Illustration: Johnny Automatic and The Magazine of Yoga
Real Life is Real Yoga
That thing that makes you move your attitude
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST EMMANUELLE LAMBERT
What a feeling…
Last night I was on a train, back from another yoga teacher training weekend, feeling miserable and worthless. This weekend had been hard and overwhelming, and all I wanted was a good cry, some sleep, and dark chocolate. Not necessarily in that order.
Instead of sobbing in my seat and making a fool of myself, I put my headphones on and then the magic happened. Instantly, I felt better.
Once again I marveled at the power of music, which added a yet new aspect to its multi-dimensional reach: the power of healing.
Lift your hands and voices
Music is such a great tool for healing the mind and the soul, it taps into our deepest emotions, almost in our reptilian brain, and in the eternal words of the lovely Mary Poppins, “that’s the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down, in the most delightful way.”
As I reminisced in my recent column “I was an Indie Rock Chick”, how often do we dig in our music collection to ease and facilitate any kind of recovery, from a momentary meltdown to a break-up? (Maybe not always with Celine Dion…)
How often, in a moment of despair, do we reach for something to cheer us up, or even accompany us?
Music is often part of that recovery process, whatever it may be from. No wonder music therapy is a growing field of health care. Indeed, according to the American Music Therapy Association,
music therapists assess emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills through musical responses.
People feel it everywhere
What makes music so powerful though is the fact that it is a universal language.
Although it appeals to our deepest personal emotions, although it resonates in tune to our very core, although as individuals we believe we are on our own little planet, we really react the same way all over the same planet. Speaking from an alien point of view, one doesn’t have to understand English perfectly to be moved by, say, Annie Lennox’s Into the West. (Yes, “Lord of the Rings” again, bis repetita placent.) It is just a question of tonality, rhythm, and vibration.
As much as lyrics give meaning to the song, the healing power of music resides in the tonality used and the sense we get from the overall flow. Believe me, you truly don’t want to get me started on rhythm and the whole job of the rhythmic section, aka in modern times as our dear friends Drums and Bass, you’ve read it all before.
Rhythm is a dancer
( tip of the hat to Snap)
Rhythm is a primitive sound, a primitive beat, and it is so effective because it is really the primitive heartbeat. I am guessing that is the reason why music is the vehicle to expressing our emotions, why it is indeed the soundtrack of our lives, why a particular tune or song will remind you of a past event, not that actual particular event itself, but the way you felt in that particular moment, and why we use music to make us feel better, after an atrocious day at work or a painful event in our life.
Because that is when you shut your brain off and stop thinking, and that is when you open your heart and start feeling.
This is when your primitive self takes over and does what it does best : finding the means to survive. This is, in short, a connection to your true deepest buried self.
That is the time when vibration takes hold, the vibration that helps you connect to that deepest self. Or maybe I should write that Self, with a capital “s”. Mantras create this vibration deep inside. Even if are not fluent in Sanskrit, it is not possible to deny that chanting has either a soothing or energizing impact on the body and the mind. You know what they say: mantras do on the inside what asanas do on the outside.
Beat that funk with music (and headphones and chocolate)
In a way, I admire music critics. Honestly I really do. Because aside from being able to analyze the guitar or whatever instrument technique, they are able to intellectualize something that is mostly felt, not always thought.
Now to be perfectly clear: I am not a tenant of anti-intellectualism, I am a bookworm myself. But I have never been able to describe exactly why I love this song or that band in particular. The closest I’ve been to write a reason why I enjoy a particular song was this bass line sends shivers down my spine. Much more organic, isn’t it ?
So last night, on this train, with my headphones on, I let go of the misery and let the music do its job. I almost sung to the whole crowd, but instead of making the rain fall and making a fool of myself, I left my headphones on and eased myself into some restorative sleep. Ok, before that, I also had a square of dark chocolate.
My advice for the holiday season ? Watch Mary Poppins with your loved ones, and sing at the top of your lungs!
Find Emmanuelle here on The Magazine every month in Music Matters. But don’t lose touch with her great style of living real – read her smart, hip and honest blog Plans on a Comet.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.