Friday, September 28, 2012

To DJ or Not to DJ...That is the Question

Ohhh, how I wish I were a DJ!   I’m not talking about one of those uber-hip, techie geniuses revving up dance floors across the globe.  (Anyone who knows me knows how, to quote Tommy Lee, “sautéed in wrong sauce” that would be!)  No, I want to be one of those old-school, run-of-the-mill, close-to-obsolete DJ’s who just loves tunes and babbles about celebrities and traffic.  After all, I’m chatty.   Marginally obsessed with many genres of music.  And, most importantly, though most days I can’t remember what I had for breakfast, I have an uncanny knack for retaining useful gems like… the fact that Rupert Holmes was the artist behind the “Pina Colada Song.”  I know.  It’s a gift.

The beautiful thing about teaching vinyasa flow yoga is that, if I choose, I can actually pretend to be a DJ on a daily basis.  Two careers in one!  Perhaps double the salary?  If only.   When I first began teaching, I would actually spend hours each week burning yoga-appropriate playlists onto blank CD’s (ok, sometimes I missed the mark on the ‘appropriate’ part).  Then, along came my beloved BFF, the iPod.  A life-changer for a flow teacher!

Alas, twelve years after I began teaching, and probably over 100 playlists later, I am faced daily with internal conflict.  As much as I love music, and as much as it inspires, does it really have a place in yoga classes?  I struggle with the answer to that, and I’m not convinced there’s a right one.  Like many other dilemmas in life, the answer may be, “it depends”.

I had a wonderful mentor who affectionately referred to the thumping, high-energy, musical yoga classes as “the ones that get people in the door”.   This made sense to me.   When I first began my yoga practice, I came from a dance and running background.  I thrived on high-energy and loud music.  It made me want to move.  It brought out emotions that otherwise may have lay dormant.  A teacher’s awesome playlist made me want to return to that teacher’s class.  Likewise, as I embarked on a teaching path, I felt safer when the music was on.  I thought, insecurely, that if my sequence and teaching weren’t good enough that day, maybe they’d like the playlist and come back anyway.  Nothing is better than a depressing, tear-jerking power-ballad in pigeon pose, right?  Music, when carefully selected for a flow class, can be thematic, evocative, and meditative.  It can be an effective teaching tool, if the mood of the playlist matches the journey you’re taking your students on that day.   And, yes, it still gets the yoga-shy in the door.  Isn’t the world a better place when more folks are practicing yoga?

On the other hand, as my own practice and teaching have evolved, I find music to be a distraction.  When we’re on our mats, the whole point is to get still and focus on our breathing.  We are so bombarded with stimuli all day, and what is so healing and calming about yoga is that we can retreat from those stimuli for a little while.

At the moment, turning the music off completely would likely be jarring for my regular students.  I have found a compromise in making my current playlists more ambient and always offering 10-20 minutes of class time sans music.  On recent days when my iPod was on the fritz or temporarily missing, I have wondered, “Is the  Universe trying to tell me something?”  For now, I will continue to play DJ.  And, for those of you frequently asking me to post my music, here are a couple of recent playlists to have some fun with (everything is available on iTunes):

Eternal Dance            9:13   Gabrielle Roth & The Mirrors         
Om Namah Shivaya (Eastern Sun mix) 6:23  Donna De Lory    
Be Set Free     4:00    Josh Garrels  
Shambala       3:41    Beastie Boys  
Nwahulwana (remastered) 6:41    Orchestra Marrabenta        
Crystalised     3:22    The XX           
Under the Milky Way           3:35    Sia                              
Fruits of Labor           7:22    Glen Velez                 
Loka    4:47    Ena Vie          
Yesterday       7:34    Rara Avis       
Corner            4:41    Jai Uttal & The Pagan Love Orchestra
What You Are (Acoustic)      3:33    Jewel                          
Society            3:56    Eddie Vedder                                   
Any Other Name       4:08    Thomas Newman                                         

Bhakti Gita     8:17    Masood Ali Khan      
1000 Suns     4:26    Micheline Berry & Shaman's Dream
My Baba (feat. Krishna Das)           3:47    Trevor Hall    
Bittersweet Symphony         5:58    The Verve     
The Richest Man In Babylon            3:50    Thievery Corporation
Unity   7:19    Glen Velez     
Is Love Enough (feat. Gentleman)  5:08    Michael Franti & Spearhead                                   
Protection      7:53    Massive Attack          
Shambho Mahadeva 8:24    SWAHA                      
Elevator Beat 2:44    Nancy Wilson            
Shanti (Peace Out)   6:59    MC Yogi                      


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