December 9, 2014

The Cosmic DJ’s Musical Toolbox. {Playlist}

cassette tape

This is a friendly response to Christina Scalera’s “Music That Makes You(r Yoga Class) Cooler.

I decided to write this because being cool is not what yoga teaching is about.

I personally didn’t feel right while practicing to some of those tracks and I’ll tell you why.

It bothers me when pilates and yoga intertwine so much, because the cultish practice brings with it some of the profanities of the western culture. Furthermore, our music reflects a culture of selling, owning and partying. I can assure you any yoga master from India would compassionately disapprove of blasting Kiesza and EDX for building heat. I believe the surya namaskar mantras are way better.

Club music belongs in the clubs, not the studios.

However, while I do agree that a great soundtrack makes a class an experience, I deeply believe that life is a mystical, devotional and spiritual experience above a physical one.

So, we are in a yoga class.

We’ve been going to that same gym for almost two months now, and we know the order of every song in the three playlists the teacher has. Somehow though, they were perfectly timed and followed the sequence wave. This is how I became the recipient of the gift of five hours of yoga music on a flash drive.

A few months later in teacher training, we discussed the topic of Cosmic DJ-ing, which basically means: tuning into the frequency of a group of people and guiding them with appropriate tunes through a journey of the mind, body and soul. And, for our final practice teaching sessions I mixed music for a couple of girls who were focusing on the postures too much, and they had no time to figure out the music.

I focused my attention on the flow of the soundtrack, using my heavily Mexican accented cues. After the class was finished, a bunch of people asked me which tracks I had used. I was so grateful for those three gigabytes of yoga music!

Later on, we went to a yin yoga class on a studio overlooking the ocean. As we moved trough the calming postures, the sun was coming down, and we sat in lotus as the sun was setting; when the last flash of light came through, the track changed to a beautiful mantra. I started crying, it was so beautiful, and I couldn’t help to wonder how I could achieve that cosmic musical fluidity.

So, here are the songs that I’ve experimented with and gotten amazing results in different teaching and other sensual experiments.

1. Lagan Love Nada Brahma by Sheila Chandra.

This track is peaceful, clean and captivating. It charms the attention into stillness and it sets a reverberating vibe in any studio. It’s perfect to begin a class and to let your students gain awareness and deepening of the breath.

2. OM(Invocation)/Elephant Power by MC Yogi

I can’t stress the importance of a fun, engaging and energetic warm up enough. It lubricates the joints, gets the blood flowing and smiles shining. It also releases stagnant energy and emotions. Turn your usual warm up into a free dancing party. Hip Hop and Mantras is the new ice cream and fries or pizza and maple syrup.

3. The Circle of Life / The Lion King Soundtrack

You have no idea how many people grew up watching Disney movies, and cried when Mufasa was killed. I first used this track in a class warm up, where I had all of us sit together in a circle, knee to knee. Have everyone embrace their arms around the neighbors and flex the spine from side to side as the circle sways together in one motion. Lean forward, lean backward, make animal sounds and even read a quote when the music turns down and the flute plays. This track releases so many emotions and creates a sense of unity and community within a group.

4. Mend (To Fix, Repair) by Elsiane

This song is right for the initial flows of a class—the voice is hypnotizing and the music has a pace either fast or slow enough to adapt to anyone’s speed. It features sweet strings, mystical piano keystrokes and a whole aura of healing, flowing and tuning into your body.

5. My Love goes with you by Mishka

I believe that using intense music is like trying to calm a baby with heavy metal. Reggae is a better option for calming the mind down, especially if you’re working with balance. This track has a great message embedded in the lyrics, and it’s slow enough to pace the breath.

6. When I’m Small by Phantogram

Getting into the intense, peaking flows of a class, core workouts and fast paced sequences—this song is perfect because it engages with electronic beats and a sweet voice that builds up and then fades down for a breathing break. I use this track when I teach my SurFlow paddling sequence for surfers. Show them love and work the hate out!

7. Bittersweet Symphony by Wild Wind

This alternative version of the verve’s hit song is from a compilation album, which translates to “the music of the gods”

I remember playing it as my good friend taught a gorgeous ardha chandrasana flow. Her long figure and poised posture was like a work of art by God himself. This track was the canvas; It’s melodies and strings make you feel like you’re flying above the clouds.

8. Across the Universe by Fiona Apple

This works both as a warm up and cool down track in between the climax of a class. It’s the kind of track that people know, because it’s a Beatles tune. Jai Guru Deva Om melodiously sways the spirit into a trance like state. Nothing is going to change my world, so It’s good to focus on changing yourself first, just like Mahatma Gandhi taught us.

9. Siesta Del Sol by In Credo

This is more than just a song, it’s a portal to a pristine beach in paradise. The sun is warming your bones trough the skin and the waves and ocean breeze gently caresses your spirit. This song is so versatile, it’s great for warm ups, for cooling down stretches and even for having sex. Yes, I said it, it’s smooth and sexy.

10. Say by John Mayer

This song is perfect for one-on-one workshops or tight groups. It works wonders with children especially because it encourages the heart to open up and vocalize those things we have a hard time saying due to blockages in the throat chakra.

It’s an emotionally intense song—be prepared and bring a tissue box, essential oils, blankets and cups of warm, comforting tea. Yoga is not just about working out and getting flexy, it’s about facing our fears and saying them out loud so they lose the power they have on us.

11. Vajra Guru by Gabrielle Roth & The Mirrors

This mantra was a major breakthrough in my practice. Our beloved teacher played it when we experimented with Tai Chi slow flow movements. It goes on for 13 minutes and it stills give me the chills when I listen to it. It’s perfect for slow, difficult focus demanding flows, great for meditating and also for cooling down.

12. Goodbye Milky Way by Enigma

Pretend you are an intergalactic traveler who’s about to leave earth and the milky way. Visualize as you soar trough the stars and gas clouds of interstellar space. Send out a prayer and let your soul take flight with this music. Perfect for cooling down.

13. Baba Hanuman by Shantala

An all time favorite for Yin Yoga, Slow Flows, Meditation and Savasana. It’s like being embraced by the loving energy of Sita, Ram and Hanuman. Feel the peace, the love and relax. (Check out this awesome remix, too.)

14. Beloved by Anoushka Shankar

It’s like being teleported to India—you can almost smell the spices and steaming chai tea. Feel the warm and humid air caressing the sweet summer sweat on your skin. Pure bliss, pure ecstasy. Suitable for a nice vinyasa flow or check out this Sexy Thievery Corporation Remix.

15. Why Must I Feel Like This Today? by 1 Giant Leap Soundtrack

This is a strong message, an awesome mix of poetry, music and culture. Krishna Das, Michael Franti and an African choir put together this vibrational journey into the heart, the mind and our own feelings. Put people trough Savasana and wake them up for an ecstatic dance party. Release, let go and face a new day after a morning practice. (If you feel this track is too intense in Savasana, try the mantra by itself.)

Play a song that will trigger emotional releasing in you. Surrender to the bass and the treble and let it vibrate your whole being. Feel and see how your heart beats to the rhythm. See how your students respond and then share the complete playlist. See how they open up and breathe in when you guide them through musical odysseys.

Be a cosmic DJ and spin those turn tables for those who need it most.

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Author: David Flores

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Roy Blumenthal/Flickr


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