Making Yoga Playlists with Julian Marc Walker

Photo by Felipe P. Lima Rizo on Unsplash
Julian Marc Walker’s Season 1 of Move to Meditate is live on Yoga Anytime and now complete with custom playlists. Julian brings a deeply personal connection with music to his yoga and dance classes on the west side of Los Angeles. We connected to talk about his love of music and dance, integrating music into the yoga practice, how he makes playlists.
How long have you and music been in love?
Music is really my first love. My Mom and Dad shared their record collection with me as a kid and we would have sing alongs and spontaneous dance parties in the living room! I originally came from South Africa (avoiding political imprisonment) chasing my music dream to go to Musician's Institute in Hollywood. I played guitar in bands, wrote and sang songs, taught guitar and songwriting lessons though my 20's and was very identified with being a musician. I started teaching yoga the year I turned 24, and found that the mix-tapes I had been creating for my own yoga, meditation, holotropic breathwork, parties, and ritual ceremony sessions with my friends, had given me a good foundation to start using music in my classes. I was the only teacher at the studio I started at who used music, and (along with my Rumi, Kabir, Mary Oliver and David Whyte poetry books) I brought in a boom-box from home, and a bag full of mix tapes, self-created CD's etc....  I was THAT guy.
Tell us the story of how Dance Tribe was born?
I started going to ecstatic dance events in LA when I was 27, and I found that it was this incredible arena for personal growth, both interpersonally, and internally. Using music and movement to enter beneficial altered states and let down the emotional defenses whilst being in supportive community was a game changer for my own process. I started combining yoga and dance on my retreats in about 2002 (I had a captive audience!) and the response was wonderful, so I created a class in LA called Funky Friday that had a 10 year run and an enthusiastic following. Then in 2014, the guy (Michael Skelton) who's ecstatic dance classes I loved moved to another city with his wife and a new child, and offered me the opportunity to take over one of his classes and serve a community who knew me primarily as a participant. This was an amazing opportunity, and I have not looked back!
Julian and Kira filming at our studio in Carpinteria, California
How does music assist/influence/inspire your personal yoga practice?
For me, music gets me in the moment, it enhances and creates a container for my home practice and allows me to craft the shape of the kind of practice I want to have, in the same way I do for others.
How do you choose the music to play in your yoga classes?
I am endlessly searching out new music, and draw on an eclectic mix of tribal, singer songwriter, classical, movie soundtracks, world electronica and more. I have categories in my mind for types of songs that work for different purposes, so like for yoga: warm up intro, meditation, stretchy songs, core work, flow, cool down, and savasana. Basically anytime I am enjoying a new piece of music I automatically am considering if it would work for any of those segments of how I teach!
Are your playlists prerecorded or mixed live?
I always mix live using an app called DJay2. It gives me the ability to change keys, do beat matching, add effects like reverb, and cross fade seamlessly between songs. I create the playlists ahead of time and usually only change about 20% of what I have programmed, and I do record abbreviated versions of the playlists that get the best response to upload onto Mixcloud.
Can you share the process of putting a playlist together for your yoga class?
I usually create a big playlist (maybe 100) of new songs, and/or favorites I haven't used in a while. Then I go through and find roughly 19 songs that fit into the sequence I am teaching, in terms of how the timeline maps out. Then I get on the mat and do my sequence to the playlist to see if it works and what needs to be tweaked!
Have you ever felt in conflict with one of your playlists during a class? What did you do?
Rarely. But when it has happened, I am able to use my iPad and DJay2 app to make another choice and keep moving. Imperfection is the mother of creativity.
What’s a favorite playlist you've created recently?
My most popular Mixcloud playlist is called Sacred Space: Music For Immersive Experience. It is an ambient soundtrack for yoga, dance, massage, tantra etc and features some of my all-time favorite tracks.
Tell us about the playlists you've created for Season 1 of Move to Meditate.
After creating this season for Yoga Anytime, I came home and got excited to record specially mixed playlists that synch up with each class! So I would sit with the video playing and mix live on my iPad, focusing on the transitions, energy and vibe I wanted the person taking the class to feel. It was a lot of fun, and I am proud of how it turned out. I think folks are going to love it! 
And we do love it, Julian! You can practice with Julian here on Yoga Anytime in Season 1 of Move to Meditate. Check out his collection of playlists which he has generously shared on MixCloud. Join his 10 day meditation challenge he is hosting on his home site.
Kira Sloane
About the Author

Kira Sloane

Kira is fascinated by the study of what Is and loves to examine the ordinary every day miracles.


Suzanne D
Great post! I shared it with the Yoga Teachers group on Facebook.

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