Album Review: Putumayo Presents Yoga

I don’t practice yoga. But through my work with clients in my parallel career, I have become very familiar with the aesthetic of this ancient practice. To criminally oversimplify, it’s a holistic mind/body/soul kinda thing.

Like many activities, the practice of yoga can be enhanced (or facilitated, or complemented) by the addition of music. To that end, the friendly folks at Putumayo are here to help. The label’s newest release bears the straightforward title Putumayo Presents Yoga. This title differs from the label’s last few releases (dealing with R&B, world-jazz and Indian music) in that it’s, shall we say, purpose-driven.

There’s a fairly narrow path to navigate in choosing music to pair with the practice of yoga. There are certainly some things you don’t want: heavy beats, insistent tempos, wild variance in arrangements, distracting lyrics. Let’s face it: yoga ain’t jazzercise. With that and much more in mind, this fourteen-track collection serves up some music that is in a way designed to be the aural equivalent of wallpaper: there to enhance a mood, not to create one.

The disc is largely successful in this endeavor. Helpfully, all of the tracks featuring vocals find the singers performing in languages other than English. So unless you’re polylinguistic, the voices (for the most part) won’t distract practitioners from their poses. The lion’s share of the disc features lovely, soothing female voices and new-agey instrumentation.

There are exceptions. A track titled “Offering Chant” by Lama Gyurme & Jean-Philippe Rykiel features a guttural male chant throughout. My own opinion is that the track is perhaps better suited for devotional use than anything else; it is a bit distracting. In fact that’s true for many (but not all) of the tracks here that include male vocals. Luckily the disc leans in favor of the female voice.

Because Putumayo Presents Yoga is not designed as an active listening experience, I won’t get into specific criticism of the tracks as music. But I will point out that most are quite effective at providing the backdrop for thoughtful, relaxing activity.

Or, non-activity. I lay down on my strategically-located (read: office) futon to absorb this CD, and I can testify that it neither unduly invaded my thoughts, nor grated upon me in any way. Nor did it bore me. Putumayo Presents Yoga provided a backdrop for a semiwaking hour of relaxation. Now, my doctor says I need thirty minutes of cardio a day or I’m gonna have a stroke or heart attack, and my rest/nap regimen doesn’t count toward that, but there’s rarely anything wrong with a little mind-clearing non-contemplation time. And this disc is a lovely accompaniment to said non-activity.

As always with Putumayo releases, this set is presented in an aesthetically pleasing digipack with attached booklet. In addition to brief but interesting artist bios, the booklet provides mini-essays on both yoga and its connection to music. Never ones to leave anything to chance, Putumayo includes a glossary in case listeners wonder what exactly a chakra, raga or vinyasa is.

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I have a material connection because I received a sample or review copy, or an item of nominal value that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was/am expected to return this item after my review.