Set Your Intention and Press Play: Soundtracking Your Yoga Practice
Find a beautiful piece of art. If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall love with the music of Coltrane, the music of Aretha Franklin, or the music of Chopin - find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that that was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less. — Maya Angelou
Music takes your intention-setting for your home yoga practice, writing session or self-care break to another place. It helps you get lifted, go deeper, feel more open, vulnerable and brave. Music as loud or as soft as you choose to play it sets the tone for how you engage your intention in the moment.
When I prepare playlists for my classes and private sessions, or even for my own home practice, it begins with the intention I have for the flow on the mat. If I’m working on grounding energy and encouraging my yogis to root themselves in a balancing practice, I choose music that keeps them in a zone of strong concentration, meditative with few words (with the exception of my vocal cues) and long, but powerful sounds that help them center into a slower, more focused flow. — Tree Pose: Any traditional kirtan (or meditation) music by Krishna Das or a loop of Tibetan Oms. When I am offering a more cardio-vascular, heat-building class, I check in with some of my favorite chill house music or indie R&B. — Dancer’s Pose: Solange’s “Cosmic Journey.” And when I am guiding my students to a new personal edge, the speakers are filled with pulsating, escalating drums and bass. — Arm balances, Flying Man: Lauryn Hill’s “Lost Ones”: “my emancipation doesn’t fit your equation.”
It’s all about where you want to go and how do you want to get there. Music is a vehicle to get you to that next place whether it be a deeper bind or twist, a heart-opening backbend, or a strong, focused tripod headstand. Of course, you are guiding yourself or being guided to a pose, but a soundtrack is a mood-enhancer.
Imagine surrendering to Adele’s “Take It All” in a forward fold, or pressing up into your backbend as Beyonce’s “Halo” illuminates your newly opened heart chakra. You’ve decided to healthily deal with your hurt and frustration with some binds and twists to detox, unwind and decompress. You just want to wring that ‘ish out of your system. First, please know that this particular instance can be a “Rolling in the Deep” situation (or vintage one of Mary J. Blige, pre-No More Drama proportions…meanwhile, good for you, Mary, for taking control of your self-care.)
Sometimes we just want restoration, a reminder that we’re going to be okay. Champagne Papi aka Drake is always on deck to be like “Hold on, We’re Coming Home.” He’s also available when you want to connect with your svadhisthana chakra (your creative center—gurl, where your sexy sensualness resides). Check out “Practice” for some good hip opening inspiration (and the Juvenile “Back That Azz Up” sample).
Drake - Practice from B. S. on Vimeo.
What happens when you are in love? With your boo? Your bae? Your #MCM or #WCW? Yourself? I’m all for 4. Bey invites you to feel all the love growing inside her and it can’t help but rub off on you and put your “Love On Top.” When I’m feeling romantic—toward my damn self—John Legend gets “All of Me,” because after all, “we’re just ordinary people.” That man, that man. (Chrissy, girl, you did good.)
I must admit that I’ve had my occasional power practice—sometimes known as my “FuckwitmeyouknowIgotit” practice. “Black Skinhead” and “No Church in the Wild” have guided me through many a non-indictment verdict as I sweated, cried and fought to find balance in Mayurasana or a blood-rush-to-the-head set of handstands. (FYI: Yogis get angry and frustrated and cry. We’ve just accepted that our practice helps us exorcise the negative energy and makes space for more clear thinking to help us better serve our communities and support the causes about which we are passionate. #blacklivesmatter)
Those times (and they’re often) when I just want to queen out and “Van Vogue” on the mat, Azealia Banks, Le1f, and Kelela move me to pulse and heat up my practice with some syncopated rhythm that reminds me how important my yogic, or Ujjayi, breath is. (Seriously, chest breathing will have you on the floor panting after the first Sun Salutation if you’re flowing with “Heavy Metal and Reflective.” Breathe from the diaphragm, pause and let Ms. Banks ride the beat while you ride your inhale and exhales.)
Simply said, set your intention. And press play.
To the light in you, namaste.