Yoga playlists are notoriously challenging to put together.
It makes sense—people have wildly disparate tastes, and our practice is so personal it’s hard to (literally) hit the right note when deciding which tunes will be best suited to the greatest number of souls.
Generally, I mix up my playlists and include a fairly large number of quirky picks, just because I don’t believe in appealing to the masses—that’s how we get restaurants like PF Chang and books like “Fifty Shades Of Grey.” However, it’s good to have a library of music that is appropriate and inspiring to the majority of yogis, if only for a base to intermingle with more wacky, personal songs—like maybe a little De La Soul, Potholes In My Lawn—anyone, anyone?
So, without further ado, here are my top 15 classic songs for yoga.
1) Cry by Steve Gold
A lovely piece about letting go, I sometimes use this for savasana. If anything is going to turn on those yoga tears, it’s this, and that’s a good thing. As my teacher always says, “Better out than in.”
2) Lotus Blue by World Radio
Lotus Blue has a funky electronic beat that makes me think I’ve stumbled into swank nightclub, but if I listen closely, the refrains are devotional. Definitely a modern sound, I like it for energetic sequences.
3) Destiny by Zero Seven
Mellow with romantic and lovely lyrics, Destiny gets me feeling introspective, but still in the mood to move, stretch, dance and love my yoga.
4) Om Namah Shivaya (bigger mix) by Steve Gold
Steve Gold has a powerful and serious voice, kind of like a chanting Buddhist monk—one of the reasons he appears on this list twice. With a much different sensibility than “Cry”, in this song he repeats “Om namah shivaya, shanti” endlessly, each time with total sincerity and conviction, providing a great back drop for any moving meditation.
5) Flowing Ganga by Masood Ali Kahn
There are no lyrics to this percussively complex song, which I like, because it doesn’t pull me outside of my practice. This is a thoughtful meditation on sound and pairs well mindful movement.
6) Tibetan Bowl Magic by Jessita Reyes and Massage Tribe
I love Tibetan singing bowls (mine is tuned to the heart chakra), and this rambling, almost formless melody over laid by the insistent and gentle ringing of a singing bowl is great for the beginning of class. It helps us to begin focusing on the here and now and building the breath.
7) Long Time Sun by Snatam Kaur
Snatam Kaur has the most tonally pure voice I think I’ve ever heard; if angels sing, this is what the they sound like. She interprets this classic song beautifully with great harmonies and a little sitar thrown in.
8) Moon Magic (Chandra Part II) by Stevin McNamara
Acoustic guitar with a loose, easy feel, Moon Magic is just the thing for almost any part of class, except maybe savasana. It has a hypnotic rhythm, and this extended version (over 12 minutes) allows yogis to get in, and stay in the zone.
9) Moonsung, a Real World Retrospective by Sheila Chandra
Chandra takes the sacred chants from several different religions and blends them to great effect. The idea of all cultures coming together is a truly yogic message and the sound is mystical and enchanting.
10) Shanti, Shanti, Shanti by Sheila Chandra
Totally different from Moonsung, this piece has a driving beat which feels intense and spiritual at the same time—it is weirdly reminiscent of American Indian devotional music.
11) Aad Gameh Nameh by Amrit Kirtan
Lightly percussive and lovingly intoned, Kirtan gives a feminine, soft touch to this haunting melody.
12) Freeze (Yoga Mix) by Kodomo
More electronica, Freeze just makes me want to jump into trikonasana (triangle) or some similarly expansive pose. It’s got that clubby feel, but without any hard edges whatsoever.
13) Sound Of The River by Tina Malia
To me, Tina Malia oozes girl power. Her true, passionate lyrics and vocals are love incarnate.
14) May All Beings by Earth Sound System
Another great piece for the more active parts of classes, May All Beings is long on funk. I find myself wondering if I should order a Cosmo to go along with my practice, but who says such a groovy sound is a bad thing?
15) Karma by Soul Food
Nice and easy, with a chorus of Om in the distance, I like easing into my standing postures with this song. It gets me feeling like it’s going to be a good day.
Ganesh is Fresh by MC Yogi
It’s impossible not to dig a song called “Ganesh is Fresh”, and this friendly rap will have everyone giggling through their sun salutations. What better sight is there than a room full of grinning yogis?
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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum