As you may know, last week we held a special event at Bend Yoga when Molly Tighe, PSO Archives Consultant and Bend Yoga instructor, taught yoga to a soundtrack of classical music. In preparation for the class, Molly helped me create a playlist that would help us stay focused and mirror our level of exertion as we moved from pose to pose.
We began the class by warming up to Ravel’s musical portrait of morning, “Lever du jour” (“Daybreak”) from Daphnis et Chloé. Next we moved to the slightly more upbeat “Prélude” from Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque and built up our energy so that we could flow through poses, or vinyasa, during the quick and lively “Allegro con brio” from Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 6 in B-flat Major. (Watch Beethoven Vinyasa to see Molly demonstrate a vinyasa series.) After peaking in energy during the Beethoven, we continued to flow during animated, but less intense, movements from string quartets by Ravel and Borodin.
As she reflected on the first part of the session, Molly said, “I liked starting it off a little slow. The first piece was wonderful. It was literally like waking up, and it was nice to wake up our bodies that way. It was nice to move up to the peak with Beethoven, do some vinyasas, get our bodies moving, and keep it peppy and active. Then it worked well to do the Ravel and Borodin and move from our most active building up of heat into a more steady, grounded, focused practice. Once we got warmed up it was nice to have a practice that wasn’t about moving all the time.” (Check out Borodin Headstand if you’d like to see Molly practice yoga to Borodin.)
After the Borodin, the music calmed down considerably while we did postures, like backbends, that required us to test our strength and balance. We played a number of selections with slower tempi and softer dynamics, and many of these selections also were for solo instruments. This reduced the intensity of the music because as Molly remarked, “You want to be able to maintain a calm and steady focus while doing things that might be challenging. The softer, steadier music provided support. It’s nice to have outside music to help soothe the mind while doing something physically active that is demanding and can be seen as a little scary. I especially loved the Satie [“Gymnopédie No. 3”] and Yo-Yo Ma [“Courante” from Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major by J. S. Bach]. They’re soft, pretty, and comforting, which is a nice part of the practice when doing inversions and backbends.”
Finally, Molly noted that, “As we moved into the cool down and the music turned sweeter and more restful, that paired well with what we were doing as we settled into all of the work we did in the practice and calmed down.” After moving through gradually gentler and slower music, we ended with silence during the final relaxation, savasana.
Overall, the playlist worked very well. We only ran into one issue—that it was too short. To fix this, we added one more cool down song, Chopin’s “Berceuse Op. 57,” to the playlist. Click here to listen to the Berceuse and the rest of the playlist on Spotify. When listening, pay particular attention to how musical characteristics like BPM, instrumentation, and dynamics reflect the progression and flow of a typical yoga class. As Molly noted, the structured playlist helped us through this flow by supporting us as we “woke up, warmed up, got moving, and did some steady challenging postures, like backbends.”
If you missed last week’s class and would like to try out the playlist in a group exercise setting, you should stop by Bend Yoga in the near future. When I asked Molly if she would play classical music again, she responded, “I’d like to use this playlist a few more times—as long as my students don’t get tired of it. I think it helped them focus a bit. I think people liked it, and it helped them follow along with the pacing of the class.” Molly teaches at Bend Yoga from 7:15-8:15 a.m. every Wednesday, and she will share the playlist with the other instructors at Bend Yoga as well, so even if you can’t make her class you might still hear the playlist if you work with another instructor at the studio!