Canadian Musician: Finding Balance in a Rock ‘n’ Roll World, Part Two

 
 

CANADIAN MUSICIAN June 2013

FINDING BALANCE IN A ROCK ‘N’ ROLL WORLD

PART TWO: YOGA EXERCISES FOR MUSICIANS

By Parvati Devi

In the last issue, we looked at how yoga is relevant to you as a musician. In this issue, I will guide you through exercises from my practice called YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine. You can do them anywhere to keep you fit in body, mind and spirit. But first, a couple things:

Keep the Body-Instrument in the Tune of Health

Hatha yoga helps your body-instrument stay in the tune of health. When you practice, be aware of your spine. Think of the spine like a flute, through which vital life-force flows. We don’t want to force our sound or damage our instrument. We learn to allow the music of life to flow us.

The spine is also like a piano. Each key on a piano must be in tune to make good music. Similarly, when one of our vertebrae is out, we know it through pain and discomfort.

String players know that a string must be neither too tight nor too slack. The spine is like a string instrument tuned in perfect resonance, for optimal musicality.

Before You Start

It is best to practice yoga on an empty stomach. When you do a little light stretching, this does not matter as much, but it is good to keep in mind.

Yoga is not competitive. There is no need to push or pull at the exercises. Do 80% your maximum so there is lot of room to breathe.

Go slowly so you can keep in touch with what you feel and what is going on in your body. Before you can move quickly, you must first master the poses at a slower speed.

Most importantly, have fun. A slight smile relaxes your entire body.

EXERCISES

Lying: Support and Rejuvenation

There are two zero points in yoga. One is horizontal, the other vertical. These are the foundations upon which all poses are built, and points of reference we can consider as we move through more complex physical sequences. Whenever you may be, you can practice these to help you manage nerves, center and deliver your best. They help you find your sense of worth that comes from your unique connection to life-force energy.

The horizontal zero point is Savasana (Corpse Pose). Let’s give it a try:

  1. Lie on your back, feet one foot apart and arms alongside the body.
  2. Breathe. Allow yourself to settle and feel supported by the ground, letting yourself open to your breath and meet this moment as it is.
  3. Allow your mind to settle.
  4. Scan your body. Where do you hold tension or feel relaxed?
  5. Allow your breath to deepen and your body and mind to relax.
  6. Breathe in and draw energy down your spine through the crown of your head.
  7. Breath out. Allow that energy to fill up every cell of your being. Continue breathing in and out, going deeper into relaxation without falling asleep.

A ten-minute deep relaxation is like hours of sleep. You can do this before or after any show, or if you are in the middle of a stressful day. It is an excellent for rejuvenation and centering.

Standing: Roots and Inspiration

The vertical zero point is called Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Let’s give Mountain Pose a try:

  1. Stand, feet hip width apart, knees relaxed. Your navel moves gently back towards your spine, tailbone slightly tilted towards the front of your body so that it releases like a plumb line towards the Earth. Eyes are relaxed yet focused on a point in front of you. The crown of your head broadens and floats gently upward. Shoulders are relaxed.
  2. Breathe in. Breathe out. Awareness of your breath deepens. Notice what you feel in your body. Imagine that your spine is the central channel of energy that runs through your body/being. It connects the sky and the earth through you.
  3. Feel your feet. Feel your energy move downward, towards the core of the Earth.
  4. Notice the crown of your head. Let it float upward. Feel your connection to the sky and the whole. As your feet release into the ground, the Earth meets you. A wave of energy flows up through your body towards the crown of your head.
  5. Inhale, draw energy through the crown of your head, through your spine, into your body/being.
  6. Exhale. Allow this energy to fill your entire being.
  7. Continue breathing in and out this way, feeling rooted and inspired.

The Sun Salutation: Your Portable Gym

Bearing the above breathing exercises in mind, here is a simple flow, called Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation), which touches all the basic muscle groups and nerve centers:

  1. READY: Stand at the front of a yoga mat or non-slip surface, feet hip width apart.
  2. PRAYER: Inhale. Bring your palms together in front of your chest. Breathe. Become aware of your breath and bodily sensations. Imagine your body is a tube of breath. You breathe in life-force from the crown of your head, through your spine, right down to your toes. Root into the ground and allow the crown of your head to gently float and broaden. Your spine feels open and long, not stretched. Do not rush this process.
  3. FORWARD BEND: Inhale. Raise your arms above your head, palms together. Exhale.  Roll forward, vertebra by vertebra, so you end up folded over, hands by your feet. Keep your knees slightly bent to protect your lower back. Take a few breaths. Feel your head respond to gravity, and your legs and spine lengthen.
  4. LUNGE: Bend your knees to place both hands on the floor by your feet. Inhale. Step your right leg back, placing the knee on the floor. Your left knee is over the left ankle, spine arched. Your pelvis releases and crown floats. Breathe.
  5. PLANK: Inhale. Left leg moves back to join the right. Legs, arms, spine and neck are straight. Engage your abdominals by bringing your navel back to your spine and curling your tailbone in slightly. Imagine you are breathing through your tube-like spine from the crown to your toes. Breathe.
  6. PUSHUP: Exhale. Bend your elbows, bringing your chest to the floor, keeping your elbows close to your body, shoulders relaxed. Your buttocks stay in the air, toes curled under. Breathe.
  7. COBRA: Inhale. Slide your torso along the floor, through your hands so you are flat on the floor, soles of the feet open to the ceiling. Gently push up to open your chest, shoulders relaxed. Overdoing it will hurt your lower back. Breathe.
  8. DOWNWARD DOG: Exhale. Press into your hands, tuck your toes under, move your hips up. Legs are straight, feet parallel, hip width apart, ears by your elbows. Palms are flat on the floor. Relax your neck and jaw. Breathe.
  9. LUNGE: Inhale, right leg forward, knee over the ankle, left knee on the floor. Breathe.
  10. FORWARD BEND: Exhale, left foot joins the right, head by your knees. Your knees are slightly bent to protect your lower back. Allow your head and spine to easily respond to gravity. Breathe.
  11. ROLL UP: Inhale. Feel your feet release into the ground as you gently roll up, vertebra by vertebrae. Your arms follow. Still inhaling, arch back gently.
  12. STANDING: Exhale, bringing your arms to your side. Breathe in through the crown of your head, into your whole body. Exhale. Feel alive.

For one complete Sun Salutation, repeat these steps for the left leg. With practice, each step will be just one inhale or exhale. Never rush or you may cause injury. The goal is not speed, but ease and focus. Maintain awareness of your breath and sensations in your body. Notice the movement of energy through your body/being. This is what makes the practice of yoga unique and powerful and a perfect asset to any musician’s tool kit, on the road, and in the studio.

GOING DEEPER

There is nothing like working with a qualified instructor, whether you are learning guitar or yoga. But this is not always possible. Here are some books and recordings that may inspire:

The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice (T. K. V. Desikachar)

Yoga and You: Energizing and Relaxing Yoga for New and Experienced Students (Esther Myers)

YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine – A Guided Practice for All Levels (CD) (74 min, Parvati Devi)

YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine (DVD) (4hrs, Parvati Devi)

Enjoy!

Parvati

 
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WHY YOGA IN THE NIGHTCLUB

I am often asked what inspired me to bring yogic expression into the club scene. I answer easily. Yoga In the Nightclub is a natural expression of who I am as a musical artist and dedicated yogini. Yoga is not a physical practice but a way of life. It is about learning to be present in all one does, to see the divine here, now, in this moment. As such, yoga is everywhere. It is about feeling connected to something much greater than our limited ego or will. It is about being in service to life, feeling interconnected to that very life force. Yoga In The Nightclub is a celebration of life and a reminder that we can find awakened presence everywhere.

Yoga in the West is mostly known as a series of bendy physical exercises. Yet there is much more to it than fitness. Yoga’s systematic breath and body exercises, designed to clear the subtle channels in our energy system, prepare us for meditation, through which we may experience a life inspired by our interconnected, multidimensional true nature. Our body, that once was seen as “mine”, is no longer our identity, but a gift on loan from the divine. We care for it, but we are not attached to it. The practice of yoga offers us the opportunity to experience the transmutation of matter into pure light, embody the multidimensional and rest in the eternal.

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WE ARE ALL CONNECTED

Hatha yoga, the physical practice of yoga, is just one of many aspects of yoga, which range from selfless service to astrology and prayer. The Sanskrit word “yoga” most simply translates to “union”, implying that the practice of any yoga will bring together our perceived sense of separateness. As a whole, yoga is an ancient science of life. It is a practical method of shedding excess and bringing us back from the self-delusion of separation from the divine so that we may realize our inherent interconnection to and ultimate oneness with it.

As we begin to understand that yoga is everywhere, we come to see how we are all connected in vast ways far beyond the limitations of our personal will and ego. What I do affects you, and vice versa. We are one earth family. At the heart of it all, we share the same heartbeat. Breathe to be. We are one.

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AWAKENED LIVING

When we are open, life blossoms, just as a flower opens to welcome the morning sun.  We see that the sun, though it is millions of light years away, has a tender yet powerful relationship with the flower, as do the rain and the clouds. From this perspective we see that we are part of the whole. Life is a symphonic masterpiece with which, when we are open, we are completely resonant.

As we come to understand our oneness, we can revel in it with wonder and joy. We can consider in awe how immense it all is. We can let go of the idea that an illusory, isolated sense of self could possibly be in control, and open to an exquisite unfolding of life in absolute perfection. Our actions become not about “me” but about the whole. Each moment is integrated within the whole. No one decision is separate.

When we begin to see that each decision we make affects not just ourselves but everyone and everything on the planet, we act with more compassion. When we have more compassion, we realize the impact of our actions and we naturally want less and practice more kindness. As stewards of the Earth, we each are called to learn to live in harmony with ourselves, each other and our planet. We all breathe the same air and live on the same living organism, our planet. Varied in race and creed, we are all one family, children of the same mother, the planet Earth.

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THE OPPORTUNITY FOR GRACE

In each moment, there is infinite grace. By becoming more conscious as we practice yoga on the mat, at work, at play or in the nightclub, we let go of the unnecessary and develop greater internal spaciousness which blooms throughout our lives. In this space new life and possibilities arise.

As we rest our awareness on the simple purity and grace of the breath, we realize - we are alive! We let go of wanting things from the future and the past and open to what is here and now. We feel as vast as the sky and rooted in the richness of this moment.

When we “breathe to be”, we understand our interconnection. We see that we are not the doers but a part of the whole, the same energy that is in the flowers and in the stars. We know that our essence is divine - from which we have come, to which we return.

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REQUEST DVD
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WHAT LIGHT GETS YOU THROUGH YOUR DAY?

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PARVATI'S NEW SINGLE - MARCH 2016
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I AM LIGHT

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Feel free to follow up with us directly at any time:

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Let me know how yoga and YEM have touched your life. You can send a link to a video by you if you would like. Comments may be shared on my website if you check the "permission to share" box.
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SHARE YOUR YOGA
I am light!

Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
Gone, gone beyond. Oh what awakening!
Gone, gone beyond. Swaha!

I am light, dancing in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!
I am light, in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!

Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
I am the light, liquid gold light
I am in delight! Swaha!

I am light, dancing in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!
I am light, in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!

I am the light (gate gate), liquid gold light (paragate)
I am in delight (gate gate) transforming the night (paragate)

Gone, gone beyond (gate gate)! Oh what awakening! (paragate) (I am)
Gone, gone beyond (gate gate)! Swaha!

I am light, dancing in delight
I am light, dancing through the night
I am light, in delight
I am light, dancing through the night

I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light (gate gate)
I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light (paragate)
I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light
I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light

I am light!

© 2015 Parvati Devi
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