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International Day of Yoga: Favorite Yoga Music

Yoga in Silence, or to Favorite Yoga Music 

Siva, Lord of Yogis, International Day of YogaWhen I attended yoga teacher training, many years ago, my two primary teachers encouraged us to carefully think about what music we would incorporate in our final “teach-in.” My gut reaction: none. Although I had a wide assortment of yoga styles and practices, my yogic roots only focused on the sounds of our breath or nature. Never music. 

Since June 21 is International Day of Yoga, I wanted to remind people that hatha yoga should be introspective, and therefore ideally practiced quietly. However, with the Westernization of yoga, along with the constant new adaptations and styles of physical yoga, it’s normal to have music in yoga classes. 

I get that and try to give people what they want. For that reason, my personal practices are sans music, except for mantra meditations. However, I curated nearly 100 yoga playlists for my wide variety of classes and workshops in the nearly 15 years I’ve been teaching yoga. For example, artists and beats for power or hot yoga will be very different from yin or restorative where I may use a 436 Hz or singing bowl soundtracks. 

Group Kirtan 

Additionally, my blog site features 70 articles about devotional music and mantras categorized under “kirtan and bhakti.” That said, kirtan is far better when done in groups, the larger the better. For example, when I go to Bhakti Fest or similar kirtan festivals there are thousands of people who join in the call-and-response chanting. Actually, most of my travel is geared around kirtan events.  

On the other hand, the Western Kundalini tradition incorporates mantra meditation with every practice. As a Kundalini teacher (among the many styles I lead), I traditionally play mantras throughout the class and for the meditation component, we repeat a short mantra, often with mudras, for three to 12 minutes.

Kundalini Favorite Yoga Music

Granted, given the extensive number and variety of playlists I’ve created, it’s hard to narrow it down to my favorites. Especially since I select each voice and each mantra with care and intention.  

For Kundalini mantras, I’ve always had a preference for female vocalists, maybe because I find it easier to sing along. Among my faves are Jai Jagdeesh, Snatum Kaur, Nirinjan Kaur, Simrit Kaur, and Dev Suroop Kaur, the last of whom wrote a lovely endorsement for my book. If you’re not familiar with the Kundalini culture, women all take the surname Kaur (princess), so these songstresses are only related in the spiritual sense. 

My favorite male voices for Kundalini mantras are GuruGanesha Singh and Girish. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing both. They each have compelling back stories to their turning to mantra music.  The next two that resonate with me are male/female duos. First, is the husband and wife Billboard and Grammy-nominated Aykanna. Second, is Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda. Aside from enjoying the latter’s multiple beautiful CDs, I have attended many workshops with them.

As far as the Kundalini mantras I prefer, join my Chant and Be Happy workshop and find out for yourself!

Kirtan Favorite Yoga Music

bhakti house bandI have been blessed to be able to attend live kirtan with possibly 100 different leaders or bands. The following have touched my heart in special ways. 

When I lived in San Antonio, there was a man who led monthly kirtan at the Quaker Meeting House. Once, he coordinated for his friend, Benji Wertheimer, to lead a concert at our local Unity Temple. Benji is one of the few Americans to play the esraj. Now, his instrumentals with this rare Indian long, narrow, stringed instrument are among my all-time favorites. After his performance, I bought one of his CDs. It was the Hanumen band in which he joins Gaura Vani and Vishvambhar Sheth, two of my other favorites. By the way, Vishvambhar's wife, Vrinda, is the author of one of my top ten yogi books (read next blog post).

Jahnavi Harrison has long been one of my favorite female vocalists. She often joins Gaura Vani to create magic. But, the following are two instances of how her music has unforgettably touched my heart. First, she has a beautiful recording of a prayer that I’ve heard in temples from India to Italy. Second, when I was working in the ashram kitchen in Italy, several of us would belt out her songs as we chopped or scrubbed veggies.  

Back when I lived in Miami, I worked with a very popular Latin recording artist on two occasions.  At my request, Ilan Chester was a spokesperson for two non-profits I represented. Fast forward 25 years and I’m in North Carolina at a spiritual retreat and Havi Prabhu (Ilan) was a surprise guest artist. I was wowed. A few years later, I attended a kirtan workshop with his musician daughter, Dhanya, and her husband Bali Rico, of the Mayapuris band. Gaura Vani and Vishvambhar are also part of the Mayapuris.

 To learn about my ties to and respect for Bhakti House Band, read my book — and view one of my short videos. I feature teachings from the Texan husband/wife duo in my chapter about sacred sound, and silence. Plus, I share some of their incredible personal stories. Kristen has the voice of an angel, while hubby Randall’s deep voice and versatile style remind me of Sean Johnson.

For power, hot yoga, and more dynamic flow, I love Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band. I’ve attended concerts and workshops with Sean in California, Louisiana, Texas, Illinois, and Wisconsin. In fact, my Chant and Be Happy workshops are influenced by his teachings. 

Favorite Yoga Music According to iTunes

The above are my heart-felt faves. On the other hand, the following is created from analytics. According to iTunes, the following are my top ten played songs in alphabetical order. 

  1. “The Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic” by Aykanna
  2. “Ancient Forest” by Esther Garcia
  3. “Power of Prayer” by Nirinjan Kaur
  4. “Heal Ra Ma Da Sa” by Snatum Kaur
  5. “Long Time Sun” by Snatum Kaur
  6. Jaya Bhagavan” by Krishna Das
  7. Om Mani Padme Om” by Namaste
  8. “Magical India” by Namaste
  9. Om Benza Satto Hung” by Deva Premal and Miten
  10. “Beethoven Sonata” by Dr. Andrew Weil

Finally, let me know your favorite yoga tunes, mantras, or musicians.

Somehow, in the I me mine world that we live, emotional and physical well being has escaped the vast majority. The Namaste Counsel encourages simple proven practices to live a healthier and happier life. Any time. Any where. By anyone.
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