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Sunday, November 8, 2009

MelodAsana ~ see side glossary

Earlier today I was listening to Joni Mitchell. Certain music is more than a listening experience it is a journey through time, space and self. Her tone and style mingle with her lyrics with such poetry and heart; it’s difficult for me not to respond either through movement or joining her song with my voice. Every note resonates with a memory, feeling or sense of something or someone. I find my own thoughts vanishing or morphing into something relating to the story she’s telling. It is a visceral, basic & internal voyage.

Reggae elicits a more physical reaction, moving me from the inside out. It is difficult for me not to move when reggae is playing. I used to wonder what a reggae Yoga class would feel like. During one of my pre-natal classes my teacher, who knew I fantasized about such a class, provided a reggae soundtrack. I realized that theory & practice don’t always groove. Rather than the music being background breath, it became foreground karaoke. I couldn’t contain myself. My body swayed to the beat and I perfected my Bob Marley lip-sync, smiling with each asana. That’s really great, but it would have been more productive if there were some balance. I seemed to lose my Yoga intention for an island dance.

There is wonderful music that naturally complements the practice with poetry of its own, lending its melodious aspects to the flow. In fact, there are times when I’m fully aware of the music but it nourishes the practice rather than distracts from it. This got me re-thinking the idea of  music-inspired classes (including reggae), where the breath is directed deliberately to the lyrical quality of the practice, using the music as the vehicle rather than a destination. It’s more like a Yoga dance without requiring strict adherence to the beat. For example, while in tadasana, direct the ujjayi breath to find the music in the body, like searching for the internal vibrations of an OM. Joining the spirit of spontaneity with flow, the teacher gives the next instruction while still in the last pose, allowing the music to move the practitioner in her own time. Changes of rhythm in the music inform the pace of movement in the room.

A word emerged as a possible name for this practice: Melodasana. The Sanskrit for music (melody) is saMgiita—according to a Google search. Perhaps saMgiitasana would be more appropriate. Since most poses have an English name as well as a Sanskrit one, we could use both. It is our practice after all and this is, as yet, just a class I’ve made up in my head. So why not play?

Several months ago I took a workshop with a teacher who was full of surprises. The strength of her spirit alone still reverberates in my heart. I found myself smiling most of the time, just feeling grateful to be in that room. Savasana came and we all did our respective rituals to get there. Once down, the familiar melting into the mat began. And then, there it was. The teacher (who may be reading this right now) broke out into song. Not just any song but a beautiful Aria, rich and full. Her voice was transcendent, creating a mini opera that included each and every one of us. The vibrations of that timeless Savasana still haunt me.

I hear things differently when I listen to music that speaks to me. Sometimes nostalgia shapes my thoughts and other times the freshness of a new sound inspires me. In any case, I’m curious how music can be an active participant in my Yoga practice without drowning it out. Whether music is background or foreground, coupled with Yoga, they are equally powerful sources of information that are natural allies.  The long-term effects of music show up in everyone’s lives. Stories are frequently framed around a favorite singer/songwriter or band. The contexts of those stories are often woven into the fabric of the grander picture.

Even in the silence that follows there is music.

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