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December 01, 2023 3 min read

Elements of Oula

This year's Oula theme is 'I Am Elemental.' It got me thinking about how many elements go into Oula. Let’s start with a key element the songs. In Oula alone there’s almost 40 hours of music to choose from. Then add in the hours of music available in One and Power. That’s hundreds of song building blocks that make up Oula.

So how to put these song elements together? Hmm. What if we started off an Oula class with a banger by Flo Rida, moved into  This Is Me  from Greatest Showman, and then flipped back into some  Body Count  by Jason Derulo? Would that work? Probably not. All these songs are great on their own, but put together we’d feel a bit like we lost at the Oula roulette table.

So here’s a secret that I learned at Empowerment Weekend. That arc of emotions and physicality we all feel during Oula or One? The fun and ease, the building emotions, the high intensity, and the cool down? It’s on purpose. There’s an art and a science to Oula playlists, and since you’re reading this article I’ll let you in on it.

Oula instructors design their playlists focused on “the class curve.” It’s an arc of physical exercise and emotion. The arc lets the instructor take you from warm up to rising action to climax to falling action to the end. Instructors sometimes design their classes based on a theme or desired arc - maybe they know their participants are angry about a world event and need to vent or maybe they’re putting together an Oula X evening. There are songs for all those moments.

If there’s no journey it doesn’t quite work. Seattle instructor Sara C. said she once did a themed class of all Pitbull songs for Pitbull’s birthday. She said, “you think it’d be one big party but it actually fell really flat because there was no arc or tonal changes. Very one-note.”

So back to 'I Am Elemental.' Some instructors find it helpful to frame the Oula or One class structure around the four elements: earth, water, air, and fire. 


Earth  is the beginning of the class where people center and connect to the ground. In One, this means starting in a seated position, literally grounding. In Oula, it’s establishing a sense of place and warming up one’s body. 

Water is the transition point of class where participants start to flow and activate. In Oula, we move our hips and tap into sensuality. In One, there’s a lot of ebb and flow and cat/cow and circular rotations. 

Fire? That’s the high intensity – very physical, clear and powerful songs in Oula. In One, it’s the standing poses and movements with more intensity and motion.

And then we end with Air. In One, air focuses on the breath, on moving to a piece of ease and relaxation. In Oula, it’s heart-opening movements, with open chests and open arms.


So there you have it the elements of Oula. But that’s just scratching the surface. Moving past the songs, there’s the element of each person present and what they bring to the class. There’s the element of how each participant’s day was, how they feel about each song, and what kind of joy or pain they experienced that week. All of this together truly makes up the wholeness of Oula. 

The sub-focus this quarter is on the element of fire. This fall, I was lucky enough to go to Camp Oula to have five days in Montana with 42 other people. There were so many elements that got us all there carpools from Seattle or Billings, flights from Maine, LA, and even Ireland. We all had lists of things to bring and lists of what to do. We all got physical and loud during the fire portion of class...  Rhythm of My Show  by Tone Sekelius had just hit the Top 10. And we all gazed into the literal campfire with s’mores and hours of conversation.

All of those elements came together in the right way in the right time to create an incredible experience. As I am exploring 'I Am Elemental,' I will think about all my essential parts I bring to Oula and all your essential experiences you bring to Oula that make us all unique. Bringing them together makes for a pretty good Oula class.




Jesse Gilliam



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