Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Power of Limits

There is an idea within music that can be found both in nature's limitless designs and in aspects of human ingenuity. It is that when limits are created, ultimate freedom can be achieved.

While at first glance the two words freedom and limitation seem to be in opposition of one another, upon further study one finds that this is not the case. Such is the subject matter of an amazing book by architect Gyorgy Doczi titled "The Power of Limits: Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art, and Architecture"

What Gyorgy reveals in his book is something I studied heavily in music theory at college.  When no boundaries or limitations are placed upon something, it quickly looses it's meaning, and it's ability to communicate something of value to the observer.  In the case of music, if you take away all the rules, you remove the musicality of what it is you are trying to express.  Such was the case with the 'free jazz' movement.  Jazz itself is full of rules, and thus provides the learned musician with an incredible language from which he or she can express a multitude of improvised melodies, harmonies and rhythms.  The moment one strays from the rules, the music often ceases to be enjoyable.

In the case of classical music, where the rules are so strict that classical musicians often fear improvising, there is also something lost.  If you look at the history books it was the Church who first decided that improvising forms of classical music was not only illegal, but reason for excommunication.  They decided what the voice of God was going to be and no one else.

Why am I blogging about this?  Because it relates very much to teaching and practicing yoga.  When I first learned yoga, my teacher taught me the forms and always gave me the freedom to explore them as I saw fit.  So much so that my personal practice outside of class was of equal value to my time spent in class.  I was lucky enough to learn in a small group so that his attention was closely divided among his students.  This gave me an intimate understanding of the forms, and allowed me plenty of freedom to explore improvising with them.

What I see when I tour to yoga events world wide is something I like to call the McAsana.  Yes folks, it's the same concept as going to a McDonald's anywhere in the world and ordering a burger.  The idea is that it's the same no matter what.  With deepest respect and gratitude for the widespread movement of yoga, I also yearn for and wish to see an expression of it that encourages learning the rules and then knowing when to break them.  

Such is the case in the music only classes I love DJ-ing for the most.  Music only classes are a space for people who have a strong personal practice, teachers, etc who want to simply drop into some deep, perfectly mixed instrumental music, go on a journey and do some yoga.  No instruction, only improvisation.  This is a balancing practice to the need for learning forms, which of course is vital and will always be an integral part of yoga.

So next time you're at a yoga festival, take a look and see if they're offering a music only flow - consider going and seeing what it feels like to simply practice yoga in the company of other yogis to some nice relaxing music provided hopefully by Yogi Tunes!

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