Monday, 18 June 2012

Yoga And Creativity

whenever you do something do it as a piece of art. Otherwise just don't do it. Let everything express the creativity of you'. Yoga Bhajan

Yoga is a creative practice into oneself and the world we live in. Without creativity, the world would not exist. We would not exist. Like other art forms, the practice of yoga draws upon inspiration from the world we live in and uses movement, music, sutras or poetry and other variation of expression to tell its story and teachings.

The practice of yoga has influenced many artists from all different mediums harness and focus on their creative nature and arguably, produces their best work to share with the world. The creative process requires time and patience, just like yoga.  An artist working on a painting for example, must destroy and then re-build again and again before reaching the end result, building on layers of texture and colour before it becomes a beautiful piece of art. A teacher of yoga will need to do a similar process to create a class that inspires.

Many artists who suffer from depression and have an angry temperament find it hard be creative and never reach their highest potential as an artist - their creative spirit is blocked by aspects of their personality and many creative people throughout history have ended up suffering because of this.
The practice of yoga can help an artist in the creative process by destroying certain aspects of their personality in order to create and move forward and gain further insight into the beautiful gifts yoga provides. Avidiya - the root causes of obstacles - Raja (attachment), Dvesa (refusal), Abhinvesa (fear) and Asmita (ego)- Once these obstacles are broken down, the student of yoga has more space within them emotional and physically to progress in their practice and in life - this allowing more room for their creative spirit to be free and reach a higher potential.

Music As Yoga, a book by musician Patrick Bernard explores this subject in more detail, showing extensive research into the healing powers of music and the effect music has on ones personality and lifestyle. A quote taken from the book says: 'All Music, whatever it may be, influences our mood, our feelings, our attitudes and the behavior it causes'. The book suggests that pop/rock music (although not all) can be destructive and harmful to the listener. Although I agree that certain pieces of music have no place in a yoga environment, I personally couldn't imagine my personal choice of music being an element to my practice, as I personally feel a connection to modern music with my own practice and certain genres aid in different types of practice throughout the yoga spectrum.

The Beatles visited Rishikesh, India, in 1968 to attend training sessions on transcendental meditation – lessons given to them by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
During their time spent at the Ashram, the group wrote many songs, later appearing on; The White Album and Abbey Road – several of the songs contain eastern musical styles. The reason for the bands venture into meditation and Indian spirituality was to find a different kind of creative process for their music. The bad had been using pyscadelic drugs to expand their conciseness and their creativity, prior to an introduction by Maharishi into the benefits of meditation. The New York Times reported that the Maharishis influence over the band and their time spent meditating and at the experience of ashram life at Rishikesh, weaned them off LSD and inspired them to write many new songs. The report stated, ‘It was an extraordinary period of creativity for them’.
These influences seemed to stay with most of the members of the band through their lives and musical careers. Paul McCartney is an animal- rights campaigner, George Harrison was a well know Hare-Krishna devotee and Indian musical producer and John Lennon is remembered as a humanitarian and an ambassador of world peace. In John Lennon’s song Instant Karma, he tells us to all be careful about what we put into the world and how we treat others and that we are all one and nobody is exempt from the universal law of Karma

‘Its not the life you live, but the courage you bring to it’. Gurmukh.

Creativity in the yoga classes of today is very evident. Vinyasa flow, a style of yoga developed by a traditional lineage of teachings along with creativity, has set a new standard and attracts many creative followers, due to its fluidity and dynamism. Along with vinyasa flow, many western teachers have developed new styles of yoga and many choosing music as the main creative aspect to the class – the most unlikely of which is Hip-Hop music.
Neil Patel started teaching Hip-hop yoga in 2006; a style which he developed through the love of his two passions: rapping and yoga. This certain approach to teaching yoga has come under scrutiny within the yoga world as many people do not see explicit lyrics and heavy beats very relevant to yoga. On the other hand, his classes have attracted a new community of yoga student, who are young, vibrant, and eager to know more about the teachings of yoga – fusing that with their own passion for music that is relevant to their demographic – can only be a positive tool for teaching and changing people’s views on how yoga should be perceived. In an interview I constructed with Neil, I was curious to find out why he started this type of class and what creative yoga means to him.
He explained his main source of creativity to me, saying ‘Most of my poetry is from meditation – my soul speaks to my conscious mind and deliver ideas and words’. He suggested that ‘we cannot get to God without being creative as creativity is a part of his Prakriti (nature)’. He goes on to explain to me how hip-hop yoga has bought about a change in his students by expressing gods nature and creativity. ‘Creativity is a great tool for expression and because yoga opens up those channels stiffened by years of fear, creative confidence pours out – artistically, emotionally and with just pure sweat. Hip-hop yoga tunes people into rhythm again and any finely tuned instrument will make a better sound’. My personal view (albeit a generalization) on this statement, is that statistically Hip-hop music appeals to young people with possibly troubled lives. How wonderful it is to marry something that is relevant to youth culture with something that will help dispel their troubles. This teaching method seems to be a great case of how yoga and creativity comes together to form mental and social process, full of new inspiration and conceptual ideas. Hip-Hop music, has historically bought about change in society, which has shown social commentary in music at its best. Yoga has done the same in its own unique way, by bringing about social change too, about how we think and treat one another. Fusing the two together shows how much yoga is about change and how it will continue to evolve to inspire them most unlikely students to reveal in the wonderful practice of yoga.

"When i demonstrate, im an artist". B.K.S Iyengar

The postures expressed in a surya namaskar sequence are not just movements, the man sitting with his legs crossed with eyes closed is not just chilling out – yoga remains a poetic language that comes from 1,000’s of year’s worth of knowledge on the self and the universe. That knowledge brings us to know the self and the knowledge we are all connected by the same creative source; the divinity within us all. In order to have a creative space within, we must be freed from the things that bind us. The ego needs to be depleted, negative comparisons must become positive inspiration from others, limiting belief must now be courage and confidence – all these things allows our creative spirit to run free. The practice of yoga slowly breaks down those limiting beliefs in us that hinder our creativity and shines the light we need to get out of the dark.

The arts have always drawn inspiration from spiritual teachings and ideas-Angles have always been depicted in cinema and paintings – but now we are seeing yoga influences in films, artwork and music in the western world. Art reflects on the world we live in, and the creative work expressed by the artist who practices yoga is always some of their best. Ray of light by Madonna scooped 4 Grammys out of 6 nominations – the first grammy wins of her career- and has been hailed as one of pop music’s greatest masterpieces and has introduced many to the practice of yoga. The album was released in 1998, the same year as Alanis Morrisettes' epic, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie – a time when yoga was just about to hit big globally and the two inspired albums were released at a time when the world was waking up to the economic greed of the 90’s and looking for a change in direction, reflection and spiritual values that were being lost in western civilization. Since the 1970’s when his meditation practice began, David Lynches' work have won some of the highest honors throughout his career and his movies are taught in universities all over the world – his films continue to be more imaginative and thought provoking. When there is space within us to learn, to grow and to share, our best work within the world will always be done – yoga is the tool to unlock this truth and our creative interests can become the medium in which we express this. 

I have personally written my best poems inspired by yoga and what yoga has taught me. It has taught me more about compassion for others. It has taught me how to me more playful and light. It has taught me to laugh and cry more. It has taught me to explore my body and my interests and shows me the way to my highest potential.

Art does exactly the same.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Madonna's Ray Of Light - Techno-Yogi

Ray of light is the eight seventh album from queen of pop, Madonna and was the stars' comeback album after her lengthy absence from music during the mid- nineties. The album received critical acclaim and is one of the stars most successful and musically accomplished albums to date. It won four Grammy awards and spawned many chart-topping singles, which re-established Madonna as the most successful female and versatile artist of our time.
Ray of light has been defined as Madonna’s spiritual album, which saw the star re-invent herself as a techno yogi, ready to share her most candid and soul searching stories ever. The albums inspiration comes from Madonna’s own practice of yoga, eastern philosophies and the birth of her first child, Lourdes.

The term Ray Of Light, from a yogic perspective, refers to the Sanskrit term, Sushumna Nadi, the main energy centre of the body, which runs along the spine. 
With the practice of yoga, this energy channel, and others, can be awakened to release energy to the body and mind. The title track thus, is an energetic techno-rave of pure light and joy, which uplifts any grey day. The inspiring lyrics and energy suggests the artist is spiritually, physically and mentally sound and also suggests someone who is rejoicing in their newfound knowledge. ‘She’s got herself a little piece of heaven’, ‘she’s got herself a universe’ and ‘I feel home’, are all lyrics from this track that support this interpretation. The track is carefully placed behind, Drowned world/substitute for love and Swim, both personal insights on redemption and spiritual growth. Ray of light extends these themes as a celebration on how one feels after much soul-searching and reflection.

The middle chunk of the album continues on the spiritual musical journey, with three tracks bursting with inspired enlightenment.
Nothing Really Matters is an honest, beautiful expression of love and compassion, encapsulating a universal idea of how to treat one and other. ‘Nothing really matters, love is all we need. Everything I give you, all comes back to me’ is the lyrical mantra which enriches with its message of loving another gives one and abundance of love back and that’s what really maters.
Sky Fits Heaven is a thumping kick-ass ride along a road of philosophical signs and following your heart. This track implies struggles with spiritual wisdom and how one should always follow their heart more than the oversaturated amount of offerings one could receive on their spiritual path. The verses are all philosophical offerings and advise on what one should do or could aim for when following their spiritual path, however the music is a pounding beat of electronica, which highlights the distortion between your own mind and an overload of information. The chorus on the other hand is melodic and sung beautifully, reflective of the lyrics, which suggest that following ones own road and heart may be the best way forward.
A traditional yoga mantra gets a techno-pop makeover in the form of, Shanti/Astangi. This track blends together Indian music, techno and Sanskrit to great effect and is never shy of being played in yoga classes. 

Listening to this album is like going on a journey- a journey through the pitfalls of fame and life, spiritual awakening and growth.  Being released in the late 90’s, a time when consciousness in the world, along with yoga, was being more and more valued as a way of life and superstars like Madonna, were able to bring those values into popular culture to reach a wider audience, inspiring many people to take up yoga and to adopt an eastern way of thinking. This is more than a pop album, it’s a concept, a spiritual guide and musically ahead of its time which still sounds modern and relevant today. An absolute must for any music fan and modern yogi alike.