Like the countless styles of yoga, there are many choices for music to accompany one’s practice. Being largely a matter of personal preference, it’s hard to really reject certain genres entirely. I know teachers who frequently play rap music and heavy metal and it works. That might not be for everyone, but an instructor that makes that choice typically understands that it must work toward the larger image that they wish to project for their class. If you want to play Judas Priest or Wu Tang, you need to own that decision.
I recently took a class where the instructor put the radio on to a top 40 station to accompany her class. Being somewhat of a countercultural figure, naturally I wasn’t too amused by this decision, which was initially exacerbated by the instructor’s tardiness. This played into the bigger problem that was radiating from said instructor.
Music is a big part of a yoga class. It sets the tone and is the constant presence that lingers over each student when the teacher isn’t speaking (which should happen at times). It isn’t more important than say, the actual yoga, but it’s easily something that can derail an entire class.
Adam Levine makes headlines for his love of yoga. That’s great. Doesn’t mean that Maroon 5’s “Animals” with lyrics like “You’re a drug that’s killing me I cut you out entirely. But I get so high when I’m inside of you” belongs in a yoga studio.
Which doesn’t mean that Maroon 5 needs to be banned entirely. Just that songs that reference obsessive tendencies, drugs, and coitus should be screened and promptly removed from any playlist destined to be played in yoga. That’s the downside of playing a radio station. You don’t get to pick what comes on and with something like top 40, you can be sure that much of it is inappropriate for your class.
I put a great deal of effort into my playlists, which are generally a mix of 60s rock, 80s New Wave, and Indie music. It’s not effort that every instructor needs to have, but it makes a difference. Over the years, I’ve got as many compliments for my music as the yoga itself (make of that what you will). As a big fan of The Smiths, I know that they only have a couple of songs that can be played in a yoga setting. So “Stretch Out and Wait” gets played while “Some Girls are Bigger than Others” does not.
That’s not to say I haven’t made playlist mistakes. Once I played “Yesterday” by The Beatles, which came on during seated poses which didn’t help matters. Needless to say, I made the room laugh by apologizing for playing a sad song during hip openers.
Each yoga class should in some way, shape, or form reflect the personality of the instructor. What does Top 40 radio reflect? The United States of Generica? Something you can hear anywhere? I think so.
You might at this point think that I’m being too harsh on Top 40, especially the songs that might be acceptable. What if the instructor loves Taylor Swift? That’s fine. The presence of TSwift should be because the instructor wanted her there. Not because she happened to be on the radio (which oddly enough didn’t happen in this class despite the low odds).
Yoga classes take effort. They should also look like they take effort. People are giving you their money and their time for a service. Throwing on the radio shows that you couldn’t be bothered to be in control of your class. Which in turn might inspire a student to stay home with a yoga DVD and Ms. Swift.
When you don’t put any effort into parts of your class, it shows. Who wants to hold a balancing pose while the insufferable Calvin Harris is blasting in the background? Not I!