Saturday, November 14, 2015

Yoga Informing the Singing Informing the Yoga...


I love yoga. I've been doing yoga since 2005. I was always curious about it but could never get excited enough about it to take the plunge. I have been a runner, swimmer, step class junkie, weight lifter, dance class doer, and for a brief period I was a little Taekwondo warrioress. I've always had some form of "exercise" or physical activity in my regime. But as it turns out, adopting a yoga practice into my life wasn't just a "fitness fad" for me. It was a life changer.

I initially made the shift when I had gone to a physician to get to the bottom of a constant neck pain and stiffness that I was always living with. He said, "You know, I'm seeing more and more women doing yoga these days and having successful results when it comes to bodily pain and general well-being." Folks had recommended yoga to me for years and I had always blown it off but for some reason, at that moment, something shifted in me and I was very curious and ready to try it. I was excited and intrigued-as I always am when trying something new. But I had no idea just how deeply yoga would affect me. Not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, philosophically, spiritually and musically.

My first few yoga classes were a bit of a bust. You see, there are so many different types of classes, styles, teachers, tones, purposes and flavors of yoga out there that I didn't know where to start. But I knew I would know when I found the right one. So I fumbled through 3 - 5 different studios and teachers very frustrated and annoyed until I found the right studio and teacher for me. I'll never forget the first class that felt like I'd come home. A "vinyasa flow" all levels class.

I walked into the slightly warmed room ( not to be confused with the "hot yoga" classes which bring the temperature up to over a hundred degrees) which I find completely unnecessary and dehydrating and depleting. This room was just a little warm. Like walking into a warm cabin on a snowy blizzardy day. Your whole body just goes "aaagh" in relaxation. It was a big, high ceiling, wood floored room with a huge statue of Ganesh, at the front of the room, sitting on a platform surrounded by candles and flowers. I just knew I was in the right place.

The particular Vinyasa class I took on that dayI now see as based in Ashtanga Yoga. Which is my yoga style of choice. It started with stretching and then moves to the delicious Sun Salutations, then the series of poses continues with standing poses, twists, backbends, arm balances, hip openers, shoulder openers until things cool down with pigeon poses and stretches. Then you're ready for the final resting pose, 'Shavasana", otherwise known as corpse pose because you just lay on the floor on your back like a corpse. You lay there for anywhere from 5- 10 minutes just allowing the effects of all of the rigorous poses you've done to sink into your body, helping to quiet your mind and sink into the center of your body and soul.

From that point on I was hooked and I've been practicing, growing and going deeper into my practice ever since. Like many people, my first intention with yoga was more focused on physical goals. Ease any kinks and pains, build muscle, and keep that long lean yoga look. And yoga has provided all of that for me but now I find that the major effects of my yoga practice are in my mind, reminding me of a more balanced and wise way to approach life. So in almost every class I get little epiphanies of how lessons learned through practicing the poses( asanas) can be taken off the mat and used in my daily life. And just recently I had a wonderful epiphany while in class that applies to my singing.

One thing that I really notice every time I do yoga is how differently my body feels every day. Just because I could fly around doing full twists, heads stands, forearm balances, and arm balances yesterday does NOT mean I can do them as easily today. Every day is a new beginning and you HAVE to remember to listen to your body and honor it in every moment. Those that don't are FAR more inclined to injure themselves. Yoga for me is such an art of LISTENING. Listing to my body, to where it is tight, loose, strong, weak, and timid. I also listen to the tapes and stories running in my brain as I go through every pose. And as we all know, those voices can be brutal. Chastising me for not being able to do a pose as strongly as I could do yesterday, ridiculing me for falling out of balance during a standing pose, badgering me for just feeling "tired". But yoga is a moving meditation. So you watch that voice but don't invite it to play. It doesn't get promoted to the grown ups table. It stays at the kids table. You watch it grumble in it's nonsense and bullying and use the experience to practice detachment from it in every moment.

Since the voice is a muscle inside my body, my instrument is deeply affected by whatever is going on in my body and mind. So the lessons in yoga apply directly to my instrument. When I sit down to practice, I notice where my voice is tight, tired, overworked, strong, or fluid. I approach my singing with the same diligence that I approach yoga. I listen to it and ease it into singing. I don't force it or push it immediately just because I felt so strong at my show last night. So the lesson is: Start where you are that day. Not where you were yesterday. Or where you wish you were. Start where you are now. Lean into how you feel now and ease yourself into your practice. And I feel like that's just a good lesson to take with me every day during life.

Another lesson that came to me recently was that yoga is really an art in finding the ease with which you can be in a challenging pose. Yoga poses are challenging. That's the point. Life is challenging. And in yoga practice you have the opportunity to find the "ease" in each challenging pose. And as I can go through life-fighting the moment or wishing things were different in a moment. This lesson helps me find the ease into that moment. And it is particularly helpful while singing. Find the ease in delivering the song. Step back into the truth of the song, notice how my voice feels in that moment and find the ease. Don't oversing, try not to over reach, push, struggle, or over work it. Find the ease. I just love that reminder.

And, of course, LISTENING. To me, listening is the key to making great music. Remembering to listen to my body during yoga keeps me in the habit of listening to my body and the information in each moment in daily life. The key is to stay grounded in yourself while listening to and being open to that which is going on around you and inside you. That grounded listening is essential when making music with others. Staying in that moment is what allows the magic to creep in and then what elevates all of you together. You listen and feed off of each other and create something completely unique together.

So little did I know how deep and wide the influence of yoga would go for me. And how intertwined the lessons would be in my singing and my life. So with each day I listen to my body and instrument, practice detachment from the little gremlin voices, and strive to find the ease in each moment so that ultimately I can share my voice and my spirit in the most truthful authentic and grounded way. It's a life-long daily process. Every day is a new beginning... maybe that is what the Buddhist's mean by "reincarnation"? I like to think so....

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I miss you so much

On Mother's Day...

I miss you soooo much. And I'm haunted by all the things we planned that we never got to do...Go to New Orleans together, go to Italy together so you could finally use the passport that you were so excited to get, have our mother/daughter farmer's market/vegan cooking day, do that show that would combine my music and your beautiful art, have drinks in that high-rise that overlooks the beautiful city lights, spend the night at Safari West, take a long road trip and let the wind blow us where it may...and I'm aching to take you to lunch today at our favorite restaurant by the sea and have champagne and laugh.

You are my soul, my heart, my rock, my anchor, and my truth. I miss you everyday.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Obstacles, hardships, and growth...

With the beginning of 2015, I find myself reflecting on the events of my life up to now. I've had some wonderful moments but I've also gone through a great deal of difficult situations in my life. And in processing the difficulties, I've come to some realizations. To be clear, here's a readers' digest rundown of some of the challenges I've faced.

My parents divorced when I was 11. I was an only child, very close to my parents, and we moved around a lot so it was like my world exploded. My safe bubble was gone. I've struggled in relationships my whole life having some devastating breakups. In the last several years I've endured a "manager" who turned out to be a charlatan con man who reeked havoc with my career and finances and then terrorized me and my career. I was caught up in the middle of a legal battle, on behalf of a deceased relative, that terrorized me, dominated my life and peace of mind for 5 years.  I've struggled to find my right place, right voice, in my career and career choices. For so many years I've been exhaustingly buried in "busy" with other people's demands of my time and directions of me musically, which helped to pay the bills, but none of which yielded results to get me closer to my dreams or my goals for my life. Four years ago,  I suffered the sudden and devastating unexpected death of my mother when we had many unfinished things to resolve. I've worked in a band, that for me was somewhat toxic, that inch by inch hijacked much of my free time and psychic space which in turn delayed my ability to accomplish my own goals. And I've seen my partner through a 2 year plus long health crisis.

Many of these dramatic and traumatic things overlapped so I was juggling several at a time. When I sit and look back on it now, it feels like I've been "surviving" trauma and drama for years. Perpetually distracted from my goals and life missions by what felt like violent life blows,  paralyzing difficulties and overwhelming circumstances. It's been my normal. Waking up every day trying to get through this "current trauma" in my life. Feeling that my life had been hijacked constantly by outside forces. And, therefore, constantly swirling in a mix of anger, victimization, complaining and crushing depression. And, of course, escape. Which, for me, lives in a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

In this emotional and psychological mess, where is the room for art, for my voice, for my psychic space to have the wide open space to really create and thrive? Did I attract the drama and trauma to keep me from doing the hard work on my art? ...maybe... I've always been jealous of the people who could turn these life pains and struggles into art. I've tried. My new album has some of it but I've never been able consistently use songwriting or writing as healing. Songwriting just felt like I was wallowing in more pain or bathing in an angry rant so I avoided it.

But what I feel right now, in this moment, is that I'm turning a corner. As 2015 begins, I'm clear. Clearer than I've ever been that my life is my OWN. It's mine to govern. And I've never been so comfortable saying "No" to requests and demands on my time. And I won't join a situation unless it is aligned with my truth and I can honestly put my full AGENCY behind it. And I now work to not let challenging external circumstances and situations YANK me to and fro. To not let them have the power to hijack my life, my psychic space and my peace of mind. And I try to stay mindful to not give more energy to and be more aware of the psychic vampires and controllers who seem to want to claim ownership of, stake out real-estate of,  or claim rights to my essence. No more. And I won't let the bullies terrorize me anymore. Oh how I've quivered under the bullies, the controllers, the manipulators, and the emotional blackmailers. I will speak my truth, stand up for myself, and stay clear about boundaries. I'm clear. And as I get clear, as I take my power back in my life, the anger, depression and feeling of victimization falls away.

But the biggest realization, that I feel very clearly now, is that life handed me all of these things to help me become the woman I've always wanted to be. Powerful, courageous, self -expressed, self-directed, authentic, truthful, and excited and enthused about my life. They pushed me to find those things in myself. This is my spiritual journey. With each obstacle, I have the opportunity to lean into the edges and earn another warrior-ess stripe. Each difficultly and challenge is another step on the ladder to evolving. You can't have one without the other. The challenges are the KEY to the growth.

And to my mother:
I miss you terribly, every day. So many things I wish I could say to you and so many things I want to share with you. But wherever you are, I hope you're proud of me because, today, I am grateful for each struggle, difficulty, and challenge. Even grateful for the bullies and vampires because my experiences with them and all of it have brought me here. And I am going to keep pushing, growing and striving and never give up...to be the woman you always knew I was. Thank you.