Thursday, August 25, 2011

Music in class – yes or no?

music2 300x213 Interview | YogiTunes Co Founder, Rara Avis, on Music, Playlists & More!Yoga Music is defined by the way in which it supports the flow and sequencing that occurs during a yoga class.  Stylistically, it can be relaxation music, meditation music, fitness music, ambient music and can also draw from a wide range of popular genres such as hip hop, chillout, soul, r&b, funk, classical music, etc.

What makes it yoga music is the way in which the songs are put together - hence YogiTunes supports the creation of the yoga music playlist.  A playlist in this context is a specific sequence of songs designed to fully support yoga poses, positions, sequences and structure so that the practitioner experiences a deep surrender into the overall flow of the class.

Malia Scott sits down with YogiTunes co-founder Rara Avis (Six Degrees recording artist and member of both Desert Dwellers & Shaman's Dream) to talk about his experiences of teaching to music.
Yoga Music in class – yes or no?
It’s a hot topic amongst yoga classes and teachers for sure.

by Malia Scott
courtesy of

Malia: In my own personal journey teaching yoga, I’ve found there is a time and a place for it. It depends on the day, the energy, the students, what you are teaching and more.
My first yoga teacher recommended not teaching with music because “it is a distraction“. Then my next teacher was all about yoga music – which was awesome.
When I first began teaching right out of teacher training it was too much – creating a playlist, then a sequence, then reading the energy of the class, sticking with a set sequence, assisting, etc. etc. The list goes on. It is time consuming creating a yoga playlist but it’s so worth the somatic journey that it can take your students on.

And now, there is a new incredible yoga music site called YogiTunes that simply rocks! It’s any yoga teachers wildest dream when it comes to creating a bad ass playlist for class. The selection is fantastic and they are just getting started. I am stoked to see where they go with this.

Malia: Rara, Can you tell the Yoganonymous readers a litle bit about and what it means for the Global Yoga Community.

Rara Avis: What it means is that there is now a dedicated online home with the best and broadest selection of music for the yogic lifestyle. One of the core areas we focus on is to provide yoga teachers with hand-picked selections of opening, building, peak, cool down and savasana songs that they can use to build great sequences for their classes. Additionally, we’re supporting artists who want to connect with the yoga community through their music, and overall turn as many people as we can on to amazing music out there that suits the yogic lifestyle of embodiment.

Our vision has and always will be to create community through the power of music and yoga. We’ve been doing this for over 15 years with our own releases, live events and in-class performances, so for us YogiTunes is an extension of that mission that allows us to reach a much broader audience. So ultimately it means more amazing community and more great music!

Malia: As a leading yoga producer, what are your TOP 10 tips on How to Teach to Music.

Rara Avis: When I teach with music my first goal is to support a shift in perspective… “we are music”. Our bodies are built to resonate sound from within – which is a deeply transformative experience. By helping people get in touch with the mechanisms that support resonation within the body, a felt sense occurs that allows us to become the music, vs. feeling separate from it. This can be a lifelong experience but can also be understood in a moment with a simple shift of how we see and feel our bodies. It’s a beautiful gift that one of my guitar teachers gave me in music school… after 3 years of relentlessly practicing guitar scales he said to me one day, “Alex, you realize you’re not playing your guitar right? You are the instrument… the guitar is just a tool for expressing that.“

Rhythm is key…
Pulse is something we feel long before we’re capable of higher cognitive functions during fetal development, thus rhythm brings us back to our deepest roots. The periodic occurrence of repeating cycles is something we witness time and again in all aspects of life. By affirming our connection with rhythm using simple tapping, clapping, breathing and feeling exercises, we in turn affirm our connection with ourselves and with what surrounds us. Again, the goal is to feel more connected, and less separate by tuning into the power of rhythm.

Having a good sense of pitch has everything to do with being an attentive listener. In music school we took ‘ear training’ classes, which was basically learning how to listen to ourselves and others at a much more refined level. By doing so, the ear is capable of informing the muscles responsible for the minute adjustments necessary to attain a nice sounding voice. Dropping into a deep space of listening is key for musicians… it’s a constant meditation.

Most people have a natural fear that their voice, be it through singing, playing an instrument, dancing, etc. will be perceived as less than attractive by others. By giving people permission to be in a learning phase, and demonstrating vulnerability as a professional, my goal is to make people feel at ease with where they’re at as opposed to a sense of anxiety that comes from wishing they were better than they might be. It’s the same on the mat… compare yourself to others and anxiety can occur. Surrender to your current state of being and energy can truly begin to move and help take you where you want to go.

The most important lesson I was taught at music school was that it was mandatory to take freely from the masters who had come before. It’s not stealing – it’s more like honoring what’s already occurred and accepting that you will do it differently. Learn your favorite music by heart – play it until you know it inside and out. It will benefit you greatly to have the songs, rhythms, harmonies, melodies and ideas of your favorite musicians at your fingertips. Nothing is new, and everything has already been played, so true innovation comes from learning the rules and knowing when to improvise.

Improvising vs. Theory…
You can’t find freedom without limitation and restraint. Pure improvisation and pure theoretical playing both create stagnancy. When you learn theory and understand how to improvise, you have unlimited choices. When you’re stuck with one or the other, you become predictable and monotonous. Improvisation inspires passion, theory creates consistency and forward motion. Use both when creating music and you’ll be excited with the results.

Harmonic Overtone Series…
I always teach people about overtones. They are the building blocks of all musical elements… they also dictate the patters we find in architecture, natural structures, physics, art, and other areas of life. It’s a pattern of whole number relationships that are found in all naturally occurring sound waves. The pattern repeats itself into infinity, 1/1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, etc. – and is responsible for everything we do in music. They’ve been there since the beginning of time – and are the closest thing to God/Goddess I have ever directly experienced in life. They’re a key map to learn to further one’s understanding of rhythm, melody and harmony. The philosophical lessons we can garner from them are quite profound.

Song writing…
Don’t let the concept of a perfect song stop you from completing the song writing process. Blocks can be hard to shift if you’re waiting for perfection… my experience has been to complete the song writing process and move forward. Learn from my ‘mis-takes’ and incorporate those into my next song writing experience. Repetition is the mother of perfection… so I always encourage people to finish and then start again, vs. keeping something unfinished forever.

Find musicians at your level or ideally a bit better than you – and make music with them. Exploring how to communicate ideas, work on creating together, and hashing out concepts until they find their natural state of resonance and balance with other people is a great exercise.

Most everyone has performance anxiety. Perform in front of people you know and trust who will love you no matter what at first. Then slowly build up to playing in front of total strangers. Feedback from other people is invaluable. Take it in, but don’t judge it as good or bad, as it’s just their opinion. If someone doesn’t like what you’re doing try to understand why… you can’t please everyone, but negative feedback can be just as helpful as positive stuff when it comes down to refining your art.

Always remember to enjoy yourself, especially when it’s hard and stressful. Music is a gift from the angels… just to have the privelige of making it is something work celebrating constantly!

ipod playlist Interview | YogiTunes Co Founder, Rara Avis, on Music, Playlists & More!

Malia: What do you consider an epic yoga playlist?

Rara Avis: The most epic yoga playlist is capable of responding in-class to what’s happening in the moment, while providing a consistent, safe, reliable container for people to drop deep into their practice with. This can be done with a carefully sequenced series of songs based on an understanding of what provides non-distracting support that drops yogis deeper into communion with themselves and the surrounding environment. The gauge for this is wether or not as a listener you’re having the same experience. If you’re finding yourself distracted then chances are the music isn’t doing it for you either. At YogiTunes we aim to give teachers awesome choices that we’ve found over the years do this consistently. We draw from a wide variety of musical styles, but always listen for distracting elements vs. ones that bring upon a natural state of trance.

headphone meditation 290x290 Interview | YogiTunes Co Founder, Rara Avis, on Music, Playlists & More!

Malia: What are some tips for teachers that are newer to creating playlists for yoga classes?

Rara Avis: Sequence the songs using our recommendation playlists and then practice to it yourself at home. DJ Saraswati is a virtual DJ we’ve created to harness the collective recommendation experience of myself and my two co-founders Craig Kohland and Amani Friend. We’re not saying these are the only choices, but as a new playlist creator you can draw on over 40 collective years of experience DJ-ing, producing, composing and performing music for yoga – often live in-class and for yoga instructional videos.

We wanted to give teachers all that experience which is why we created DJ Saraswati as our offering to teachers looking to find great songs for specific segments of their classes.

You can also look at other teachers you may know and like – see what they’re playing and where in the sequence of songs they put it. Most yoga classes follow an opening, building peak, cool down, relaxation type flow. Sometimes classes will peak twice… but the elements used to create those peaks and cool downs remain consistent. It just depends on what style of songs you like to create the vibe of your classes, so don’t be afraid to express yourself by picking some outrageous peak songs,
or heart felt relaxation songs!

I usually have my songs available during practice so that I can play with the order until it feels right. Very soon we’ll be rolling out a new tool for teachers that allows you to do this from an online streaming portal! (more to be announced about in coming months)

Malia: Thanks Rara for taking the time to educating everyone here at Yoganonymous about and sharing these essential tips for creating yoga playlists. Many blessings to you on this exciting new journey!

Whether you are a yoga teacher, a student or an artist, I encourage you to check out
It’s pretty rad to say the least. Let the yoga music revolution begin!


Original Article from:

Interview of YogiTunes co-founder/CEO Alex King-Harris (aka Rara Avis) by Yoganonymous writer Malia Scott

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