Fitness Friday Week 3: Loving Kindness Meditation

This week we’ll be taking a break from our core work and focusing on the mental aspect of being a singer. No one said being a performer would be easy. We have to be at the top of our game at all times. We have to be 100% focused, even when someone coughs or opens up a candy wrapper during the performance. There are no do-overs in the world of  performance artist and everything we do is constantly judged. Anxiety attacks abound in this line of work as we never get a break from the stressors of attempting to achieve the illusive perfection. Every one of us has become overwhelmed by it all at one point or another. It’s human nature to buckle under all of that pressure. However, as singers, problems arise when fear, anxiety, or even just excited adrenaline get in the way of your ability to perform your best.

 Luckily, this meditation practice can help you to become grounded, focused, and calm. The real beauty of this practice is, once you ingrain the pattern into your memory, you can do this meditation anywhere. I always do it in the “green room” before a performance and none of the other perfomers have any idea I am meditating. When I have to sit on stage in full view of the audience and then get up and sing, I’ll also practice this with my eyes open. This focused breath helps keep me from worrying or running through my lyrics for the millionth time and getting myself into a nervous dither. I adore the simplicity and focus of this meditation and that it reminds us to breath deeply, something many of us forget to do when nervous and adrenaline rear their heads. 

I hope this practice helps you. Try it the next time you feel flustered and still need to sing. As always, feel free to send me any questions you may have! 

(Open on blog to see video link)

Lie Fallow and Rest

“In America, we hurry–which is well; but when the day’s work is done, we go on thinking of losses and gains, we plan for the morrow, we even carry our business cares to bed with us, and toss and worry over them when we ought to be restoring our racked bodies and brains with sleep. We burn up our energies with these excitements, and either die early or drop into a lean and mean old age at a time of life which they call a man’s prime in Europe. When an acre of ground has produced long and well, we let it lie fallow and rest for a season; we take no man clear across the continent in the same coach he started in–the coach is stabled somewhere on the plains and its heated machinery allowed to cool for a few days; when a razor has seen long service and refuses to hold an edge, the barber lays it away for a few weeks, and the edge comes back of its own accord. We bestow thoughtful care upon inanimate objects, but none upon ourselves. What a robust people, what a nation of thinkers we might be, if we would only lay ourselves on the shelf occasionally and renew our edges!” – The Innocents Abroad

By a strange twist of fate, I ended up getting the full day off today. Between practicing for concerts, prepping for lessons and yoga classes, and doing research, my days off are few and far between. I often get caught up in all of my to-do lists and all of my goals and aspirations, that I forget to find moments of pause. While it is in my nature to get antsy after only a few hours of rest, sometimes my body and mind cry for a bit of peace and quiet: I need only to stop and listen. Though I had planned to go out on an adventure today, when I woke up this morning, my body told me no. Worn out from an intensive teaching and practice schedule and looking towards a concert week, my body needed a break. So, I enjoyed a slow morning, baked some gluten-free cornbread, tidyed up the apartment, read, enjoyed the sunshine, and just let myself be quiet for the afternoon. Normally I become stir crazy and yearn to leave the house after only a few hours, but not today. Today I enjoyed the brief respite before the next storm of activity. 

I think we all need these quiet days of hermatige and introspection. Without this time to reflect and regroup, the body lives in a constant state of agitation and stress. The cortisol levels in your body stay high when you never let your body whirl down into sleep mode. This contributes to weight gain, high blood pressure, illness, exhaustion, fluctuating emotions, among other things. Your body will live in a constant state of “fight or flight” until you allow your parasympathetic nervous system to kick in to “rest and digest” the stress. In our culture, many of us live our lives feeding the sympathetic nervous system: the fight or flight mode. We drive, work, and play hard, and at the end of it all, to “unwind” we watch adrenaline-filled television or play games which keep the cortisol flowing. We forget to unplug and simply sit in silence, if only for a few moments, to let our bodies settle and digest all of the information and stimulation we have received. 

In yoga, savasana, the final 5 minutes of rest time at the end of the practice, is essential. This is the time to allow the body to integrate all of the work, extension, and strength that you had built in the class. It is the time to reap the rewards of your toil and enjoy the breath and the clear head. It is the time to simply be. Unfortunately, many of my students loath these 5 minutes. Our constantly ticking brains don’t know what to do when we are not being physically or mentally active. Several of my gym yoga students even leave before savasana begins– too consumed with their need for productivity that they ignore the benefits of a few moments of peace. Every time I see someone pack up and leave before letting their bodies settle, my heart breaks a little bit. If we can’t spare 5 minutes in our day to honor and restore our bodies, then we must be doing something wrong as a culture. What would happen if we valued our moments of rest (sleep, restorative yoga, meditation) as much as our moments of action? Our lives, our health, and our culture would be very different; that is for certain. 

Today, this manically productive girl is going to take a bit of her own advice. I am giving myself the opportunity to lie fallow and rest. While I have a few big concerts coming up, and work that’s been left unattended for awhile now, my body is asking me to lie out in the sun with a good book and some mint tea, so that is what I shall do. I will breath. I will let things settle. I will let myself simply be still rather than constantly pushing to the limits. Tomorrow, when the realities and complexities of life return, I will be more able to face them and make the right decisions. So, today, I am going to rest, free of guilt (for the most part… old habits die hard, you know.) Happy day of rest everyone. Make sure to sit in silence, if only for a few breaths. 

#journeytohandstand challenge day 15: Pinchamayurasana/ forearm balance. “Whenever you see a successful person you only see the public glories, never the private sacrifices to reach them.” Today I woke up craving backbends and heart openers, so I decided to try a new variation of Pinchamayurasana for my challenge posture. I first tried this pose on the smooth wood floor without a mat and my arms slipped out from under me as I kicked up my legs and I face-planted to the floor. 2 years ago, I would have become frustrated, start the negative self-talk of how this is too advanced for me, and given up. But today I just laughed so much that tears welled up in my eyes, rubbed my sore nose, rested in child’s pose for a few minutes to let th adrenaline simmer down, grabbed my mat, and tried again. This time kicking up was no issue and I smiled as my back and heart opened. The time for give up is never. 

The snow globe effect

Life is meant to be shaken up. Force yourself to stretch beyond your comfort zone; but, then you have to let yourself settle into place. Any good yoga series is made up of poses and counter poses, moments of activity and moments of release and replenishment. Any progress worth making requires work, effort, focus, and exertion, but it also needs rest and time to regroup. If you are always shaking your snow globe, your life will always be in frantic movement: with no clarity or peace. But, if you give yourself a moment to settle, to let things slow down and clear up, then the next time you shake things up you’ll be more focused, energized, and ready to go. 

When you find yourself getting worked up, frustrated, upset, and performing under an adrenaline rush–be it in the practice room, on the yoga mat, at the computer, or in your life–pause and reflect for a moment. Give yourself time to settle down and start again. Rather than continuing the cyclone of emotion and working yourself into a frenzy, soften and breath. Let the light in once the flurries slow down and suddenly everything appears simpler, calmer, and attainable. Get out of your own way and put the snow globe down. You never know how things might settle into place. 

 #journeytohandstand challenge day 12; handstand prep. I spend so many hours on the road that it’s a blessing to stumble upon a little park and rest stop where I can stretch it out, get my blood pumping, and let my mind settle… if only for a few moments.