I know that many of us have found both confidence and solace in yoga, me especially over the past six months. Each Sunday, I wait in anticipation of the arrival of Yoga with Adriene‘s weekly update: a beautifully written message and a new video. A few weeks ago, this was part of the message which arrived:
‘Today, I invite you to take stress energy and root it back down in your foundation.
Trust the foundation and know that each time we come to the mat we are adding to and working with that foundation.
Foundation is important because it allows you to feel where you’re coming from and where you are going without having to worry about either one.
Ground, be present, and recharge your batteries.’
I think that as musicians and learners of music, we have a huge amount to learn from yoga, and I believe this message applies to both equally.
The general expectation for anyone learning an instrument is that the longer they learn, the more advanced they become. Indeed, the more advanced one becomes, the harder pieces one is able to play (all unwritten expectations of course!). ‘Harder’ often equates to more notes, more complex rhythms and faster tempi.
I think that in our quest to play harder pieces, it’s easy to forget our foundations. I believe this happens in two ways.
Firstly, it’s easy when struggling with harder pieces to forget how far we’ve come. We often mark the ‘big’ milestones (exam results etc.), but it’s not as easy to recognise the tiny incremental steps forward we make on a daily basis. Sometimes it does us good to revisit our foundations, to see how far we’ve come and to feel grounded on the journey we’re on.
Secondly, there are also practical reasons for revisiting our foundations, for it’s upon these foundations that everything else on the journey is built. None of us should feel ashamed at revisiting the basics. The tone exercises we might give a beginner pupil still have much to teach us. As much as we might long to challenge ourselves (OK…humour me…) with G# melodic minor in contrary motion, let’s not forget how we first got our fingers and heads around C major, one octave, hands separately.
So, be grounded in your foundations. Enjoy the journey, but just occasionally take a moment to look behind you to see all that’s contributed to the place you’re at now.