My music teacher recently passed away. I am still coming to grips with this fact. You see, he was much more than a piano teacher; he was a teacher of life communicated through his fingers, documented without words through a series of scribbles on a sheet of paper. In reflecting on this wonderful man, I am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for the impact he had in creating a safe space for creativity, curiosity, non-judgment, living in the moment and expressing oneself, not by mechanical notes written on paper, but rather through expressing what is in your heart.
When learning to play the piano there is the inevitable awkward process of transitioning from the mechanical banging of the keys to eventually moving up and down the keyboard with a sense of ease. Ultimately, we open up to possibilities we previously thought were unattainable.
As a musician and yoga practitioner, the parallels between both practices are undeniable. Be it through music or yoga, by releasing self-judgment and overcoming the fear of making a mistake, we can explore new areas of creativity. When head, heart and body are in harmony, in the present moment, void of distractions and worries, we discover our capacity for effortless effort.
People starting a yoga practice may not be seeking a spiritual path. Perhaps they’re seeking improved physical mobility or a reduction in stress. Similarly, musicians may start out wanting to join a band or may have even been forced into practicing by a parent. Eventually, both practices evolve into a spiritual journey, providing clarity and healing along the way.
There are so many types of yoga and music. Neither is one size fits all and that’s the beauty of both. Some people like Hatha yoga, others like jazz. We are encouraged to try many different styles until we find a few that resonate, knowing that we can move to another style when it feels right.
Many times yoga and music are performed in a communal setting with a shared sense of focus and energy. Yet, at their core, both are deeply personal practices. Space is created, emotions experienced and observed and, ultimately, released. This is how the healing process naturally occurs.
Both require practice. We practice, practice, practice, all the while knowing that we will never become perfect. This can be intimidating and demoralizing and we make up excuses such as, ‘I don’t have talent’ or ‘I’m not flexible enough to do yoga.’ There is always someone else who seems “better” than us. However, with a consistent practice, we begin to drop the self-judgment and competitiveness. This allows us to grow beyond what we dreamed.
Both yoga and playing music require being in the present moment. Yes, both have aspects that seem mechanical as we figure out how to get into a pose or how to play a certain chord inversion. When the mind wanders, we fall out of the pose or we play the wrong note.
Be it music or yoga, through focus and intention, we find the strength and determination to pick ourselves up and continue to practice. Through self-awareness and mindful dedication, we are able to overcome the ego and calm the fluctuations of our often overactive minds. When we forget the mechanics and follow the intuition within our hearts, we create a safe space to explore. Both practices allow us to experience the gift of being in the present moment. Music and yoga may be separate pathways, but both lead to the same destination: Freedom.
Read more from Mike in his new book!