Yoga might be an ancient art, but the 5,000-year-old practice remains as essential to modern life as ever. Yogis throughout the world enjoy both the physical and emotional benefits from yoga, which is thought to be calming and restorative. But that doesn’t mean the soundtrack to accompany it has to be.
While soothing, ambient sounds—like Tibetan singing bowls and chimes, and the serene tones of nature—tend to comprise the traditional yoga soundtrack, some 21st-century practitioners have begun to think outside the box. In fact, when we dug into common unexpected genres found on yoga playlists, we found that pop, hip-hop, rock, R&B, and reggae are being used to inspire yoga practices. For some, yoga is no longer just about mastering asanas (postures), but taking the opportunity to get creative and expressive with the right beats to match.
“There is a growing interest globally on the impact certain music has on performance,” says Dr. Amanda Krause, a psychologist and Research Fellow at The University of Melbourne, Australia, who specializes in the social and applied psychology of music. “We refer to it in the industry as ‘musical fit,’ where the type of music you feel ‘fits’ an activity creates an impact on the way you physically react.”
“A person’s judgement of musical fit relates to their listening preferences, environment, and goal for certain practices,” Amanda explains. “For example, with yoga, the variety of music is chosen with regard to how it helps timing, focus, and motivation, which in turn enhances your overall performance.”
People aren’t just enjoying the unexpected and non-traditional music when practicing yoga, they’re potentially getting performance benefits from it, too. And more than ever—there’s been an 11% increase in yoga playlist streams year-over-year—they’re turning to one of Spotify’s 2.4 million user-generated, yoga-inspired playlists to stream while in downward dog.
“While music has always been a huge part of our lives, the advent of streaming has made it even more so, to the point that nowadays we even shape our yoga practice around it,” says Julie Stevanja, Stylerunner CEO.
“This evolution of using music as the base of our practice has almost become a yoga style of its own. It’s all about tapping into our subconscious, which music allows us to do more freely. Upbeat songs make poses stronger and more dynamic, while relaxing tunes can help us feel more grounded in our resting poses.”
If you’re looking to spice up your own yoga playlist, look no farther than some of the top streamed songs on yoga playlists around the world—from Toronto to Bali—and as you can see from this list, music of all types is being played in the yoga studio.
11. Sia – Breathe Me
For many modern yogis, music is fun and motivating; for others, silence is still golden. No matter your preference or style, it’s clear that traditional yoga music is now anything but.