14 songs for your yoga playlist

It’s amazing what a song can do for a yoga practice. In my own practice, the right song can snap me out of sluggishness or make me as calm as a sleeping baby. The same is true for yoga classes. When I play upbeat music before class, the mood is effervescent and people are chatty and smiley. Slower, more meditative music, not surprisingly, yields more silence and introspection. I love playing with music and using it to reflect or gently shift the mood in my own practice and the classes I lead. Here are a few of my favorite songs, all of which you can stream from Apple Music (I’ve also linked to YouTube audio or visuals for almost all of them):

Warming up

Muzzle of Bees – Wilco

This is a good song for the warming up stretches taking place at the beginning of practice. Since my studio doesn’t usually play music until the end of class, I typically save this for my personal practice or for savasana when I’m teaching. The song begins with a slow rhythm and spare instrumentation, then builds up to a crescendo. It’s just the song for getting the body ready for the vibrancy of a vinyasa practice.

Ready to Flow

Why Don’t You Love Me – Beyoncé
This is usually a song I save for my personal practice, but I love the upbeat, retro tempo of this song. It never fails to get me flowing.

Shut Up and Let Me Go – The Ting Tings

This is another song I save for my personal practice since it’s one I play toward the beginning of my vinyasa flow. I love the steady drum beat, the fun vocals, and the crash of melodies in this energy-infusing song.

Restoration and Release

Sound and Color – Alabama Shakes

The soulful vocals and simple beat of this song always help me turn inward. I love it during seated forward folds, half pigeon, or frog pose.

Universal Traveler -Air

You can count on Air for calming rhythms and interesting melodies. This is a great song for restorative poses, seated postures, or savasana. This is another song I always get asked about when I play it.

Shake it Off- Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams covered Taylor Swift’s entire 1989 album and it’s awesome. I especially like Adams’ slowed-down introspective version of “Shake it Off.”

Calm and Traditional 

Sea of Oms – Leraine Hortsmanshoff

If you like more classic yoga tunes, try this song. The Oms layer over one another to create a single, multi-dimensional meditative soundtrack.

Traditional –  with a Twist

Across the Universe – Fiona Apple
I’ve enjoyed this version of the Beatles song since it appeared on the Pleasantville soundtrack years ago (back then I had no idea she was repeating the mantra “Jai guru deva ok”). I prefer the Fiona Apple rendition because of its updated instrumentation and because of Apple’s otherworldly voice. I usually get asked about this track after class.

Upbeat Savasana

Hot Knife – Fiona Apple

This song is so fun. Its simple drum beat reminds me of the beat of my heart, while the repeated lyrics and intricate harmonies help me relax. I played this during class yesterday and got good feedback.

I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free – Nina Simone

Great lyrics and vocals make this song a winner for savasna. The class always feels lighter and more optimistic after this song by Nina Simone.

Ethereal Savasana

Stop Where You Are – Corinne Bailey Rae

So much by CBR falls into the ethereal, upbeat category, and this song from her latest album is a great example of her soothing vocals and lush melodies.

Touch the Sky – Hillsong United

This song by the Christian band Hillsong United is actually a good fit for a class full of people of all worldviews. Essentially, the song is about the amazing beauty and mystery in creation, and how one can metaphorically touch the sky while feeling grounded in prayer. I find it to be a song that helps me relax and let go of tension in my personal practice, and one that connects to many in a group practice.

Calm Savasana

Present Tense – Radiohead

Radiohead is  go-to for yoga-friendly music. I like the Spanish guitar-like feel of this track, which is from their newest album.

Lilac Wine- Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley’s voice was smooth and beautiful, seemingly able to soar to the highest heights. This song helps me and my yoga students relax, like we’ve all had a swig of sleeping potion. I usually get asked about anything I play by Jeff Buckley since his voice was so distinctive (there’s also an equally cool version by Nina Simone).

I’d love to know your favorite songs for yoga – I’m always searching for additions to my playlists!

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