This past weekend I began Yoga Teacher Training in a quest to do a few things:
- 1. Dive deeper into the physical and mental/spiritual practices of yoga that have enhanced my personal health and well-being
- 2. Explore how the practice of yoga interacts with and compliments the process and practices of singing and teaching singing.
- 3. Spend deeper and richer time in the community of yoga practitioners with whom I feel a kindred spirit in our quest for wholeness
Following each weekend of YTT with the marvelous Rachel Miller and a fabulous cohort of practitioners, I plan to share my experience and take-aways. These blogposts will for the basis of an online vocal techniques course that I am currently writing.
Please feel free to share your comments and thoughts on each post.
BlogPost 1 INtention VS ATtention
One of the first things you hear in a yoga studio at the beginning of class is usually a question posed by the teacher:
What is your intention for this time on your mat?
Not what do you hope to accomplish? Not how can you get better today? Not how do you want to feel when this is over?
This intention - word or thought - becomes a guiding principle for the practice. It can be a dedication to someone or something. It can be a desire to maintain or grow in a certain area. It can be a specific focus in the activity. It is an inwardly guiding structure for mind and body in the course of the activity. Over the course of the class, you are typically guided to come back to your intention. It is not judged or evaluated at the end.
Contrast that with Attention. Something you are attending to - perhaps watching over a pot of boiling water; or checking to see if it is right or OK like parents checking on kids doing their homework; or attending a soccer game, being present as a spectator. Attendance at today’s game was over 100,000 fans, which that tells us nothing about the quality of presence for anyone in the space. These are all exterior to thing or experience itself.
As singers we can attend to our performance of a piece by watching to see or hear if we doing x, y, or z? Efforts are pointed AT something. This is implies a right/wrong or not right - enough quality that remains ultimately judgmental. It is working to earn the attention the audience, and always questioning to know if it is enough. We are performing for them, gaining their attention in exchange for our ability to align with what they think is the right or best way to do something. In seeking attention, we lose the spirit of our true presence for that moment of delivery, and the gift of unity of instrument and empathy in performance is lost.
By contrast, when we root our performance in Intention, we learn to become the vessel of the composer’s intention. The performer's first question is what does the composer intend to say with the song? How do you know that? What are the cues and clues in the piece? And then the performer's focus shifts to how can I bring about the composer's intention? How can I get out of the way so that the intention is made more clear? Our intention drives our attention toward a specific element of the delivery, like breathing in phrases that work for singer and text to expose the meaning. We are called to consider and play with the composer's work, and create our own structure to bring it to life. You love the piece and you love the work of bringing the piece to life. Each time you perform the piece is another "inhabitation" of Intent - another moment to share the composer's INtention. Embrace it and then let it go.