When I first started teaching yoga I used a prescribed class format that I learned in my teacher training, music that every other teacher played, and the same fluffy language I had heard for years. My first 50, maybe 100 classes or so went something like this: Play lots of the XX while running through 5 sun a’s, 5 sun b’s, core work, two standing series, some backbends, wind-down stretches, and savasana, all the while telling everyone to swan dive forward and shine their heart to the sky. Vomit. Eventually I got tired of offering the same regurgitated shit and kind of just went rogue experimenting with non-traditional sequencing and playing music that made my soul smile. What a turning point for me in my teaching. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t but by doing so I’ve learned a lot about who I am as an instructor. I think it’s really crucial for all instructors to go through this phase and just try new things, see what clicks, and what makes them happy. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about music a lot lately. I was very lucky to grow up in a house with parents who FUCKING LOVED music. Something was always playing—whether it was Chaka Khan, the Rolling Stones, or Beethoven there was always, always, always music on. I have such a deep rooted love and appreciation for music and it didn’t really dawn on me until I was much older that most people did not grow up like this. Music, unlike any other medium, has the ability to take you right back to a specific moment in your life. It triggers emotions and conjures up feelings like nothing else I’ve experienced. As an instructor I recognize this great power that the soundtrack to our practice possesses. The interesting thing is that the same song can mean such different things to different people so you never really know what emotion you’re triggering and you have to be ready for anything. I’ve had people both crack up and bust out crying in my classes. Music is so, so powerful and we can choose to ignore that by playing earthy, chanty, or electronic songs throughout the practice, or of course silence. Little else bothers me more than a silent yoga class. I get it. I get the point of it. I get why we listen to our breath. I KNOW. I still don’t like it and it’s OK to be honest with your feelings. I do practice in silence sometimes because I am aware of the benefits and the fact that I probably need to face my thoughts down on my mat occasionally, but it doesn’t make me an immature or bad yogi because I still don’t fucking like it. Mostly I just get so much joy out of flowing to my jams. Every practice doesn’t have to be a chore and a mental challenge to work through. Sometimes you can make it FUN and play music you like! Say what?! Why do we feel the need to be so frriiiggggiiinnnggg serious all the time? Sometimes I just wanna flow to Whitney and not think about my problems. It’s a proven fact that you cannot be sad, angry, or stressed out when you are chaturanga-ing to How Will I Know. It’s just yoga science. Every now and then I teach a serious class—when it feels right or appropriate, but most of the time I just want people to have fun. There is so much seriousness in life that I want to provide them with a 60 or 75 minute reprieve of happiness. My hope is that people leave my class with a smile on their face and feeling just a little cheerier than when they stepped in. I purposefully choose each and every song and pick my language in a way that is both powerful enough to provide a challenge, yet still lighthearted to remind people that it’s just yoga. Embrace the challenge, find the moments of joy, and surrender when you need to. Yoga teaches us to find our true selves and to meet that self with acceptance. What greater way to accept myself than to be true to who I am, what I love, and share it with my classes? This is my yoga. Teaching what is real in my heart has brought me so much happiness and fulfillment. I’m still finding my way as an instructor but knowing that music is what makes my soul come alive, I promise there will always be a badass playlist in my classes! What is it about the practice of yoga that makes you the happiest? What actually turns your frown upside down? :) What excites you? As a yoga instructor, constantly ask yourself these questions to help refine your teaching, and as a practitioner do the same! Try new styles, new teachers, new studios. Soak up all of the goodness! Namaste and rock on yogis!