The Ellie Bernstein Method of Making Yoga Playlists.

Making a playlist for yoga can be time consuming, frustrating, fun, and basically all of the feelings. When you teach really often sometimes it can feel like a burden coming up with fresh tunes. Fortunately music is one of my passions so it’s always been a fun activity for me. I’ve spent hours and hours and hours compiling and organizing music in my both my iTunes library and Spotify playlists. I create several new playlists every week– one for my row+flow class, one for my vinyasa classes and one for my weekly hip hop flow class. I build up quite a number of these playlists–all dated and organized in my music libraries..I even share my playlists publicly on my Spotify account (Eleanor Reed) and date them so people who have taken my classes can refer back or other teachers I work with can borrow them. And then…every January 1st….I delete all of my playlists. Start fresh. New beats. Who wants to use the same damn playlists over and over? There’s nothing worse than walking into your favorite teacher’s class and hearing the same fucking playlist over and over and over. Anyway, here is a bit of advice I gave some coworkers of mine on how I make playlists. Take the tidbits that work for you and make your playlists your own. Enjoy the process. <3


57-59 mins for an hour class because you never really start the music right away. Give them a chance to breathe for a minute or so in the quiet.
First 2 songs are non-lyrical, with a smooth good beat. I like Blackmill and Bonobo a lot for the opening of class. Like a super chill dub step.

Next song or two, depending on the length and the plan for class start to pick up pace a bit and can add in some words. Usually the fourth song is a really exciting one for me. As we start to build heat and momentum, think of something random, yet awesome that every time you hear it makes you happy. This past week I used Prince’s Little Red Corvette. Other songs I’ve used are the Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams, Chaka Khan’s Aint Nobody, Thelma Houston’s Don’t Leave Me This Way. You get the idea. Something fun, not too familiar but one where people will be like YES THIS SONG FUCKING RULES.

I keep building up until about the 45 minute mark. I alternate songs between lyrical and electronic. It’s not always necessarily one and then the other, you have to listen to what makes sense. But after a song or especially if you have two songs back to back that are lyrical and familiar and really upbeat, throw in an electronic song with a steady beat. Tycho is is Moby. I have a whole folder in my iTunes library of just these songs so when I’m making a playlist I can kind of just pull them out easily.

I usually pick about 3-5 really badass songs that most people know. I really love classic rock so I use a lot of Pearl Jam, RHCP, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits, Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones, Nico, Lou Reed, Jimi…. and a ton more. I basically just pull about 3-5 songs that I’m jamming out to that week and throw them in the playlist and build around them. Here’s the thing…If you are pumped up by the music, it will reflect in your teaching. Whenever I feel like ass I just pull up a tried and true super fun playlist and boom I am good to go. Interweave the electronic songs in there—don’t go wild with the songs you’ve picked. Remember you don’t want the “christmas everyday” effect.

So it’s like an arc…just like your class. You bring them up, then you bring them down. Now you don’t want to depress them. Is there anything worse than laying in pigeon and listening to a super sappy song? I mean I hate that shit. Avoid break-up songs. I really like an unexpected cover song toward the end of class—there are a few really great ones out there. Chet Faker’s No Diggity—i tend to use that one in the opening more actually, My Morning Jacket has a KICKASS version of Rocket Man…you get the picture.

Have a song before savasana that could work in savasana in a pinch. Sometimes you end early. No one in the history of time has ever complained of savsasana being too long. Let them be, let the music roll. If all goes according to plan it’s just super chill music before savasana.

No words during savasana, unless it’s mantra. Too distracting. Classical music can get funky…though I LOOOOOVE Philip Glass. Haunting, beautiful-he just rocks. I use a lot of tibetan singing bowls or nature-y sounds.

Try to make your playlist and leave it the F alone. Just let it play. Don’t plan specific songs to specific postures…sometimes it’ll work that way and other times it won’t, but a yoga class is not like rowing or spinning…there’s nothing worse than a teacher fuddling with the music the whole time. It’s my pet peeve. I went to a workshop with one of those “rockstar yogis” once and she was just effing around with the music the whole time and it was SO distracting and all I could think of was like, wow this bitch is SO unprepared.

And whatever you do, for the love of all that is holy…please don’t ever put John Mayer on a yoga playlist. As my dad would say…gag me with a spoon. wink emoticon

Also!! Always listen to a song to the very end before you add it to your playlist. How many times have I listened to a song for like 45 seconds and thought—perfect! And then it turns into some super weird shit…. always listen to the whole song. I always also listen to the whole thing before I decide it’s complete. Like I close my eyes and play each song for about 15 seconds in order to make sure it flows. Sometimes you have to go back and switch some around because it sounds wrong. I can’t explain why, it’s just a feeling. The more you make them, the easier it gets, the more this will all make sense!