The Architecture of a Playlist

Music is IMPORTANT.  As a yoga and fitness teacher, I can tell you first hand how music can subconsciously change the impact of a class on students.  I can teach the same exact sequence to different music and people will feel something completely different. So how exactly do I create a playlist to support the movement and breathing?

Sometimes I create the playlist first and then the class.  Sometimes I create the class first and then the playlist.  Whichever way I decide to create, I start with an intention.  What feeling do I want these people to feel?  What sensations am I trying to evoke?  What ways of being in the world am I cultivating? Once I know what story I'm telling, I can choose songs that elevate and forward the action.  

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Silence is captivating.  More often than not, I start class in silence.  When we take away the distractions and ask ourselves to be still with ourselves, amazing things happen.  Even though it can be overwhelming, we give ourselves the opportunity to realize our habits.  What do I do when I am just me?  Do I know who I am without all of the layers of influence?  Silence cleanses the palate and allows the soundscape in enter us unburdened by flavors of moments before.

We listen to stories that have conflict, tension, where the journey from point a to point b is filled obstacles to overcome. We all understand and empathize with struggle and that is why we keep listening. It's the same with the playlist.  It has to be dynamic.  Think of the playlist exactly as you would a story.  The exposition, the rising action, the climax, the falling action. We have our intention so how can we use soundscape to further that intention? Know where you want the mindset to begin so that you can find a song that matches. Your intro music needs to give you somewhere to go.  If your intention for the warmup is to build fire, a steady beat with the ambiance on the mellow side.  Think "Biking(Solo)" by Frank Ocean or "So Good" -GOLDHOUSE Remix.  If your intention for the warm up is to flow like water, find a song that feels like honey. For me that's songs like "Headfirst" by Sir Sly or "Jungle" by Drake.  Remember that everything stems from the intention of the class.  If you want to kickass, go ahead and do that with the music ("Talk that Talk" by Rihanna, anyone?"

As you climb up the ladder of rising energy, action, and complexity, the music follows suit.  Again it all comes back to the intention.  How do you want people to feel?  Is this a fire burning experience?  Are they reaching some sort of catharsis?  Do you want them to laugh or cry or both? Most of the time, I think of my peak posture as the climax of class.  It's the most complicated movement, or the hardest plyo activity.  It's the burn out. The music, the story, is all leading to this. Let it build in intensity, in depth, in fullness, so that when things get hard, when you start to doubt your own strength, the music empowers you to keep going.  Right now, I'm feelings "Wash Away" by Wilkinson feat. Boy Matthews.  The build in this song is everything.  The lyrics are simple and catchy.  The drive of the percussion allows you to lose yourself in the momentum. 

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Sometimes, I trick people and the cool down is the part we’ve been building towards. This is when the music gets RAW.  It's the most vulnerable, usually with lyrics that mean something, a song that resonates with the intention of the practice. After all of the hard work is done, the masks are off, people are ready to feel their own vulnerability; this is when words start to effect people. Up until this point, the general feeling of the song was most important. Now it's the details. One of my favorite cool down songs is "Cold Arms" by Mumford and Sons.  It's raw. It's real. It's filled with emotion, authenticity, and vulnerability. Because someone else is so candidly baring their soul, allowing their darkness to be seen, it gives us hope that maybe we too can do the same thing.  Maybe we aren't so different after all. 


Whenever you step into any space, it has been curated to evoke a feeling or thought or sensation. It may be subconscious, but every detail effects the the way the you perceive the space.  The same goes for you workout or practice.  Music can enhance and inform your practice.  Harness the power of music.  Find the next best thing to a coach inspiring you to go the extra mile, and see how much more you discover about yourself.

Looking for more of my curated playlist?  I've got over 300 on Spotify.  Check them out here