My Yoga Journey, Part 2: Music

Musical Angel

In 2004, my yoga practice changed, from phase 1: cool crazy postures, to phase 2: a practice.

As I mentioned in my first yoga journey post, in the early days I didn’t practice regularly, days nor sequence. One of the things that thoroughly flummoxed me during that time was timing of the postures. Had I held the asana long enough? Often I would crank my neck to the side and pick up my watch in shoulderstand. “Nope, only 3 minutes down, 2 more to go!” Obviously, this is not an ideal way to conduct a practice.

In 2004 I received my first iPod as a gift. Thus, it was the first time I discovered iTunes. All of the sudden making a playlist, sorting my music by time, was at my fingertips. One of the first things I did upon getting my 300+ CDs into iTunes was make a yoga playlist (actually, multiple yoga playlists). My Sivananda book recommended a certain number of minutes to work into and hold each asana as you started building your practice. I had always attempted to hold the poses for the prescribed amount of time, but I have a crappy sense of timing. This resulted in a harsh timer bringing me back to reality or me craning my head around to look at a watch and see how much time had elapsed. Not exactly relaxing and letting me disconnect from the world (nor is it good for my body). So as I developed my playlists, I picked songs that were perfectly timed for each asana. And thus, I embarked along a path of discovering what music was appropriate for my yoga practice in general, and what music worked for each asana in particular. And my uninterrupted practice was born.

For me, personally, I found music with English words distracting (and much later on, as I’ve begun to learn Italian, I also can find songs in Italian distracting). Also, music with too much beat that makes me want to dance was out. Shimmying in headstand isn’t exactly my goal. I did find that soundtracks provided a great backdrop for my practice so long as they weren’t too dramatic. It makes sense – they’re often a support character for a film, they fade into the background. Plus, there’s usually a plethora of shorter songs/instrumentals that give me plenty to choose from in the 1 to 3 minute range. Songs from The Life Aquatic soundtrack were peppered throughout my playlists and Shark Attack Theme in particular now has the ability to completely calm me since I used it as the soundtrack for the interspersed corpse poses in my practice.

Over the years, my playlists have adapted. I’ve accumulated a lot more music in the past 10 years, to begin with. I’ve discarded the songs that didn’t work, added songs that were a better fit for each asana, and even learned to develop soundtracks for my practice that fit a certain mood (sunshine + reggae + yoga, anyone?). I’ve also found that better sense of timing after years of practice, knowing when my body is done with asana, so on occasion I just put on music and go with my own timing. However, there will always be some songs that are my favorites to practice certain asanas or exercises to, so I will share them here. These are the songs that feel like home in my practice.

Shark Attack Theme by Sven Libaek
As previously mentioned, Shark Attack Theme is my go to song for the rest pose in between my asanas. At 57 seconds it gives me time to recover my heart rate and breath, feel how my body has changed based on the asana I just did, and transition to the next asana.
Night in Lenasia by Deepak Ram
I love this song for alternate nostril breathing. The beat is perfect for the 4:8:2 count I use, and again, it brings a sense of calm over me. This is one song I can never bring myself to change in all of my playlists. For my reggae mix, I finally succumbed and used Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry, but barring the reggae list, this song is it for me anytime I’m doing or teaching alternate nostril breath.
Danza con Toledos by Manuel Obregon
Manuel Obregon’s album Simbiosis is just a beautiful album all the way through. Danza con Toledos completely changed my relationship with sun salutations and how I viewed them. Previously, I had always used more upbeat music to try to power through what I viewed as an exercise that I hated, but one day I had an epiphany and put on this song. I moved slowly through my sun salutations, using them to determine what areas of my body were sticking points that needed more work and additional care in my practice that day. From that point on, I’ve never looked back. I added Conversación con Jilgueros after this song, extending my sun salutations by an additional 5 minutes. I’ve learned to absolutely love and relish in this part of my practice, and I have this song to thank.
Live Like a Warrior by Matisyahu
This is one of those songs that breaks the rules. It’s upbeat. It’s in English. It is something I use only when I’m in a certain mood. That mood is playful and full of energy. On a day when I want to move a bit faster through my sun salutations. I love this song with a sun salutation that has Warrior 2 and Reverse Warrior thrown in. There’s something a bit empowering about setting your drishti over your middle finger to this song, and it always makes me want to sink a little deeper into that warrior pose, making everything in my body feel stronger.
Of course, this usually inserts into a playlist with a more upbeat tempo. Something with selections from Girish’s Remixed, Devi 2000’s Prepare Your Soul to Dance, and MC Yogi’s Elephant Power.
Rebirth by Midival Punditz featuring Anoushka Shankar
This song holds a special place in my heart because it is the song I walked down the aisle to. The first time I used it to practice headstand to, I loved how my setup time matched the time it took for my bridal party to walk down the aisle, and thus, when my feet started walking toward my head, the music matched when my feet started stepping down the aisle. The pace of the song picks up towards the end, which could be a bit disconcerting for some in headstand. However, if you add splits to your headstand practice, this is the perfect time to practice them, especially if you picture the splits as Krishna running.
Zissou Society Blue Star Cadets/Ned’s Theme Take 1 by Mark Mothersbaugh
Life Aquatic, Fish pose – it all just seems to make sense together. For me, fish comes after 5 minutes in shoulderstand, followed immediately by 2 minutes in plough and 1 minute in bridge. Even though I give myself a little rest pose after bridge, the calming music that starts off this song, the visualization of gracefully gliding through the water, it all helps reset me before I embark upon the last half hour of my practice.
Tarantella from The Nutcracker
Personally, I prefer the version of this song from The Narada Nutcracker, but since I couldn’t find it on it’s own in YouTube, this will give you an idea. This is my last little push before I collapse into savasana. I practice the Sivananda version of triangle to this song, getting a nice lateral stretch across my side body and a stretch in my inner thighs.

For a full playlist, see my YouTube channel’s playlist section. Ultimately, music for your yoga practice is whatever speaks to you. Whatever matches your mood, your breath, and helps you achieve the goals you have set for your practice. This will likely vary by day, and may sometimes be nothing at all, but it is nice to have a few tried and true favorites. After a while, my muscle memory seems to have linked with the sounds of some of the songs I use over and over again for a specific asana. Hearing the song brings the same feeling over me as if I were actually doing the asana, and I find that pretty amazing and cool.

Learn more about my yoga journey: Read Part 1: Discovery, Part 3: Meditation, and Part 4: Aerial Yoga.

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