Does this scenario sound at all familiar to you?

You’ve finished leading a yoga class that, in your mind, was awesome. You notice as the students begin to roll up their mats that they’re vibrating at a different frequency; leaving the practice space with easy, blissful expressions on their faces.

Yes … you nailed it!

And then … the first thing you hear from an exiting student is this: “The music was so good. What was the name of that song toward the end?”

Commence downward sinking heart pose.

While that scenario might be overly dramatic, odds are most yoga teachers — well, Pranakriya-trained teachers anyway — aren’t fishing for compliments about their Spotify playlist.

I’ve been thinking about music on my mat a lot lately. After about a year of teaching in the “real world” I’ve finally taken a little time to start building a Spotify playlist. I’m not spending hours on the playlist, rather it’s a bunch of songs that I enjoy and feel fit within the context of a yoga class.

Previously I’d taken William Hufschmidt’s advice from my 200-hour YTT that new teachers should wait a few months, if not a year, before incorporating music into their classes. Truth be told, before teaching my first studio class I searched “yoga playlist” and used that under the assumption most students expect background music during a class.

Lesson, mostly, learned.

Offering music in a yoga class, whether it’s popular music or yoga-centric chanting or something “new age” is a tricky maneuver.

I’ve taken classes featuring popular songs that have pulled me completely out of my yoga experience, as I’ve begun focusing on the lyrics or moving with the beat. This role reversed, once, when a student told me that my syncopated piano music made her uncomfortable, leading me to change it mid-class.

Any popular song carries a bit of risk if you choose to play it. A spacey, drawn-out Pink Floyd song might seem perfect, but there’s no way to know if it might lead a student to an unpleasant memory. Or, simply, someone might not like the song for no other reason than they just don’t like it or because they’ve heard it 3,900 times.

All this said, music certainly has its place in yoga. If you teach at a big box gym or fitness center, the students might be unable to get away from their busy-mind — or sweating in a room with 50 other strangers — without something playing in the background. And it seems if you’re leading a hot, sweaty vinyasa class, then loud pulsating, techno music is the norm.

In an ideal situation, music should help complement a class — akin to pairing wine with a fine meal.

Whatever you decide to play, we can agree that the *best* music inside a yoga class remains those delightful deep oohs and ahhh from students as they find their groove, as allowing themselves to let go into the experience.

What do you think? Do you use music in your classes and if so, what’s on your playlist?


Mike Cardillo, RYT-200, lives and teaches yoga in Connecticut. He believes yoga is more than simply making shapes with your body.

He can be reached at yogawithmikeCT [at] gmail.com or found at Facebook.com/yogawithmikeCT