We have been talking about Saraswati for several weeks at Shree, the Goddess of speech, art and music. So it is fitting that my middle son Kiran, a rising musician, turned 8 this week. All he asked for for months for his birthday was a keyboard (well, also a ruby ring and a drone, but keyboard was top of the list!). We went last weekend and bought it for him and basically haven’t seen him since. What he has been doing, for hours on end, is playing the pre-recorded songs that are available in the keyboards computer and improvising along with them. The key and rhythms don’t always line up perfectly, but about 50% of the time they do and it is totally amazing to hear. I am a classical musician, meaning really good at following what is already written on the page. I studied music theory for years, I understand how the notes work together in different keys and modes, and yet it has always been a challenge for me to harmonize and improvise so I admire his skill with a tinge of jealousy.
|Kiran rocking out on his keyboard with baby brother Rakhi|
Harmony in music is the "vertical line" of the music, whereas the melody line is the "horizontal line". In the vertical line notes layer on top of notes to create lusher, more dynamic and interesting sounds over a melody already present. Depending on which note gets layered on top the sound evoked can be more or less happy, spooky, melancholy, etc. I've always been amazed at how one simple addition or subtraction of a particular tone can change everything so dramatically, and I love listening to my child figure this out.
The word harmony comes from the Greek harmozo or harmonia, meaning to fit together or join. This is very similar to the meaning of the word yoga, which is to yoke or unify. So to be "in yoga" is to be in harmony. And just like in music, things can fit together in different ways for different effects and results. When our bodies are in harmony, the bones are integrated into the joints in a way that offers the biggest range and ease of motion, The muscles are working together to create balance, stability and flexibility. The vertebrae of the spine are stacked (like notes in a chord) one atop another to create length and space, and the overall effect is a congruity on the inside that reflects outwardly in our posture and the way we carry ourselves in general. In asana practice the alignment is the “vertical line”, how we layer muscle over bone to create a clearer and more supported pose, and the vinyasa or sequence is the horizontal, how each pose builds like a beautiful melody to a peak pose where all that came before comes together.
The more introspective practices of yoga give us the means to create an inner harmony with the Divine. When your mind is in harmony you are at peace and “joined” with uplifting thoughts and energy that are constantly being live-streamed by the Universe. When you are harmonious in your heart, you listen to what is being put forth in the Universe and join in and make it even better by joining your voice to an already beautiful music. Playing in harmony is not about what is lasting or permanent, but how you make beauty with what is being presented to you right here and now. It's about individual voices coming together for a moment, however brief, to celebrate and bring more beauty to the world.
May we all be attuned to the music of Saraswati, and may our song join hers to play out our lives in divine harmony.
Off the Mat: This week as you are aware of your reactions to events in your life, see if your reactions to those events are adding to the beauty of the universe....or not. Notice if your actions and reactions are in harmony with what is happening, meaning that they are creating more ease and beauty and grace in your life and in the lives of those around you. If they are not, ask yourself what action or reaction would help move you closer to a harmonious state.
On the Mat: We worked on deep twisting in my classes this week, creating harmony in the relationship between the elbow and outer knee (as is done in so many twisting poses), and inviting the abdominals to the party, to create the deepest and most satisfying twist. Twists are balancing poses, and their wringing action on the internal organs helps to create balance within and congruity between the digestive, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems.