The idea for this post was actually born during yoga teacher training. A group of us were discussing how we were agonizing over our playlists for the classes we’d teach as our final projects, at the end of the course. Of course, we wanted to get every song just so, pick music that complemented particular sequences of postures, and express our unique tastes, while also remaining accessible. We probably put too much pressure on ourselves. I mentioned to my friends that I really wanted to include a rather unorthodox selection for a yoga class, a piece by Tool. (In my defense, lots of Tool songs have a rhythmic, repetitive groove and chant-like vocals that feel meditative, at least to me.)
“I hope the song isn’t Prison Sex,” one of my friends said jokingly. We began riffing on the idea, suggesting increasingly horrible musical maneuvers, like using the song as savasana music. I liked the idea, since I like the humor of incongruity. Periodically, another inappropriate yoga song will occur to me.
Of course, what constitutes good yoga music is entirely subjective and dependent on individual taste, much like standards of good music in general. Still, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most yoga teachers would eschew putting the following songs on as light background music while their students settle into pigeon pose. Some of the following selections are good music, just not good for a yoga class, and some of them are just awful in general.
–Stealers Wheel, “Stuck in the Middle With You”
When you first hear it, this might seem like a happy, clappy, lite-seventies-rock kind of song, actually not that out of place in a yoga class. However, many, many people will associate this song with a famous scene from the movie Reservoir Dogs, which involves one man cutting a captive man’s ear off and otherwise tormenting him, as “Stuck in the Middle” plays in the background. These are probably not the kind of associations you would want to invoke in your students during yoga.
–Alanis Morissette, “You Oughta Know”
This song is definitely a ’90s alt-rock classic, and a famously angry, edgy performance by a female musician. If yoga students listened to this song of Alanis Morissette berating her ex-boyfriend, on the other hand, their minds might start to drift into the angry space of recalling prior romantic partners who had wronged them in a similar way. Normally people come to yoga to feel free of hurtful memories, and not to luxuriate in them.
As many people have already shown, “Wrecking Ball” is highly, unintentionally comedic, and lends itself to endless parody, including many videos of people falling down to the soundtrack of this song. Probably this song would be worst of all to play during a difficult balancing sequence, or when students are struggling to get into headstand. Terrible.
This is actually a fabulous song, but one of the most bleakly depressing I’ve found. Its lyrics include statements like, “Love will save you from the corruption of your lazy-minded soul, And love will save you from your selfish and distorted goals, But it won’t save me.” Arguably, the message of most yoga classes is basically that love will save you, so this might jar against that a little.
–Slayer, “Skeletons of Society”
Eh, who am I kidding. If this ever came on in a yoga class I was taking, I’d vinyasa like I’d never vinyasa’d before. Sun salutations to this would just be exhausting, though.
–John Mayer, “Your Body is a Wonderland”
I’ve always found John Mayer to have an off-putting, douchey/creepy vibe, but the idea of this as an inappropriate yoga song is also blatantly yoinked from teacher training. Imagine the awkward feelings if this schmaltzy bedroom tune were to come on during savasana.
I actually feel ashamed of having looked this up on Youtube. I’m not entirely positive, but I think there may be a hidden sexual reference somewhere in these lyrics, which include the repeated injunction to “blow my whistle, baby.” This song definitely proves that sometimes subtle is more sexy, and is inappropriate for just about anywhere.
In “E.T.,” Katy Perry demonstrates that awkwardly explicit sexual references are not solely the province of men. The lyrics “Imma disrobe you, then imma probe you” probably don’t resound well with the idea of the yoga studio as a safe space, where the only probing that’s done is hopefully limited to the mental and spiritual sort. To add insult to injury (at least for grammar nazis like me), Katy Perry refers to being from “a whole ‘nother world.”
Haha. Almost too obvious. The over-the-top aggression in “Bodies” is perfect for the weight room or for hitting the heavy bag, but maybe not for moving gently and mindfully with the breath. Maybe “let the bodies hit the floor” is just supposed to indicate to your students that you’re moving into a series of prone backbends?
Another good song, but definitely among the most uncomfortable to listen to. Dissonant and heavy even for the Sex Pistols, this song centers around a mentally troubled fan of the band who had had several abortions.
….I could go on and on, but you get the idea. I’m all for throwing in unexpected and tongue-in-cheek musical selections from time to time in a yoga class, but music, being the universal medium that it is, can definitely take us to some very dark places, or simply be over-commercialized and awful. Proceed with caution, and, as with everything else, know your audience. If you think of any other hilariously inappropriate songs for yoga, let me know!
One thought on “Songs That Are Perhaps Inappropriate for Yoga”
haha! this was funny to think about, trish. i personally could vinyasa to several tool songs happily. and what could be a better idea that doing the 26 & 2 to 46 & 2? 😉 like you, i recognize that music is subjective and each teacher has their preferences, but i’d like something different than dave matthews and that new “somewhere over the rainbow” occasionally.