I stepped briskly across the melting frost yesterday morning. Chill breeze, warm sun. A wakeful blend. I was headed to yoga, but instead of dancing out of the house, light on my feet without bags or babies, I was anchored slightly by an old friend: my cello, along for the ride.
The full tale begins last October at the fundraiser my friends and I put together for a rockstar of a child named Caemon. Caemon was diagnosed with leukemia at the end of last summer, just before his third birthday. He is currently recovering from bone marrow transplant and preparations are being made to ready home for his return. You can follow his story here.
I was lucky to receive a raffle item at the fundraiser: one month of unlimited yoga classes. In order to squeeze every ounce from this unexpected windfall, I waited until quiet January to begin my month of yoga.
Most mothers of young children do not take month-long yoga sabbaticals. No time! Cooperation from Thor has been essential and ongoing, and I know it hasn’t been easy for him to take on extra hours of solo parenting beyond our usual balance. It is a gift I will remember long after our children are old enough to put themselves to sleep.
I’ve enjoyed several forms of yoga over the years — Vinyasa, Iyengar, and Kundalini, as well as unspecified Hatha yoga — and anticipated a relaxing break and the chance to regain some semblance of shape after months of pre and postnatal sloth. I had no expectations beyond that, which is truly the best way to begin any adventure.
My toes sank gratefully into the heated entryway floor that first day, and my mind reveled similarly in broad bare floors spread beneath a high peaked roof adorned with silk and skylights. I gathered equipment together and, taking my cue from those already assembled, settled into the light meditation common to the first minutes of yoga.
Class began with guided attention to breath, again not unlike my past experience with yoga, but once we began moving I immediately felt a departure. Where other classes had either swung briskly from posture to posture in an effort to raise heart rates or stayed resolutely mired in a single pose with instructions to breathe through the discomfort, Triyoga moved slowly, lithely, deliberately from one position to the next. Those postures that were sustained were entered and exited with glacial grace so as not to break the serenity draping the room like fine fabric. Props were encouraged and frequently offered to avoid strain wherever the well-trained instructor’s eye saw need; clearly, pain was not revered as the route to yogidom here.
Somehow, yoga and tai chi had a love child, and I was only finding out about it now.
Immediately my composer’s fingers itched to depict the slow, graceful arc of class, to weave its flowing form into music. The recordings used in class formed a quiet, subtle ostinato; the melody was in our movements, a thrumming heterophony as each person followed the tempo of their own breathing, synchronized yet individual, like waves, or souls.
My inner musician already thus delighted, it was chocolate truffles after all-you-can-eat sushi when the chanting began. In the Basics level, class closed with three simple repetitions of “om,” which was invigorating enough, but in the Level 1 classes the teacher and more experienced students would soar confidently through an intricate melody while the rest of us fumbled behind, longing to follow.
I was hooked.
I went home and taught what I remembered to Owlet, and she was adorably approximate in her mimicry, her enthusiasm entirely unsuited to slow, precise motion, her small child’s flexibility more than making up for it.
Suddenly, I was hooked not just on my behalf, but for her and Platypup as well. Unobtainable visions filled my head of gentle little yoginis in moving meditation. It was akin to being handed a recipe for raising happy, fulfilled, peaceful children. I might fall short of the ideal in execution, or my cooking tools might be less than perfection, but with a good recipe one usually winds up with a good end result if your chef is moderately skilled.
I feel moderately skilled.
Gosh, I hope I am moderately skilled.
Before long I realized, with a flash of insight, that it might be a gorgeous thing to accompany Triyoga class with my cello. I wanted to suggest it, but the clear, open, nearly memory-free mindset I obtained through yoga combined with the need to fly back to my nest meant the opportunity never presented itself… until this past Wednesday evening, when I arrived to find a guitar player settling in to play for the class! It was very nice indeed to have live music, and afterward, a simple thing to suggest I do the same with my cello.
Of course, I have hopes of trading cello playing for yoga classes, who wouldn’t, but first I wanted to offer the studio owner a gift as thanks for the donation she made on Caemon’s behalf. I spend so much of my professional life as a musician fretting over money; it felt freeing to be donating my talents in this way.
Yesterday I arrived early to attend the first class of the day as a yoga student and play for the second class. I would gladly augment warmup time at the cello with yoga in the future! When the time came for me to play, I was loose, relaxed, and focused.
I began with a free improvisation somewhat based on the opening to Randall Thompson’s Alleluia crossed with a fragment of Triyoga chant. I eventually settled into a rubato version of Morten Lauridsen’s Les Chansons des Roses. I used the two movements I knew the best to form a large-scale rondo for the duration of the class, interspersed with my cello accompaniment to Thor’s version of California Stars, the G major Sarabande from Bach’s cello suites, and several original improvisations. I returned to some of my opening material toward the end and finished with long, drifting harmonics as the class settled into closing meditation.
Uncomfortable chair aside, it was blissful.
I may have been built for this, a thousand strands of personal history leading here. Or it could be one shining moment and that’s it. I don’t know.
It has been a long time since I’ve done anything that effortlessly and had it mean so much.