A yoga soundtrack in the making

Today we worked on the CD copy-pasting tiny parts and pieces of our music together to build what I like to think of as a soundtrack to a yoga class. It’s challenging in the same way that I imagine putting together a soundtrack to a movie is challenging, as it’s all about getting the timing just right and creating or support certain atmospheres depending on the story you want to tell. So we played around with different sounds, moods and energies and I rolled out my mat (this is one of the best things about what I do – that it almost always includes rolling out a yoga mat) and practiced a few sun salutations to the music to see if it all worked out. Well, I definitely got my workout and I have a strong feeling that we’re on to something…

But it’s not really a yoga song – is it?

I have received a lot of feedback on the previews of the first two singles How it Feels and Only Words and I’m happy that it’s been positive. A comment that I get often from people who claim to not know anything about yoga is that the songs are not at all what they expected a yoga song to be…

See, many people create ideas in their minds about what something should be like, sound like or look like even when not having any personal experience with the subject. And it’s perfect. However, if it makes us lose our curiosity, it’s a shame. When someone tells me that they don’t think the songs sound like yoga songs it makes me think even more about how to position and market the CD and about the words I use to describe the project. Simply because I don’t want anyone to not listen to it because they already think they know what it sounds like. Like yoga music!

When we started working on the CD, the idea was to create something that does not sound like the music that is already out there. Since it’s already there… I also wanted the music to be for everyone and not just for some. I would love for those of you that don’t consider yourself yogis, and therefore might not come across it when searching for yoga music on iTunes, to listen to the CD and get a glimpse of what yoga is. A state of being completely open to what is in this moment. An openness of heart and mind towards a reality that can be completely different from what you thought it would be like.

I remember the first time my dad heard Only Words and he told me afterwards that he had closed his eyes and seen green fields of wavering grass. That’s what I call spaciousness! And my dad would never call himself a yogi. Ever! But to me he is a yogi although I would probably not tell him…

Songwriting as a spiritual practice

I wrote my first song back in 2007. I was in love and I was inspired. And I have been writing ever since. And thinking about that it strikes me that I never actually made a decision to start writing songs. It sort of just happened. I guess someone or something decided for me. A lot of my songs seem to appear “out of the blue” insisting to get my attention when I am busy doing something else. Some of the songs more or less write themselves and not until much later do I realize why a particular song simply had to be written at that particular time.

I’ve gotten used to always carry a notebook and a pen as the songs seem to show up at the most peculiar times and in the most unlikely places. But this is the beauty of creativity. It flows easier when we are not forcing it. When we completely let go of expectations and allow whatever sensation, thought or idea to pass through our minds without resisting or trying to capture or hold on to them. This is not easy, though, and maybe that’s why we can sometimes feel so out of touch with our own creativity. Even though it’s always there…

Even when I actually make the decision to write a song following a pre-determined pattern of chords, a certain melody and storyline it surprises me how a song that I think I know undergoes changes as I work with it, sing it and get to know it. It is almost as if the song comes alive and begin to tell it’s own story within the story. Writing the songs for the YogaMusic CD I had to come up with something that would fit the overall template, the chords, melodies and themes and at the same time staying open to whatever revealed itself along the way.

Letting go of the first ideas – killing darlings as they say – can be hard. For me it’s an ongoing practice of non-attachment. Only if I can let go of my own limited expectations of what the song should say and sound like, can the songs unfold and turn into something so much bigger than lyrics, melodies and harmonies. In that way songwriting to me is a highly spiritual practice. And so is singing and listening to music – no matter if it’s a contemporary pop song or a sacred mantra chant from ancient India.

Only Words (preview)

In silence/I come to you/It was only words

Sometimes things we hear from others or even things we say to others can have tremendous effects on us. Positive or negative. When we argue with someone and we get upset. Or when someone calms us down by saying just the right things.

The second single from my upcoming “music for yoga” cd is called Only Words and is about finding that place of peace, comfort and silence that exists deep inside of us. A place we can only experience when we leave the hustle and bustle of everyday life behind, turn our awareness inside and listen. When we hear or say something – no matter if it makes us feel good or bad – it’s only words. We can choose to take them in or simply let them hang in the air.

No matter how the World or people in it treat us we always have a choice, and I think this is a valuable reminder for a lot of people in modern society. We are so busy being out there that we forget to hear the silence within. And we try so hard to live up to the expectations of others that we sometimes forget to ask ourselves if what we do is aligned with our own Truth.

The day that we take flight and leave our physical bodies – the day we die – we will return to that place of silence. But we don’t have to wait, we can access it right here right now. All it takes is for us to take the time to stop and listen…

How to pick songs for a yoga class

Music adds an extra dimension to our yoga practice and like the practice itself it can shift our awareness, change the way we feel and affect our physical bodies in very profound ways. Moving to music can help us stay focused in the present moment and give us a break from the chattering of our minds, but if not picked wisely music can also have the opposite effect. It can become a distraction that pulls us further away from ourselves.

In most of the yoga classes I teach, I play music. Not always throughout the entire class and sometimes only during savasana. I have created several playlists that I can choose from depending on what type of class I am teaching and who is in the class. When choosing the style of music and which songs to play in a yoga class it’s important that they are aligned with the overall theme of the class, so that the music supports the practice and does not simply become entertainment drawing our attention away from the practice itself. When I pick songs for a particular class I want them to support and enhance the energy of the room. Having said that, I sometimes pick out certain songs during class to change the energy, if I feel there is a need to do so.

Just like the experience of listening to our own breath, what we experience when listening to music is highly personal. What works for one person might not work for another. Anyway, there are some guidelines that I always try to follow when putting together a playlist for a yoga class. Here it goes:

In the beginning of the class, the build-up part, I choose music that is spacious and light enough to allow for the students to settle in their bodies and become aware of the breath. When the sequence gets more challenging physically, towards the climax, I like to add a bit of playfulness to it all, so that it doesn’t get too serious. Often a straight up pop or rock tune with a good beat to it does the trick. After the peak poses when it’s time to slow everything down I play songs that have a softness to them. Towards the end of a class when our minds and hearts are more open, I believe that we are more easily influenced by music, so for this part I tend to focus more on lyrics and pick out songs that tell a story.

This “build-up, climax and slow down“-template was also used as a reference when we wrote the songs and music for the CD that I am currently working on. I look forward to trying it out in my classes!

YogaWise

YogaWise

How it Feels (preview)

How does it feel when love is strong? A question most of us have asked ourselves and a question that reflects a longing in all human beings to be seen and loved for who we really are.

When love is strong, it flows directly from one wide-open heart to another. To know how that feels, we must first open our hearts to ourselves and others and to the present moment. It takes both strength and courage to do so. To go to that place of authenticity in your heart and to share with others what you find there.

But if you dare go there, you will receive greatest gift of all. That’s how it feels.