As far as I'm concerned, music (and sometimes the lack or presence thereof) can make or break a good yoga class. Cheesy new agey stuff with raindrop and ocean wave sound effects does absolutely nothing but distract me from my flow, but great music makes me motivated and inspired and, I'm pretty sure, more graceful and careful with my movements (I think it flips the "you're dancing now!" switch in my subconscious and thus makes my limbs simply move in a better way). Luckily, some really excellent modern yoga music has been released in the past few years, and there are a number of producers and musicians who either feel spiritually compelled to create new yoga music or who, more simply, just noticed the void and decided to help fill it. Thus, there's no excuse to listen to the corny stuff any longer. Without further ado, here's some music that'll help make peace between the yogi and the music snob within you.
EarthRise SoundSystem's Derek Beres is both a world music DJ, writer, and promoter, but also a well-known yoga instructor, and he, along with producer Duke Mushroom, put together this album of yoga-friendly and dub-heavy remixes of various world and underground pop-electronica artists, including Eccodek and Hamid Boudali. The album is sequenced to work with the arc of a vinyasa yoga class, so it's a great find for yoga teachers.
Yogi Derek Beres is at the helm of this album, as well, this time as producer. This time, he's compiled songs from the extensive Six Degrees Records catalog, from artists as diverse as Brazil's Ceu and world-electronica band Lal Meri. It's a smooth, chilled-out album that's good for a slower, more intense practice.
Putumayo has an album for nearly every occasion, and yoga class is no exception. Putumayo Presents Yoga is not a strictly traditional album, but it does focus on slightly more meditative music than the previous two albums, so if a smoother, more meditative style of yoga is your thing, this is a good place to start.
MC Yogi is a hip-hop artist and yoga teacher (as though his stage name didn't tip you off to those two facts) from the San Francisco Bay Area. His music uses both traditional elements of Classical Indian music, both instrumental (tabla drums, the droning harmonium, etc.) and in terms of melodic form, but it's bass-heavy and features both rapping and traditional singing. This album has a variety of special guests from the yoga-music world, including Jai Uttal and Krishna Das. There's a song on Elephant Power called "Ganesh is Fresh." That sort of just sums up the whole vibe: edgy and playful, and a treat to listen to.
This is another compilation of songs that were not necessarily originally recorded for yoga but which can fit nicely with a yoga practice. Some teachers complain about the sequencing, noting that it doesn't work well for a Vinyasa class, so you might choose to just do a shorter flow to a few of your favorites. Of course, you might feel quite comfortable with the sequencing, so take that with a grain of salt. The artists included on Yoga Revolution are top-notch: Ziggy Marley, Michael Franti, Angelique Kidjo, Sheryl Crow, and more.
DJ Alsultany -- a favorite on the global electronic scene in both NY and LA -- worked his magic on a nice series of songs, including numbers from Karsh Kale, Adham Shaikh, Vishal Vaid, and (my personal favorite) Huun Huur Tu and Carmen Rizzo's "Saryglarlar Maidens" (who said Tuvan throat singing wasn't versatile?). It's a nice series that moves nicely in sequence and works equally as well for a yoga class or a nighttime dance floor.
Jai Uttal and Ben Leinbach are both composers, multi-instrumentalists, and yoginis, and together, they've made a number of really exciting (and highly functional, from a practicing yoga standpoint) albums of music. Music For Yoga and Other Joys is an improvisational CD that includes Classical Indian sounds, kirtan, and electronic elements. It's, well, perfect for yoga and (presumably) other joys, and certainly worth a listen.