One of my absolute favorite things to do on my “rest days” is some gentle yoga accompanied by the perfect background music. It’s extremely relaxing and allows me to get into that mind-healthy, meditative “zone” while still giving my body time to recover from my more strenuous strength training and spinning sessions that I do for my normal workouts.
I usually have two yoga/rest days per week, and while my DVD picks can vary, I do tend to constantly come back to one DVD in particular; I also tend to pair said DVD with some favorite albums that, I feel, really enhance the ambience and take a simple yoga routine from mere fitness into a really amazing, enjoyable experience.
So read on to see my top yoga background music picks as well as the DVD & general moods that I like to pair them with!
My number one pick for sheer, gentle relaxation – and also probably the first DVD I’d recommend to yoga newbies who want to try some easy-yet-effective routines – is Sara Ivanhoe’s Candlelight Yoga. This Crunch Fitness-produced DVD features two workouts: one “energizer” intended for busy people to squeeze it at the start of their day (it’s only about 13 minutes long and includes a “wake up” mudra) or as a warm-up before longer routines or other exercise, and a longer, ~40-minute practice focused on flexibility and relaxation. I particularly like the longer routine because it features poses that help to stretch and open all parts of your body, as well as some balancing postures (which, you’ll notice, get significantly easier the more you strengthen your abs – it’s a nice way to note progress in that area) and guided breathing. I’ve been doing this DVD for almost ten years (it was released in 2002!) and I personally feel that not only has it not aged at all (beyond some outdated fashion, of course – cultural appropriation chic was not a good look), it’s still just as effective and useful even as my own flexibility has evolved. I have a terrible memory, so I’ll always need the cueing you get from a DVD like this – however, sometimes I do catch myself just completely flowing through the postures while only barely being aware of Sara’s voice. This DVD is, to me, the equivalent of your favorite hoodie – it may be old, but it’s still comfortable and you just feel great when you wear it.
One of my favorite aspects of this particular DVD is that you can select to have the audio be instructor-only. I really wish that more workout DVDs had this as an option! While the default music is nice and inoffensive, I don’t want to listen to it for years and years, you know?
That said, here are my favorite albums to play in the background when I’m doing a Candlelight Yoga session:
Apollo, by Brian Eno – This album is older than I am, but it’s not dated at all, IMO. If you’re a fan of the ambient background music that you can find in sci-fi video games (think Ilos from the Mass Effect OST, the Eldan theme from Wildstar Online, or the bgm from DCUO’s HIVE Moonbase Alert (I can’t find a video featuring just the audio track for this, but here’s a video where you can hear it as the player looks for the investigations/briefings), you’ll love this CD – it’s probably safe to say that a lot of the aforementioned BGM were somehow influenced by Apollo, after all.
Best used when you’re doing a late night yoga session – turn off all the lights or go outside and practice under the stars with this as your soundtrack. It’s pure sci-fi satisfaction.
The Art of the Koto, Vol. 1 by Nanae Yoshimura – if you enjoy koto music, this is a great album and just the right length to accompany the longer practice. Clear, sparse, with gorgeous melodies and some pleasant vocals, I find this wonderful as the BGM for when I want to really soothe my overactive mind. Focusing on each note as you breathe deeply and evenly through the postures will help even the more ADD among us to feel like our minds are, for once, getting some rest.
When I’m feeling like it, I’ll celebrate the end of my koto-fueled yoga session with an ounce or two of some sake. Hah, I know that’s probably not a common recommendation – alcohol post-yoga – but to me, sake is so refreshing, especially on hot and humid summer days. Green tea works too, of course, if you can drink it (I can’t – I’m part of the minority where it actually causes breakouts due to how it effects my hormones). My favorite was the green tea with puffed rice, aka genmaicha.
If you’re looking for something chilled out but with vocals, I like the Buddha Bar series. My personal favorite is Buddha Bar XV: A Chill Wind from Russia. From the official description: Take a journey to these unexplored territories; walk through Russia from east to west and from North to South to the sweet sounds of Russian traditional instruments and vocals. The first CD, acoustic and enchanting, will take you through the steppe, listening Bliss, Yasmine Hamdan, Thor. The second CD, more infused with electronic music, will immerse you in Russia’s warm nights with artists such as Dim Vach or Sean Bay.
Another Brian Eno album, Ambient 4: On Land combines evocative ambient music with sounds of nature. It’s basically what all those mall-kiosk “natural music” companies wish they could be, haha. This album is all about capturing certain moments and places and interpreting them via sound.For me, this one is best used in the early morning, when you’re doing your yoga routine just as the sun is coming up or within a few hours of sunrise.
If the sun is still light and gentle, the breeze is soft, and birds are chirping through your open window, you’ve hit the perfect dynamic for this particular album/workout combo.
My last selection might seem rather unconvential as yoga bgm, but it’s something I use pretty often and so I’d be remiss if I didn’t include it. good kid, m.a.a.d. city by Kendrick Lamar was pretty huge, so you’ve probably heard of it (and him) if you pay any attention to rap music at all. The entire album – with the exception of one or two songs – has a low-key vibe, and Kendrick’s voice is one those that’s just so pleasurable to listen to that I could make the classic “I’d listen to him read the dictionary!” joke and be totally honest. He layers his own vocals with those of Sonnymoon’s Anna Wise in many of the tracks and the effect is really cool (too bad Sonnymoon, from what I’ve heard, isn’t really my thing, because Anna’s voice is great). The album also tells a very compelling story over its course: the narrative is strong and clear and definitely makes listening to the album in one session a good choice.
On a more personal note, I was having a really rough time emotionally a few months ago and, for whatever reason, good kid m.a.a.d. city was pretty much my lifeline. I can’t even explain why, but something about the entire feeling that you get from this album was reassuring and provided a musical respite for me during that time. So admittedly, pairing this with a stress-releasing yoga routine may make more sense to me personally for that reason. But still, give it a shot!
Try this when you’re feeling like a simple workout would bore you; this will give you excellent lyrics and a thoughtful story to focus on so that you can get through your routine without succumbing to boredom.Plus it’s just such a damn good album, what can I say?
I hope that you find my recommendations useful – I find that sometimes, changing up the music I’m listening to during a workout can make all the difference – it can provide motivation and energy where I previously had none, or in really exceptional cases, it can create a perfect marriage with the exercise endorphins and give you a total slice of bliss for the workout’s duration.
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