Music is the perfect way to set the ambiance in your yoga class or meditation session. It focuses the mind and calms the body – as long as you pick the right kind. There’s a ton of music out there to choose from but we’re here to help. While picking your favorite songs may be subjective, the best music for meditation and yoga tends to have a few things in common.
It’s no secret that music can have a powerful sway over our emotions. The right song at the right moment can have us filled with energy or completely heartbroken. It can leave us smiling or in tears. The right playlist brings out these natural responses to music, allowing us to drop deeper into our body or into a more relaxed state.
Music lowers your body’s cortisol levels, which means it makes you feel more relaxed and less stressed. Cortisol is a stress hormone that wreaks havoc on the body when levels are too high. It can cause a whole host of health issues ranging from weight gain and acne to high blood pressure and fatigue. It’s not something to play around with.
In addition to lowering your cortisol levels, music can have other physiological effects that can change the way you experience your surroundings. The tempo of your tunes can even trigger a faster or slower heart rate, and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
Music can transform your apartment from a city dwelling filled with the blaring sounds of the streets into a jungle hideaway or serene ashram. It can drown out the sounds that distract you from your practice and help you maintain focus. Light a stick of incense and your transformation is complete!
You want your music to improve your meditation practice, not distract you from it. There are a few different aspects to consider when putting together your ideal playlist.
If we’re getting technical, the best music will have a beat that matches your natural resting heart rate, so at roughly 60 beats per minute. If you listen to music with a faster tempo, your heart rate will increase to match the speed of the song. Listening to music with a beat that aligns with your natural resting heart rate, or even a few beats slower, will help your body physically relax, lowering your heart rate and your blood pressure out of the stress zone.
We recommend listening to music without lyrics at all or with lyrics in a different language. There are a couple of reasons behind this. Lyrics can be distracting to your practice. They give you something external to focus on and can pull you out of your flow.
Another thing to be cautious of is the content of your songs. When meditating or practicing yoga, it’s possible to slip into a trance state where you may be more susceptible to suggestion and the songs that you listen to may have more of an effect on you than you realize.
Music can be a masterful manipulator of our emotions. Avoid choosing the songs you have strong emotional ties to for your meditation playlists. If a song makes you think about your family, your ex, or that road trip last summer, you may find it prevents you from getting into your flow state.
Whatever you choose to listen to, be sure to play it at a volume that isn’t disruptive. If you’re teaching a class or leading a guided meditation, you don’t want your students to strain to hear you. If you’re meditating solo, using headphones is typically better and more soothing than blasting your music to cover up ambient noise.
A DOYOUYOGA survey of over ten thousand yoga practitioners found that 70 percent of yogis, ranging from licensed yoga teachers to DIY home-based yogis to amateurs, prefer to listen to meditation music when they’re practicing yoga. Meditation music is specifically designed to help you slip out of your monkey mind and into a meditative headspace, using some of the tools we mentioned above: steady beats and a lack of lyrics.
Sacred chants are another popular meditation tool. Whether you want to chant along or just soak in the sounds of sacred words, they’re a great choice for your meditation and yoga practice. Since they’re usually sung in a different language, you can focus on the sounds, rather than listening along to the words.
Ambient sounds, such as rain falling, and birds chirping, can help create a soothing environment for meditation and yoga. They’re probably the least disruptive music choice as they contain hardly any sounds or lyrics to focus on, so your brain isn’t distracted. Plus, they’re a great way to transform your studio, living room or even subway ride into a peaceful sanctuary.
You’ll see a lot of meditation music out there with binaural beats. They’re a hot topic in the auditory world as they’ve been shown to produce brain waves that can help you de-stress, enhance focus, and improve your mood. You can find tracks that combine binaural beats with other music or ambient soundtracks.
Looking for a great song to relax to? Give Marconi Union’s “Weightless” a listen during your next session. This song was composed in conjunction with neuroscientists to reduce anxiety by 65 percent and lower your physiological resting rates by about 35 percent.