Restorative yoga, like most wellness endeavors intended to quiet the mind and clear the brain, is beautiful and stupid in equal measure. Paying $25 for an hour of carefully architected prostrations feels silly until you actually get over yourself and do it. Ensconced in the warmth and light of your fellow practitioners and those nubby “Mexican blankets” that are exclusive to yoga studios and nowhere else, it becomes easy to step out of your skin and also your brain for one hour to just exist. The thoughts that scrabble through your mind like cockroaches eventually go belly-up, so that you might step over their little corpses on your way to mental clarity.
Music during yoga is necessary, but I feel it is especially so in restorative mode when the practice itself is so deathly quiet. Music masks the heavy breathing of your compatriots and also makes it so that you don’t have to hear the rattling of a garbage truck or the screams of day-drunk individuals pouring out of the bar across the street to Juul. Most yoga classes I’ve been to provide the sort of aural accompaniment that one might expect: binaural beats; ambient music; an occasional singing bowl or three; birdsong. This is great. It makes me feel as if I am getting a massage, but really, the massage is happening to my brain. Less great, however, is when the songs played during restorative yoga have words, and even worse, when those words are about love or loss.
Everyone’s sad songs are different and my taste in sad music skews pretty generic. “Nothing Compares 2 U” is sad even if you are the happiest person in the entire world. “Love Song” is a doozy. Sade’s “By Your Side” is an excellent song for the first dance at a wedding, but if I hear it out in public and am paying enough attention to register what’s going on, I will have to pull over for a silent and cinematic cry before getting on with my day. These three songs begin the playlist because they were played back-to-back in a restorative yoga class that I attended recently, during the savasana portion of the proceedings—emotional terrorism at its finest.
All of the songs on this list are sad in their own right and are truly best enjoyed not in a yoga class, but wherever crying feels the best: in the bedroom, on the subway, in a car parked in front of Target. These are songs that, when heard out in the world, hit you in the stomach like a sock full of quarters.
- “Lovesong” — The Cure
- “By Your Side” — Sade
- “Nothing Compares 2 U” — Sinead O’Connor
- “I Have Nothing” — Whitney Houston
- “I Can’t Make You Love Me” - Bonnie Raitt
- “A Song for You” — Donny Hathaway
- “A Case of You” — Prince (This is a mere snippet from Prince’s excellent Piano & a Microphone and if you want to really feel emotions buried since the late 1990s, get in there)
- “Sometimes It Snows in April” — Prince
- “Angel” —Sarah McLachlan
- “Ain’t No Way” — Aretha Franklin
- “For All We Know” — Donny Hathaway
- “Now At Last” — Feist
- “Firewood” — Regina Spektor
- “I Know” — Fiona Apple
- “Bawitdaba” — Kid Rock (Note: this song is not sad, but the cognitive dissonance it would cause during a restorative yoga class is on par with the other songs on this list, so it stays.)
Play this playlist if there’s a cry stuck in the back of your throat that needs to get out, but leave this shit at home where it belongs. Namaste.