Yoga music tends to either fade blandly into the background or cause more grating irritation than a downward dog-induced wedgie. Pan flutes? Didgeridoos? Throw in some patchouli oil, healing stones and a few pinging humpback whales and you've got yourself a real New Age party. Before you know it, Enya's on the karaoke machine and a hairy guy's offering to free your chi.
The hip, young yoga warrior can only hope that the ocean sound of ujjayi breathing drowns out the 'inspirational' music pumping through the room. Either that or secretly strap on an iPod.
Michael and Amy Caldwell, the husband-and-wife owners of downtown's Yoga One interdisciplinary Hatha studio, felt the pain of people who practiced yoga but also had good taste in music. On Aug. 7, they'll celebrate the release of Yoga One, a collection of grooves that shrugs off stale, hippie-ish standards in favor of fresh, chilled-out beats from Thievery Corporation, Zero 7, Bliss, Bitter:Sweet and more.
Many years ago, before they discovered yoga, the Caldwells discovered each other-through music, naturally. Amy, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA with a degree in communications and business, worked in Los Angeles coordinating soundtracks for films such as Natural Born Killers and Twister. Michael, a USC English-lit grad, took a job at BMI following a teaching stint in Japan. The two met at a BMI industry mixer.
Worn out from the unrelenting L.A. hustle, the Caldwells eventually quit their corporate music jobs and headed out for some Lonely Planet-style globetrotting. The couple paid their way with day-labor jobs like apple-picking.
In India, on a beach, they had a life-changing experience.
'We weren't actually seeking it out,' says Michael. 'But it found us.'
A group of world wanderers was practicing yoga a few steps from the ocean. Michael and Amy had tried yoga during their years of overseas travel. This time, however, they were surrounded by people who'd integrated the practice into their lives in a more encompassing way. It wasn't just another trendy exercise routine.
'At first it was just physical,' recalls Amy. 'But then we found spiritual inquiry simultaneously. Yoga is more than just classes. You can't help but derive other benefits.'
They were hooked.
In 2002, the Caldwells-now back in the U.S. and settled in San Diego-opened their studio. Since then, Yoga One has received local accolades and mentions in Shape and USAtoday.com. Amy's lithe, flexible figure has twice graced the cover of Yoga Journal, most recently in May for the magazine's 30th anniversary issue.
The Caldwells both teach several classes a week. To create an environment that truly reflected their personal styles, the two started making their own music mixes.
'Music is ever-changing,' Amy points out. 'But people get stuck in such a rut.'
'We wanted to blend what we listen to at home, and with friends and at parties, into the yoga studio,' explains Michael.
The Caldwells contacted Bruno Guez, president of Quango Records, about putting together a legit album. Guez's small but taste-making lifestyle label in Los Angeles is known for its chill compilations created for businesses such as Cirque du Soleil and the Standard Hotel.
'Talk about the right place at the right time,' Michael says. 'We spoke to Bruno and everything just fell into place. We saw eye to eye on the creative vision. It was as natural for us as the process of learning yoga was.'
After the initially seamless flow of events, the album required a lot of work from the Caldwells. They had to sequence the music, create artwork, nail down the routine. They tested and retested it in their classes.
The resulting Yoga One disc is ambient and meditative with only an unobtrusive whiff of the typical yoga sound. It moves through fluid trip-hop, lively world beats and deep-bass dub. Fans of the local radio show 'Big Sonic Chill' could easily get their groove on without ever noticing the yoga poses illustrated in the liner notes.
It's good downtempo music, with or without the sun salutations. The fact that a traditional yoga practice can be accompanied by it just happens to be a better bonus than the corpse pose.
Check www.yogaonesandiego.com or www.quango.com.