How to Create a Playlist to Inspire Your Practice
A well-curated list of tunes may be exactly what you need to show up, and keep from cutting your practice short. Sure, it takes some forethought, but having that perfect song come on right when your brain is telling your body to give up is well worth it. And who doesn’t want to dance in chair pose when your throwback jam comes on? (By the way, if you’re saying “me” right now… loosen up, my friend.) Lastly, having tunes crafted for that day’s type of yoga session or workout holds you accountable. If the playlist’s duration is 1 hour, and full of hand-selected songs you want to move, stretch, or breathe to, you won’t cheat yourself. And that electronic song with too many beats per minute won’t be rudely interrupting your “wind down” anymore.
Here are my go-to steps for curating an epic playlist:
1. Choose Your Moves. First, decide what kind of movement practice you will be doing so that the music choices are appropriate and uplifting. While sourcing songs, you may find it easier to create an entire series of playlists at once. That way, you’ll have a go-to HIIT, vinyasa, run, and yin playlist, or others that suit your style, for whenever the mood (moves?) strike.
2. Start Listening for Songs. I’m the girl that Shazaam’s when a convertible passes me by while blaring a great beat (last week it was a Panjabi MC song I had totally forgotten about!). No matter where you are, anytime you hear a song that makes your hips sway or relaxes your inner angst, throw it into a catchall folder in Spotify. I have a playlist called “Vinyasa Dump”- the name seems quite weird now that I am telling everyone, but I wanted to “dump” all the potential flow songs I came across into one place; the spur of the moment title seemed fitting. I add to this list constantly, whether I am actively searching for music or come across a great tune while out and about. I also have ones titled “Mellow Flow”, “Restorative”, and “Sweat it Out”- three more catchall playlists. When I want to curate a new compilation, I can comb through hundreds of songs I’ve already hand-selected.
3. Utilize Spotify’s Suggestions. When you carve out time and begin going down the rabbit hole of finding new music, use the platform’s music and artist suggestions to simplify the search. If the playback toggle is selected in your account, similar songs will come on after your playlist ends. More rabbit holes, more content. And remember, if you hear a great restorative song while you’re putting together a run mix, throw it in a general “Chill Out” playlist for later use.
4. Time Management. As I’m creating a new playlist for a specific occasion, I’m staying aware of the session’s movement progression. I know if I need a 90-minute vinyasa playlist, I am going to have the obvious tunes that make you want to flow, as well as some great wind down songs. I generally put all the songs into the folder, while keeping an eye on the playlist’s total duration. If the mix is for you and your workout, set the duration for the exact time you want to practice. If it is for a class, I suggest making it approximately ten minutes less than the class length. This will account for introductions as well as a few minutes at the end, sans music, for a post-savasana meditation.
5. Perfect the Arrangement. When the playlist length is just about right, begin arranging the songs. Think of where you will be throughout your session. For example, in my flow classes, the songs at the beginning are mellow. However, they don’t put you to sleep. They make you want to move your body and start to wake up. Gradually, I get into songs with the right number of beats per minute to inspire movement with breath. This is where we flow. Words, no words, I like it all. Everyone has opinions on this- my thought is do what makes you jazzed.
Toward the second half of practice, when the body is warm and we are doing more static holds, I ditch the boom, boom, boom staccato beats. They can get overwhelming when you’re holding a pose and focusing on alignment. I still keep the music upbeat… though it becomes somewhat smoother. Lastly, I taper the intensity all the way to restorative music to prepare for savasana. Even if you are going to hit it hard at the gym, when you’re just warming up and getting limber, you probably don’t want any spastic tunes blasting in your ears. Build up to your iron-pumping or sprints. And make sure you squeeze in songs that inspire a well-deserved stretch.
6. Give It a Name that Sparks Joy. I love naming my playlists. Like a good mix tape from the 90’s, there is a lot of creativity and emotion that surrounds a compilation, but without all that teenage angst. I don’t know if it’s the helpless writer in me, or not, but all of my playlist names speak to where I am in life. I have ones titled “The Other Side of the Earth” (I lived in Australia), “Connect the Dots” (inspired by Steve Job’s famous quote), “Perfectly Imperfect”, and dozens more. Let these babies spark joy.
Purpose, encouragement, hope, and intention- it’s all in there. Goodbye tired tunes. Hello inspired practice.