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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Songs for Savasana - My Five Favorites

Wow that is a very alliterative title - and I didn't even plan it that way!

When I was younger, one of my favorite ways to escape the world was to turn on my favorite music and lie on the floor of my bedroom, clearing my mind and letting the music wash over me. Sometimes it was a Beethoven symphony; sometimes it was Chopin; other times it was Fiona Apple or Tori Amos, or when I'd had a really rough day, punk rock. I called it "lying on the floor listening to music."

Now, one of my favorite ways to escape the world is to turn on my favorite music and lie on the floor of my apartment, clearing my mind and letting the music wash over me - only now it usually follows a yoga practice, and I call it "Savasana."

Victor Hugo once wrote: "Music expresses that which cannot be put into words, and on which it is impossible to remain silent." One of the reasons I love music so much - and have studied it for so long - is the profound way it cuts right to my soul - it really does speak in a way that is beyond words alone. Yoga, too, is a way of speaking - a celebration without words... I think a lot of what I love about yoga are the same things I love about music, and the two often come together in a very special way. They help me to remember what is deep inside of me, and to express what I sometimes cannot say.

Although it's easy to think of savasana as "just lying on the ground," it is considered the most important yoga asana, and is actually the final pose in the Anusara syllabus, meaning it is the most difficult. B.K.S. Iyengar said that savasana is "like a snake shedding its skin to emerge glossy and resplendent in its renewed colors" - in other words, it is about letting go. Letting go is not easy. Deep relaxation and meditation are not easy.

It's easy to want to skip savasana - you have to get to class, work, so many other obligations are pulling you off of your mat and out the door. But, being able to let go of those attachments is the whole point of practicing. Even just to spend a minute or two in savasana is better than none at all - and is that one extra minute at work or school really going to make a difference? Enjoy your savasana - let it soak in, and you'll find that your whole life feels less urgent and hectic.

Here are five of my favorite songs for savasana - they all have a sort of floating, suspended quality to them - like time doesn't exist. I love when a song does that.

1) The Cinematic Orchestra "To Build a Home"
My anusara teacher, Ali, played this in class one night and I immediately went home and downloaded it. It is a beautiful song that uses silence as effectively as it uses sound. Never underestimate the power of silence and pauses in music.

2) Arvo Part "Alina"
I discovered Estonian composer Arvo Part in a music history class during my sophomore year of college, and he has stuck with me ever since. All of his music is very minimalist and this piece is no exception - another great example of how silence can be a note. This piece feels endless to me, in a good way.

3) S. Carey "In the Stream"
S. Carey (who works with Bon Iver) has a deep passion for minimalist composers like Part, as well as Phillip Glass and Steve Reich, and you can really tell in his music - lovely, moving and contemplative.

4) Jonsi "Hengilas"
Jonsi is the lead singer for Sigur Ros, who I also love - this song has a very expansive quality that just carries me away the second I hear it.

5) Eric Whitacre "The Seal Lullabye"
I would say without hesitation that Eric Whitacre is my favorite living choral composer. We sang his "A Boy and a Girl" my senior year in the St. Olaf Choir and it broke my heart every time. This is one of his newer works and I love it to pieces.

Do you practice yoga at home? What is your favorite music to relax to? To practice to? Let me know, I am always looking to expand my musical library :)


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