What My Yoga Practice Has Taught Me (Besides to Stand on my Head)
We all have a common desire: to feel good about ourselves and what we are up to in the world. Many musicians choose to go into this field because they couldn’t imagine themselves doing anything else. Anyone brave enough to say a wholehearted “yes” to make their true passion their living knows there are ups and downs along the way. I know that I am living my yoga when I’m able to gracefully receive a rejection email and say to myself “I’ll try this again next year,” or being able to honestly cheer on a colleague that was accepted for a gig that I wasn’t. Yoga is so much more than standing on your head or doing the splits, it’s a way of life.
Here are a few gems that I’ve learned along the way:
1. “Practice and all is coming.” -Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (founder of Ashtanga Yoga)
In yoga and in singing, you must show up. Getting to your mat or the practice room is really half the battle. The other half is what you do with the time you have. Are you focusing on a certain piece of music or yoga pose? Break it apart into small pieces, so that each vocal passage or warm-up yoga pose is preparing you for where you’re aiming. Know where you’re going, and keep practicing.
2. Check your ego.
One of my favorite accompanists always reassured me when I was nervous to “perform to express, not to impress.” With that as my mantra, I sing because I love it, am prepared, and can’t imagine myself doing anything else versus singing with the fear of judgment from others.
In a yoga class, taking childs pose in a room full of people doing a headstand is sometimes the harder (but stronger) choice because you’re doing what feels good for YOU right now instead of the person next to you. Music can be insanely competitive. By dropping my ego on the mat, I’ve noticed it softens in the performance hall, too.
3. Be Kind.
Be kind to yourself first. This is not always easy when your expectations for yourself do not meet the reality of the situation at hand, but relax. The fact that you are putting yourself out there to be seen and heard by so many people is an act of bravery and courage. When you speak nicely to yourself, it shows. Affirm your talents and unique qualities every day. The kindness that you cultivate for yourself by showing up on your mat and practicing yoga can inspire your kind words to colleagues in your midst as well. You want to be the person that gets the call for the last minute gig not only because of your talent, but because you were a kind and generous person to work with on and off the stage.
4. You are enough.
When working on a challenging pose, I encourage my students to just “be” in the yoga pose instead of forcing their way into it. This allows them to experience exactly where they are in this moment. Physically and emotionally, we are all built differently, and come with different sets of experiences and stories that shape us into the artists we are. Validate the good and the bad experiences in your life, be grateful for both, and use them as fuel to create a little more each and every day.
Embodying these things isn’t easy, but that’s why we practice: we return again and again to that inner pull of creating, performing, moving, breathing, expressing, and doing the very best we can.
Breathe well, my friends.