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Advice from a Yoga Instructor: Selecting Music to Inspire Your Yoga

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As a yoga instructor, an important part of my job is creating the perfect playlist. A key component of establishing a yoga practice and enjoying it is finding the right music to relax, inspire, push, and support you.

Different points of a yoga class involve building heat and flexibility, and eventually taking rest and restorative poses; this guide illustrates how the soundtrack to your yoga practice must follow the rhythm and flow of your movements.

Each class structure has a unique vibe that calls for different levels of energy, power, and mood. I teach vinyasa yoga, which is a class involving multiple “flows,” or sequences of poses. In vinyasa yoga, each class focuses on building heat gradually and increasing strength and flexibility over an hour-long practice.

While some vinyasa classes may involve core-targeted sequences or more fast-paced queuing in order to increase your heart rate, others may be slower and focus more on holding postures to build strength. Thus, different styles of vinyasa may require different types of music.

For example, in a faster-paced, more core-focused Hot Vinyasa class, artists like Gallantis and Kanye West will be more inspiring and enjoyable. On the other hand, a slower, more strength-focused Blend Vinyasa class requires a centering, slower-paced ODESZA beat or even Maggie Rogers.

First and foremost, it’s important to address this “build-up” of energy and what kind of music this requires. Many studios will start most, if not all, of their classes with a “sacred space.” This usually entails 3-5 minutes of mindfulness and meditation, allowing students to begin class in a restful pose.

Many instructors use this point in class to set a theme or intention, maybe starting with a personal anecdote to lead into a broader meaning or just reminding students to move with intention and come back to the breath when the practice becomes difficult.

A general rule for sacred space is to never play songs that have words or concrete lyrics, as this point in class is a crucial time for students to ground themselves in the space and find stillness and mindfulness without the distraction of song lyrics.

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My favorite go-to sacred space song is “LBL” by Cospe because the beat is soothing but it isn’t too slow to the point that students would fall asleep or drift off from my words. Another favorite is “Light Blue” by UTAH because it is also a soothing beat, but it is slightly more energetic and creates almost a sunny aura in the room. The way I set sacred space depends on the type of class.

While in a morning Hot Vinyasa class, I may use an upbeat song like “Wilder” by Homsey or “Daylight” by Beauvois. In a slower, afternoon Blend Vinyasa class, I may use a more calming melody like “Chihiro” by Yoste or “Orange Sky – Instrumental” by Sol Rising to give students more of a chance to settle in.

Though this may seem like a lot of thought put into only the first four minutes of class, these first four minutes ultimately set the tone for the entire hour. The song choice in sacred space will signify if the next hour will be rigorous, edgy, and elated, or more comforting, slow, and peaceful.

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Sun Salutation A’s (or “Surya Namaskara A” in Sanskrit) are the next piece to the heat build-up of vinyasa classes. These are the first flow of a vinyasa class and are the same every time. I like to call them our “yoga jumping jacks,” and use songs that are upbeat and almost impossible not to move to.

My favorites to use are:

Better Not – Acoustic by Louis the Child

-The Little Things – Kasbo Remix by Big Gigantic

Anything For You by Chelsea Cutler

Starlight by Jai Wolf

Easy Loving You (with Kamille) by SG Lewis

In this way, students can gradually build heat to it. Sun A’s are also a great way to wake students up and get them excited about moving.

My favorite energetic Sun A’s are:

Good Nights (feat. Mascolo) by Whethan

IPlayYouListen by ODESZA

Right Where You Should Be (feat. Ashe & Louis Futon) by Quinn XCll

I love these songs because they are cheery and warm. Sun A’s can be a great way to set the tone; some teachers may add in a mini power flow or extra chaturangas to jumpstart a more rigorous class.

Music selection during Sun B’s should signify that students will start to up the ante in their practice. For a Blend class, the first round of a Sun B flow will be slower, and poses will be held for longer. Even then, I still choose music that’s faster than Sun A’s and keeps students in the mindset to sweat.

Some of my favorite Sun B’s for Blend (and sometimes Hot Vinyasa, depending on the day) are:

-Lovers in Japan – Osaka Sun Mix by Coldplay

-Don’t Move by Phantogram

-Moon by Kid Francescoli

-Anywhere u go by Tove Lo.

In a Hot Vinyasa class, some instructors may choose to play songs that are more fast-paced sooner during Sun B’s because the “one breath per movement” pace is usually set by the first round of the flow. 

My go-tos are:

-Call on Me – Ryan Riback Remix by Starley

-Places We Don’t Know by Kasbo

-Do You Mean (feat. Ty Dolla $ign & bülow) – Myon Remix by The Chainsmokers

-Fire (Viceroy Remix) by VHS Collection

-Mother’s Daughter by Miley Cyrus

-Aftergold (feat. Tove Styrke) by Big Wild

The artist ODESZA is one of my ultimate favorite artists and go-tos to play during class. Some amazing songs by them include:

-Across the Room (feat. Leon Bridges)

-Higher Ground (feat. Naomi Wild)

-Sun Models (feat. Madelyn Grant)

-A Moment Apart

-Always This Late

Core is a section of class that can be tricky. You want a song that will motivate you and make you want to work harder, but you also want to keep the mood light and fun. Some songs I typically use are:

-Run It Up by DDG

-Kiss It Better – R3hab Remix by Rihanna

-Go Off by M.I.A

-Love$ick (feat. A$ap Rocky)” by Mura Masa

Sometimes instructors use the beat of the song to do repeated movements on timed breath queues, as this makes the core work feel more like dancing than forced exercise. In many cases, a fast-paced beat or high-intensity melody will inspire you to give it your all.

Next up are either Sun C’s or longer holding poses. In Hot Vinyasa, Sun C’s will be the fastest-paced and most rigorous flows of class. They involve big, difficult pose transitions including balancing poses and core strengtheners, so they require some dance-party-esque music to help empower students through their practice.

I usually use:

– Say My Name (feat. Zyra) – RAC Mix by ODESZA

-I Got U by Duke Dumont

-Nights With You – Cheat Codes Remix by

-Water Me by Lizzo

-Midnight City by M83.

Any song by Galantis, like “True Feeling” or “Firebird,” is also great for re-energizing yourself after core. In Hot Vinyasa, Sun C’s are followed by Logs, longer holding poses, or mobility work. 

However, in Blend Vinyasa, there are no Sun C’s; after core or inversion work, students will go straight into longer holding poses or mobility work. For both Hot and Blend Vinyasa, I’ll start Logs off with upbeat music that is slower-paced but keeps the tone optimistic, such as songs like:

-Glad He’s Gone by Tove Lo

-Safe by Bay Ledges

-Closer by POWERS

-Glitter by BENEE

-Explosions by The Mary Onettes

As students get deeper into these longer-held poses, I’ll then transition into songs that are still upbeat but have a more inspirational tone to help push them through. For example, songs like:

-Falls (feat. Sasha Sloan) by ODESZA

-Fallingwater by Maggie Rogers

-GIRL by Maren Morris

-Good Things Fall Apart (with Jon Bellion) by ILLENIUM

All these songs have empowering melodies and lyrics.

When I queue the option for students to close their eyes in order to help them accept and settle into a pose that they’re holding for a long time, songs like these help students ground themselves and recommit to their breath.

The yin portion of the class is imperative in determining how students will feel walking out of the studio. Intentional tone is super important in setting this restful mood. Students may settle into their final place of rest either feeling warm-hearted and invigorated or sentimental and open. This is all determined by the end-of-class song choice.

For a more soothing ending, I like to use:

-Freight Train by Sara Jackson-Holoman

-Ghosts by On An On

-The City Limit by Umbrellas.

For a more sentimental or emotional experience, I’ll use:

– Scott Street by Phoebe Bridges

– Everyday Life by Coldplay

-Fade Into You by Mazzy Star

– First Winter by Wrabel

– Big Black Car by Gregory Alan Isakov. 

Finally, most yogis will end their practice in Savasana, or “final rest.” This part of class is probably one of the hardest, as we as humans have an impossible time finding a happy medium of not sleeping but staying still, being mindful, and keeping our eyes closed. Before I started teaching yoga, I had never meditated and didn’t understand the appeal of music without lyrics. 

Now, I’ve found a new appreciation for melodies that can stand alone and still be beautiful. Songs like:

Cloud Speed by Sad Souls

-Inside by East Forest

-Faith’s Hymn by Beautiful Chorus

Chasing Cloud Nine by LUCHS

-Lunar Rainbow by Eskimotion

These songs will put you into almost a hypnotic trance because they’re so soothing and gorgeous.

Over time, learning in my own practice to balance the yin and the yang and just accept rest has shown me how essential it is to provide that safe and relaxing space for others. It may seem counterintuitive to engage students with music when they’re in a meditative rest, but music is an element of that rest that can provide you with comfort and something to ground you on your mat.

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College Voices

5 Unique Tips for a Fresh Start in 2021

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As the pandemic looms on and remote working continues, it feels increasingly difficult to find new and better ways to start fresh in the new year. Especially at home, your immediate thoughts might jump to the towering pile of boxes in your garage or the mysterious mold that’s been growing in your shower. Of course, the ongoing pandemic has caused a worldwide case of stress-based quarantine clutter, and it’s definitely important to set aside a day (or three) to clean out that accumulated mess. 

At the same time, however, while cleaning out your physical space has been proven to improve your mental health, there exist many other methods to help clear your mind and start this year with a renewed outlook. 

Here are 5 unique tips for a fresh start in 2021

Tip #1: Mindful Eating 

Before the pandemic, when we were all rushing to our next class, to an appointment or to work, eating might have felt like an automatic or even tedious act. Now, researchers are noting the effects of the “Quarantine 15”, the weight gain many people are facing as a result of the stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic. 

As we spend another year at home, you should skip the fad diets this year and instead opt for the kinder, more attentive realm of mindful eating. Grounded in the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, mindful eating consists of a variety of ways in which you can strive to be more observant of how, when, and why you eat. 

A bowl of oatmeal and berries and banana slices.
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Whether it’s eating slower or recognizing the distinct taste of your food, you can learn to slow down and grow a greater sense of appreciation for not only the food you eat, but also the ritual of eating. This doesn’t mean that you need to give up your morning coffee or stop munching on your favorite brand of chips. Mindful eating instead encourages you to pause for a moment, really taste your coffee or chips, enjoy it, and continue on your day. By paying attention to how we eat, we can all learn to focus more on these little moments and find a grander purpose in them. 

Tip #2: Move Your Body 

In addition to mindful eating, it’s just as important to be mindful of your body and find ways to exercise it! From starting a rigorous at-home workout to performing desk exercises, below are a few fresh ways to get your blood pumping.

  1. Workout Routine 

Searching for workouts of which there are a plethora of possibilities. Including glute bridges, sumo squats, and plenty more, the article introduces all the ways you can start an easy, active routine. 

  1. Yoga 

It’s been proven how much yoga has done to relieve pandemic stress and anxiety. Its principles are also founded on philosophies similar to the Buddhist mindfulness mentioned above, so combining yoga routines with mindful eating is sure to prepare your mind and body for the new year. Though in-person yoga studios are closed for now, many are currently hosting free video classes, specifically aimed at relieving pandemic struggles. So roll out your yoga mats or find a comfortable, flat surface, and get your yoga game on! 

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  1. Desk Exercises 

Is starting a full-out workout or yoga routine too much of a commitment? No worries, there’s a reason why gym membership attendance drops significantly into the new year. Since you’re at your desk, try these quick and easy desk exercises during class or work breaks. You can stretch out your wrists to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome or, if you have a swivel chair, work out your abs by turning your chair left and right!

Tip #3: Clear Your Mind for a fresh start 

With social media piling up on hundreds of the latest news stories, it’s difficult to find space for yourself, even in your own mind. For a fresh start to the new year, pull out that notebook or journal that’s been hiding on your bookshelf, and journal it out! Not only can journaling help to improve your mental health, taking the time to write can allow space for you to critically reflect on this past year. What did you learn in 2020? What have you been struggling with? What dreams do you have for the new year? Writing it all down can help you untangle all of the complicated emotions that you may have been struggling with, and enter the new year with a fresher, more positive outlook. 

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Tip #4: Purposeful Content Consumption 

We are all definitely guilty of binging two seasons of a Netflix show or diving into an endless Internet rabbit hole. Purposeful content consumption works along the same lines of mindful eating by learning to pay more attention to what content we are watching, reading, or listening to. As we enter the new year, strive to diversify the media or content that you usually watch without a second thought. It is known that the Internet, and social media specifically, has been prone to causing political and social polarization, or in simpler terms, consuming only certain kinds of content can lead you to think a certain way (i.e. watching only cat videos and none of the amazing dog videos could lead you to believe that dogs are really not that great). So push yourself to learn about the other sides, and maybe you can develop some empathy along the way!

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Tip #5: Reach Out & Remind Others That You Care 

Start fresh in all of your friendships and relationships by making it an active goal to be more attentive to all the people you care about in your life. 2020 was the year when we learned to be more grateful for our loved ones, so put it into action! Send a message to a friend you haven’t talked to in a while, or call your mom and ask about her day. By making it a habit to consistently check in with others, we solidify our relationships with them as well. After all, humans are social creatures, and research has shown that social connections are key to our well-being! 

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While this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the ways you can enter 2021 new and improved, these tips are sure to help in redirecting your perspective of how you can change things up. Whether it’s practicing mindfulness or starting little desk exercises, continue to be gentle and kind with yourself and all your new year’s resolutions. We’re still in the midst of a pandemic, after all, and it’s just as important to take a day or two off for some self-care and self-love!

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College Voices

5 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Actually Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions in 2021

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The year 2020 is finally over, and we have a new year to look forward to! After living ten years in the course of one, you’re ready for the next phase. If you’re anything like the majority of the world’s population, you’ve made New Year’s resolutions in the past—and broken them within a month. But you keep making them, because you enjoy the optimism: beginning a new year on the right foot, promising to be a better, more fit and a more skilled version of yourself. 

Here are ways you can stick to your New Year’s Resolutions in 2021

  1. Tell people about your resolution

Usually, we’re told that peer pressure is a bad thing. But in the case of a New Years’ Resolution, it might be just what you need. Positive reinforcement (encouragement and support) from your friends and family can push you to learn the guitar, lose the beer belly, or whatever it is you want to do in this new year. Disappointment (or the fear of it) can also push you to work harder toward your goal. If the cost of failing on your resolution is a whole bunch of awkward and sad conversations, maybe that’ll keep you on the straight and narrow.

  1. Break it down into manageable chunks

This is something essentially everybody tells you about anything, but it’s true. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step—and continues, step by step. A New Years’ Resolution isn’t accomplished all at once, but rather gradually. Don’t push yourself too hard, and don’t get down on yourself if your goal is still a long way off. Set realistic markers along the way, and at each one check in with yourself. That way, you’ll get a sense of accomplishment as you go, and you’ll see your progress stack up.

  1. Care for yourself

Treat your New Year’s Resolution as what it is: a gift. When you accomplish it, not only will you get the benefit of whatever your goal is, but you’ll feel more confidence and pride in yourself. This feeling of accomplishment is full of benefits: it makes you better poised to chase down the next opportunity, better prepared to be a positive influence in the lives of others, and can even make you live longer. In making a New Years’ Resolution, and caring about yourself, you’re giving the best present you can give yourself, so don’t think of it as correcting something that’s wrong about you, but giving yourself another thing that’s right about you.

  1. Forgive yourself, don’t define yourself 

When a friend who’s made a mistake comes to you for help, do you immediately tell them that they’re worthless, that everybody knows it, and that they should just give up already? No, but this treatment is something of the norm when it comes to yourself. Unfortunately, many of us treat ourselves this way; we are quick to criticize and slow to forgive. Strangely enough, this negative self-talk often gives us permission to betray our resolutions. 

If you resolve, in 2021, to cut down on carbs and one night you give in to the urge to order a bunch of pasta on Postmates, don’t beat yourself up for it the next morning. Accept the mistake and continue working toward your goal the next day. Don’t decide you’re undisciplined, gluttonous, and have failed. Everyone messes up a few times and forgiveness is the best way to move forward. 

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  1. Use your resolution as a chance to explore new horizons 

We all have ideas about who we’d like to be, and we all face the realities of who we are. While a person who wakes up every morning at 6 a.m. and works out in order to get a clean, fresh start to the day is certainly admirable, that person might not be you. In making resolutions, pick goals that flow organically from who you are. If you don’t know who you are (because who really does?) then go into a resolution with flexibility. 

If, for example, your resolution is to get fit, don’t force yourself into a box with it. Instead, try different exercises, intensities, and intervals. Don’t stick yourself in the gym for a 45-minute routine with weights when what you’d really enjoy doing is going to a yoga class or going for a run. Realize that everybody is different, and rather than changing yourself into somebody new, your resolution can be a way of discovering who you might already be. Think of it as an exploration. Let things develop, and commit to remaining open and focused.

A list of Woody Guthrie's New Year's Resolutions on a lined notebook.
Woody Guthrie’s New Year’s Resolutions — a good role model
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The year, 2021 will likely be another challenging year. You already know why, so there’s no reason to repeat it here. But remember that you got through 2020, and if your resolution for 2021 is to just survive it sane, healthy, and maybe a little wiser—that’s totally fine. It’ll take some doing, but you’re definitely further along than you think you are. 

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College Voices

The Overwhelming Mental Health Impact of Climate Change

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People across the globe are being affected by climate change. Global warming and climate change are having detrimental effects on the Earth such as increased flooding, hotter temperatures, wildfires, and droughts. Wildlife and ecosystems are being destroyed. Sea levels are rising. The list goes on and it can be overwhelming to take in the effects of climate change. This is why mental health is being greatly affected by climate change, particularly in teenagers and college students.

Climate Anxiety

Anxiety related to the global climate and fear of environmental doom is often referred to as eco-anxiety or climate anxiety. This anxiety is a legitimate reaction to a serious problem. A large population of Generation Z is burdened by climate anxiety. This is because they are concerned about their futures considering the state of the Earth and the fatal implications of climate change. 

A contributing factor to climate anxiety is the lack of action currently being taken by political leaders. Many leaders in positions of power are avoiding climate issues rather than solving them. This has prompted members of younger generations to step up and fight for change. Young activists like Greta Thunberg have taken the lead in protesting climate injustices. But watching older generations sit back while climate change is destroying the planet can lead to feelings of frustration and anger, which are common symptoms of climate anxiety.

The mental health effect of climate change
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Climate change can be a controversial topic and there is a fair amount of conflict surrounding it. Everyone reacts differently to the topic: many people shut down when climate change is brought up and they avoid the subject altogether. Others are fearful of the effects of climate change and want to help but feel powerless. And some people are eager to take action and do their part in combating climate change. 

Many teenagers and college students have made efforts to reduce their carbon footprint by making lifestyle changes. Going vegan, carpooling, and shopping sustainably are some of the many ways to cut down on carbon emissions. But unfortunately, big corporations are some of the main contributors to climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions––a major contributor to climate change––are the highest they’ve ever been. This leaves young generations as they have difficulty believing that they can make a difference. 

How Climate Change Affects Mental Health

Every continent on the Earth is now affected by climate change. Meaning, climate anxiety is a global issue and can affect anyone, regardless of location, wealth, or privilege.

A polar bear walking.
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Many people are mentally affected by climate change because they have been faced with natural disasters, such as wildfires, serious storms, or flooding. While everyone reacts and copes differently, many survivors of these environmental disasters have some sort of lasting psychological trauma. PTSD, anxiety, depression, and grief are some of the many mental health issues that people who have lived through natural disasters struggle with. 

But you don’t need to be directly faced with a natural disaster to feel climate anxiety or despair over the state of the Earth. Just witnessing and learning about climate change is enough to cause mental health issues. There’s a sense of impending doom or existential dread that can wash over you when reflecting on climate change and its effects. 

Why Climate Anxiety is Often Overlooked

Climate anxiety is often overlooked or brushed off. This is because it can be difficult to discuss mental health concerns because there are still stigmas surrounding mental health. Climate anxiety is also typically not taken as seriously as other anxieties or mental health issues. This is because many people do not understand the serious, detrimental impacts of climate change. 

What to do About Climate Anxiety

  1. Talk to friends and family about climate change. 

Listen to their thoughts on the matter and discuss your own thoughts. Talk about the negative impacts and grieve with them. It can be healing and helpful to share your concerns with others.  

  1. Become a part of the solution

It is important to stay informed on environmental topics and to use your knowledge for good. Join a climate justice organization at your school or in your community. Connecting with others who also care about climate change can ease your worries and fears about the Earth’s future. Climate organizations are making a difference in your community and educating others on climate change. 

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  1. Join protests. 

If there are protests near you, make a sign and join in. Marching with other people who care about climate injustices is empowering. Protests help spark change by informing others and raising awareness. 

  1. Do what you can to help the environment. 

It is important to do what you can to reduce your own carbon footprint, but don’t become overly consumed with it. Eat a more plant-based diet, bike or carpool when you can, and use reusable bags. But try not to worry about how each of your actions will impact the environment. Those who experience climate anxiety often feel guilty about taking part in activities that affect the environment, like driving. Just do what you can and that will be enough.

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