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Why your yoga class playlist is probably all wrong

Derek Beres
(Photo: Equinox)

News flash: There’s more to yoga music than singing along to Florence and the Machine as you sweep up into Warrior II.

And yoga-, DJ-, and music producing-superstar Derek Beres is planning to showcase the connection between music and movement in an innovative way with his new class, Flow Play, which he designed for Equinox.

Flow Play, which launches on October 1 in Equinox locations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas (with more to follow), incorporates scientific research and understanding about how music and movement influence brain chemistry in order to design perfectly choreographed playlists.

Beres was inspired to create it after frequently witnessing yoga teachers unknowingly mismatching songs to poses. “I had been in classes before where you’re in a flow, and they’re playing classical Indian music, he says. “That kind of music has been shown to lower levels of cortisol in the blood, relaxing you. So, if you’re in the middle of a physically challenging flow, it’s sending confusing messages to the brain.”

Another faux paus? Beat-driven songs during savasana, which have been shown to raise heart rates. And, of course, putting the iPod on shuffle.

For Flow Play, Beres collaborated with musician-producer Philip Steir to create a 30-page manual that outlines the relevant science and how to apply it, with all of the major research articles, videos, and books in a giant resource section. “The goal is to empower teachers with some of that research and knowledge so that they can make the best possible use of the music in class,” Beres explains.

Derek Beres
Beres teaching a Flow Play preview class with Steir as DJ. (Photo: Equinox)

To help teachers make sense of it all, the duo will create a theme for each month that also gives the national program some cohesion. All Flow Play teachers will get a synopsis of the theme, plus sample playlists they can choose whether or not to use. October’s theme is compassion.

Overall, though, teachers will have lots of control over the songs they choose to incorporate. Beres, for one, likes to stick to mid-tempo electronic music, especially with African and Middle Eastern rhythms. Bass and percussion, he says, works well. High-pitched sounds and too much treble, not so much.

And that Florence song? It may come up, but not often. “You want to avoid using too much mainstream music because if you’re using music everyone recognizes, you’re going to bring them to places in their lives and take them out of the practice.”

What should happen, no matter what song is playing, is that your practice will flow seamlessly to the sounds around you, invigorating or relaxing your body and mind in unison at all of the right moments. —Lisa Elaine Held

For more information, visit