight-and-flight response. If the brain produces lesser amounts of cortisol, it feels safer and more peaceful. Playing music makes your students relaxed and open to learning new lessons.
Music In Yoga Class: The DOs
Before playing music in your yoga studio, make sure you read through this checklist of DOs to ensure you’re playing the music correctly.
✔ DO Make Sure You Have The Proper Music License
As you’ll be using the music for a commercial purpose, you need to make sure you have the license provided by the proper performing rights organization (PRO).
If you skip this essential step, you could be subject to substantial fines if one of the licensing companies performs a surprise inspection and learns that you’re earning money with music without giving the PRO their cut.
The exact cost of the license can vary, but here’s a rundown of what you can expect to pay each PRO for an annual license:
- ASCAP: $250 for an introductory license.
- SESAC: $264 for an introductory license.
- BMI: It depends on the size of the yoga studio. While the other two PROs have specific licenses for yoga studios that allow us to give an exact cost, BMI doesn’t offer this, and you’ll need to contact them directly for a quote. However, it should not differ too much from the other prices listed.
✔ DO Use Instrumental Music
Music in a yoga class should be 100% instrumental with no lyrics played.
If you wish, you can combine chants with the music rhythm, but you should exclude all music that features lyrics.
The idea is to set a relaxing vibe in the room without interrupting the thinking patterns of the students. Lyrics can trigger a slew of unwanted thoughts in the students that aren’t related to the yoga class – this is where distraction kicks in.
If you want to play it safe, purchase a yoga music CD, or find a playlist on YouTube or Spotify. If you do use YouTube, make sure you subscribe to YouTube Music Premium. Using music from a playlist on the normal, non-paid YouTube app or website will result in a lot of ads, which will completely ruin the vibe of your classes.
✔ DO Make It Compatible With Your Yoga Style
Music will affect performance at the studio – make sure it doesn’t impact it negatively.
You need to pick music that matches the particular style of yoga you’re teaching and suits that environment. The worst thing you can do is play music that doesn’t match the natural flow of the asanas you’re teaching. For example, thumping sounds won’t go well with Dandasana postures.
You also have to know when to shut off the music completely as part of the teaching process. In general, chants don’t go well with music, so make sure to tone the music down while you’re performing chants. You’ll also want to turn the music down during beginner classes, as you’ll likely be talking a lot while explaining the various poses to newcomers.
✔ DO Prepare A Playlist
It’s quite easy to discover yoga playlists on YouTube channels because other people have done all the research for you. All you need to do is look up [yoga style + playlist] to find an ideal matching playlist for your yoga style.
The playlist is also something you’ll have to prepare in advance so that you don’t disrupt students during the class by pausing to pick new songs. If you want to immerse students, the music has to feel as if it’s naturally flowing without stopping. The only way to do that is to prepare a 1-hour playlist before the class starts.
If you don’t like the pre-configured playlists on YouTube, you might have to spend a few hours researching the music and compiling your own playlists. If you want, you can then share these playlists with other teachers on YouTube to help them find a great selection of music for their own classes!
✔ DO Experiment With Music
The main reason teachers play music in yoga class is to spice up the class and experiment with something unique.
However, many over-do this. Repeating the same yoga spiritual playlists over and over can negatively impact your classes. Repeating the same playlists will introduce a level of staleness, and your goal as a teacher should be to introduce your students to new things constantly – whether those be yoga poses, chants, or music.
Instead of playing the same music over and over, try playing different music that you think your students will enjoy. Maybe you want to switch it up and play classical music for a day.
And after that, you could introduce a different vibe with some downbeat electronic music. If the students like the class, this is a good indication that you should continue incorporating the new type of music into your lessons.
✔ DO Know When To Go Silent
As a yoga instructor, you should always be prepared to stop the music. Even though music is effective for most teachers, it shouldn’t reach the point where it becomes a crutch. I often feel that some fitness studios running HIIT sessions use music and lighting primarily as a crutch.
Teachers shouldn’t be using music as a way to get lazy and get away from their teaching responsibilities towards students.
Instead, you can make the students focus on sounds such as the sound of their breath and heartbeat. The body naturally produces a natural form of music, and silence can help us get in tune with that.
Make sure to balance out silence and music to create a duality during your classes. While you shouldn’t completely exclude music, make sure to know when it’s time to cut it out.
✔ DO Make Sure Students Can Hear You
If the music volume high, your students might not be able to hear your instructions. It can take away from your class because they’ll be less receptive to the instructions you’re giving them.
Pro Tip: Run a soundcheck before the class to determine the right volume and balance out the volume with your voice. You want your students to be able to hear the music and instructions simultaneously. Doing so is how you can create the perfect balance between your voice and the music.
Music In Yoga Class: The DON’TS
✖ DON’T Play Pop Music
People have already heard pop music at home, work, during their commute, etc. When they enter the yoga studio, it should be a completely different environment where they can disconnect – more peaceful, blissful, and yogic.
To create that kind of environment, you’ll have to carefully pick yoga instrumentals instead of relying on popular pop music. Don’t get us wrong – you should experiment, but try not to make this the only music you play in class. In general, you should steer clear of all mainstream/top 100 music. Leave that to the HIIT fitness studios, where it makes sense to use such music.
If you want to maintain a relaxed atmosphere while still playing music that your students are familiar with, you can play piano instrumentals instead of the full-fledged versions with vocals.
✖ DON’T Over-Stimulate Students
Always observe the way your students respond to the music you’re playing. Be picky with your songs and calibrate the volume to make sure they’re not over-stimulated.
Yoga is one of the rare downtimes people have when they return from work (or early in the morning) to get away from their daily lives and focus on spirituality. You don’t want to take that away from them with music that’s too loud or too upbeat.
✖ DON’T Seek Out Perfect Songs
Remember: There’s no such thing as a perfect song. While some teachers are satisfied with the first playlist they come across, many will spend literal hours looking through songs to make sure they’re ideal.
If you’re trying to find the perfect song that matches your breathing rate, you’re going to spend hours looking for a song, and that song might not even resonate with you tomorrow. Learn to adapt to songs instead of changing the songs themselves.
✖ DON’T Keep Songs On Repeat
If a teacher has a song that aligns well with the sequence they are teaching, they mistakenly start playing it dozens of times with each class.
Doing so gets repetitive for students, and they may even end up loathing your class as a result of it. Instead of playing the same songs, find playlists that have dozens of songs with a natural flow.
Make sure to change up the playlists because if you play the same playlist in each class, the students will also get used to the playlist. You only need a single playlist for each class. If the playlist ends, leave it that way. Silence is less disruptive than having to find a new playlist in the middle of class.
✖ DON’T Distract Students
The songs must have a straight and predictable pattern. If the songs start as light drums and then switch to high-pitched vocals, this change can distract your students. You should avoid dynamic songs even if they’re yoga-themed.
If a student is trying to get in tune with one rhythm, you’ll be throwing them off their balance if the rhythm changes rapidly. Doing so distracts them from their learning and makes them think about other things.
Where To Find Music For Yoga Classes
The sky is the limit when it comes to music for yoga classes. You can find thousands of playlists on YouTube, iTunes, and Spotify.
Start by looking up mantras and ambient music – this is the best music style for yoga classes. You can purchase & download thousands of songs which you’re free to use at your class. And most importantly, remember to obtain a music license from one of the three major performance rights organizations before you begin playing music during lessons.
Also, you can find tons of royalty-free yoga music online if you wish to steer clear of paying for music licensing.
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About the author
Naz Ahm is the founder of StudioGrowth and has spent a decade growing start-ups and venture-backed companies. He writes about sales, marketing, and growth, especially in the yoga, fitness and wellness industry.
Naz has an MBA from IESE Business School and started his journey in the wellness industry when he set-up an on-demand wellness business. Naz currently resides in London, U.K.