Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Your breath is your metronome

Last year, I took piano lessons for a few months. I loved it but I just couldn't find the time to keep it up. The phrase I heard most often from my piano teacher Gretta, was, "SLOW DOWN." "Laura," she'd say gently, "you are going too fast for your brain. If you go too fast, you won't learn it." Slowing down is the single hardest thing for me to do. I am known in my family as "Clumsy Culberg." I scrape, break, cut, and dent body parts, dishware, household furnishings and cars. I just go too fast. One of the two songs I learned with Gretta was "Across the Universe" by The Beatles. It's a pretty mellow song, but you wouldn't know it hearing me race through the notes. Gretta's instruction to me was to play so slowly that my brain and my fingers were able to sync up.

When I was a kid we had my great-grandmother Laura's grand piano in our living room. We had an old fashioned metronome placed on top that my mom sometimes used when she played. Now I have a metronome, the same old fashioned kind sitting on my piano at home. Lucia uses it frequently in her piano practice, but I have a hard time using it when I practice. The times when I have used the metronome for piano practice, I find myself a bit stressed out. Who's keeping pace with whom? There's a power struggle--me versus the metronome. I expect the ticker to follow me! "Hurry up!" I want to shout at the little wooden trapezoid. It has gotten easier to follow the pacing every time I practice-- the more slowly I play, the easier it is to follow the rhythm of the metronome.

When I teach yoga, there is almost always someone in class who speeds through the postures. Maybe it's because they dislike a particular posture or they have pain or they are just tired of hearing my voice. Yoga is like music. You have to learn the notes to play a the song. Sure, you could walk into a room, look at a photo of someone doing Eagle Pose and just do it. But the point of Yoga is to get into the poses by learning how to get into the poses, observing what your body parts are doing, noticing how your mind is reacting, following your breath and keeping yourself calm as you do the poses. Doing yoga without the process would be like sitting down at the piano, looking at the notes and then pressing play your iPod to hear the song.

When you start to hurry too much in Yoga, when you notice that you're skipping to the end, missing the steps, try to slow down. In Yoga, your breath is your metronome. At first it might be hard to slow down but you'll get there. Take your time and enjoy the process of learning the postures. You'll be really glad you did.

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