Three months ago I started taking piano lessons. I took lessons briefly as a child, but never got very far. My first song as an adult practitioner was "Across The Universe" by the Beatles. It was a song my piano teacher selected just to get me started. My second song I got to choose. I chose, "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables. If you don't know this song, it means we need to spend more time together.
I love all musicals, but I especially love the music from Les Miserables. Fantine, the character who sings "I Dreamed a Dream", is a sad, desperate, sick, single-mother forced into prostitution after being fired from her job as a factory worker. When I play the song on the piano, I can hear Fantine singing. I get emotionally involved and lose my focus on the music. Instead of reading the music, following the proper timing, I find myself swaying, imagining Fantine in all her grief. When I am at home practicing this works fine, but when I am at my lesson, my teacher Gretta consistently stops me to point out that I'm short-changing a half-note, holding a quarter note too long.
Recently, I took the liberty of adding lyrics to my piano practice. As a beginner, I really have no business doing this, but I want it. I want to be Fantine in all her misery when I am playing the music to "I Dreamed a Dream." Needless to say, singing while playing has only increased my internal drama and my timing is way off.
At my most recent piano lesson, after repeated stops and starts to correct my timing, Gretta said, "Laura, you are hearing it wrong in your head." All of my home practice had ingrained into my head a more dramatic, less precise rendition of the song I was learning. I had to learn it all over again, this time following the music, learning the notes and the timing first, before adding my drama.
In learning piano, if I can focus on what there is to learn, the details, the important eighth notes and sharps and flats and rests, then I can go deeper when I play pretending to be Fantine in all her sorrow. Of course there's a correlation here with learning piano and learning yoga. I have been practicing Bikram Yoga for almost 20 years. Twenty-six postures, two breathing exercises, 90-minutes, day in and day out for a long time. I love it. I am committed to it. I can hear it in my head, sometimes even when I sleep. Lately, during my yoga practice, I have been trying to hear the instruction out of my head. It's hard. I know these postures. I can feel these postures deep in my bones. Yet there is always more to learn. Yoga is a lifetime process and there is always a further place to grow, a nuance of a pose to understand, a deeper point of focus to achieve.