album cover of Yoga Soundtracks Volume 2. Johanna Beekman with arms raised

Meeting of the Spirits to Create Yoga Soundtracks

Singing yoga teacher and festival favorite Johanna Beekman first met Grammy-nominated producer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Leinbach a decade ago when they were introduced by fellow yogic musician Benjy Wertheimer. Each with a passion for integrating multicultural influences, the pair developed an artistic synergy that enriches their collaborations with a distinct, light-filled energy.

The seven tracks on their new album, Yoga Soundtracks Volume 2, released July 14, 2023, by Be Why Music, project a lavish aural landscape, ideal for yoga and meditation practitioners or whenever soul-nurturing calm is the intention.

The project is a follow-up to Ben’s 2015 Yoga Soundtracks Volume 1, which featured various Kirtan vocalists. Yoga Soundtracks Volume 2, however, is a true partnership with Johanna. The album gleans previously produced tracks from her catalog— some of which they worked on together and others that Johanna produced independently—and reimagines them. Lush mixes enhanced with additional instrumental and vocals tracks imbue the recordings with new breadth.

Most notably, while Ben and Johanna have each released a lot of inspiring devotional music in sacred languages like Sanskrit, the language of yoga, this project replaces Sanskrit mantras from several original recordings with layers of soulful English lyrics and rich vocal beds that utilize Johanna’s voice as an instrument within the arrangements of global instrumentation. Ben has long been drawn to creating fusions of world music and elegantly intertwines its diverse tones and rhythms here. Matched with Johanna’s meld of gospel, Kirtan, and soft pop, the result is a unique yet familiar take on yoga music—soothing, deeply aspirational, and prayerful.

Exploring Lyrical Familiarity

“I really wanted to universalize the language,” Johanna recently told us while on the road in Portland, Oregon. “My goal was to create a yoga soundtrack for an intentional, mindful practice, where we could weave the poetry of Rumi into the lyrics at times. Ben and I decided to use these existing luscious soundscapes as a basis for something that could reach a larger audience, serve people’s practices, and help them access a different part of the brain and nervous system.”

They also created “mash-ups” of multiple songs of Johanna’s. The first track, “Love Lives,” a dreamy, soulful welcome to the album, combines three of her originals. “We completely changed the lyrical content on that one,” Johanna said. “It starts with an intro from one song, changes keys into another, and finally opens up into this epic torch song. Together, they feel fully merged.”

Elaborating on the project’s genesis from his recording studio in San Anselmo, California, Ben added, “Hans Christian, a very talented multi-instrumentalist and producer based in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, who has worked with Johanna, was listening to some tracks she and I produced through the years and said, ‘You know, you’ve got a lot of great music here, a lot of great instrumental tracks backing the vocals. Why don’t you put together an instrumental album out of them?’ Johanna and I thought that was an interesting idea.”

From Instrumental to Incorporating Vocals

“Yoga Soundtracks Volume 2 started as an instrumental project, which was succeeding,” said Ben, “but Johanna’s such a great singer, we soon came around to wanting to feature her vocals. The idea was to create music that you could do yoga to, that was chill and relaxing, had cool hypnotic grooves, and little tidbits of English mantra. Words of spiritual wisdom are thrown in with reminders about compassion and love that can move you back into your heart space. We wanted to see if we could incorporate English into this type of album without it distracting or taking the focus away from practicing yoga or the general listening experience.”

It was a fruitful effort, with “Rise,” the album’s second track, for instance, built on the foundations of the Buddhist mantra Om Tare on Johanna’s Beyond Love album. “Rise” tunes into the energy of the Green Tara, Mother to all Buddhas and endless compassion, with English lyrics tenderly invoking that compassion. “In compassion, we arise, into magnificence…” The track features Indian-American singer and flutist Sheela Bringi.

Similarly, “May the Whole World Know” originally appeared on Johanna’s Heart Beats One album as Om Shanti. With added instruments, including Benjy Wertheimer on esraj and tabla, and Johanna’s English lyrics, the original transforms into a floating yearning prayer — “May the whole world know peace.”

Johanna Beekman with microphone and hands in prayer pose

Johanna’s Journey

Johanna was born into a spiritually engaged family, with music and yoga central to her upbringing. Her parents, George and Susan Grace Beekman came from the Midwest Bible Belt and moved to Oregon with the intention of raising their children to believe what they choose to believe. They still practice yoga daily, and Johanna’s father worked with Krishna Das and Ram Dass. Auspiciously, Ram Dass blessed her while she was still in her mother’s womb.

Says Johanna, “I landed pretty close to the tree and found it’s my dharma to lead a deep, spiritual, prayerful life where I weave all of the elements that have been really powerful to me.

“I’ve been singing since I could speak and writing songs about love since I was eight or nine. My first song was called ‘Just a Little More Love.’ It was about love being what the world needs to heal. I grew up singing interfaith gospel, and that’s also really one of my dharmas, to bring the gospel of the East to meet the gospel of the West,” she said.

Since then, Johanna has released seven albums of her own. She is a 500 RYT yoga instructor and brings her gospel-inspired Kirtan to festivals and workshops along with her signature Lullaby Yoga™, a restorative class accompanied by her soothing, heart-opening music.

Ben Leinbach wearing blue standing in front of a brick wall

Ben’s Journey

Ben didn’t fall far from the tree either. His parents were both musical. His father played piano and flute, and his mother dabbled in drums. “She was also a pretty good dancer and had good rhythm. I think that’s where most of my rhythm thing came from,” he said.

“Early on, I found that hearing music allowed me to feel at a deeper level. That really drew me in.” After taking drum lessons, playing in rock bands in high school, and exploring jazz, Ben attended Berklee College of Music before finishing up at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

He moved to the Bay Area, performed in jazz and rock ‘n’ roll clubs, and soon got a job at Spark, a (now defunct) recording studio in Oakland, where he moved into recording engineering. Honing his studio skills, working on everything from hip-hop and rap to jazz, Latin jazz, and rock, Ben eventually started recording and producing other artists and his own music.  One day, in the early 90s, Grammy-nominated sacred music artist, Jai Uttal, showed up at the studio to record his classic “Beggars and Saints” album. The project opened the door for Ben to work in East meets West yogic music, and Ben and Jai developed a long-term partnership. This also led Ben to record and produce Kirtan projects with Johanna, Deva Premal and Miten, Snatam Kaur, Donna De Lory, Jaya Lakshmi, David Newman, Mike Cohen, Brenda McMorrow, Katie Wise, Rob and Melissa, and others.

Weighing the intersection of music and yoga, Ben said, “I think music can be a direct path to the transcendence, the spiritual or the emotional realm —so direct that it doesn’t even need language to get there. Music seems to fit right in with anyone on a spiritual path trying to deepen their experience.

“And that’s not just the good stuff. That’s feeling the joy, the bliss, and the excitement, but also the melancholy, the suffering, sadness, and despair. You need to be able to tap into the experience and the full spectrum to have a rich life. That’s an important part of the spiritual path. These are the common elements that all human beings experience. I like to create music that allows everyone—or whoever hears it — to feel the commonality we all share, the same emotional experience. Hopefully, that leads to more love and more peace in the world.

“To me, that’s part of the spiritual and yoga path—to find more peace, love, and compassion—feeling you’re part of this life experience and connected to it.” Check out Yoga Soundtracks Volume 2 . For information on Be Why Music, please visit

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