MUSIC AND YOGA
Music has a profound influence on our existence, something that has been observed from the ancient time of humanity. We use the Asanas to clean our body, unlock it, detoxify it and coordinate with our soul. Through them we learn and experience the basic ethics as non- violence, truth, self-control. The fine practice of Asana brings balance within us as it happens with everything in nature that is in tune and moves with rhythm.
As we observe alternating in the seasons, the flow of the planets, harmony in universe, life and death, each practice of yoga like each part of the 8 steps of Asthanga yoga is preparing our self to be more ‘clean’ and ready to experience the cosmic truth through awareness of each moment.
During focusing on our breath and feeling its stable flow we experience peace, while we can observe intense sensations in each breath retention/ pause (Kumbaka) either by deliberately holding the breath or by letting the pause happen in a natural way (Kevala Kumbaka). The more unblocked and clean our body is, keeping the breath flow in a stable rhythm, the more our mind can concentrate in order to experience deep truth within with the practice of meditation.
There are many ways to be in contact with our self, using our senses, many ways and approaches. One of them is the sensation of hearing, the sound. Familiar to the human being and able to penetrate every part of our self.
From the time of our birth, every period and phase of our life as also the moment that we leave the body we often use music as a companion, an ‘invisible’ friend that can touch our soul.
The effect of the sound in combination with the rhythm is a very special approach, very beneficial that goes hand in hand and co-exists with every phase of our life.
While Asana cleans and detoxes our body in a more tangible and directly perceived level, music works in a more subtle way.
An old story says that once God asked the soul to enter the human body, but the soul refused due to body’s limitations.
The God commanded Angels to sing, then the soul being ecstatic from dance came within the human body.
Since then till today and whenever the soul listens to music, we can experience even for few seconds that freedom again, a sense of time or a journey beyond the narrow limits of a human body.
THE ATMOSPHERE OF MUSIC
What makes Indian classical music so special is its deep connection with meditation and silence. Rich in lyricism and sensitivity mostly aims to awaken a deep inner silence so the listener can experience peace and awareness within.
Due to its introverted beauty can be treated as music for entertainment. In reality, however, it is more a kind of meditation through the sound.
A familiar listener goes deep by listening to it. Also it has been observed that even those who have not been in contact with this type of music before can enjoy and get benefited from its therapeutically qualities too.
While tuning the musical instrument the atmosphere is already lightened up through the listeners’ faces bringing the picture of a drawing that is being painted at that very moment.
The listener can feel within the body the music that enters through the ears while sitting preferably in a comfortable position and turning the attention in the flow of the sound. Easily one can find that the intensity, the rhythm and the melody affect his/ her internal constitution. Through this observation the sound moves in harmony with the breath all over the body and begins to give the feeling of vibration.
In this way the listener in the meditative mood comes in contact with the body and though it with his/her feelings.
He/She doesn’t escape but experiences the present moment while listening and even after the music ends.
The value of music inspires us to realize our inner and outer existence.
Music inspires us to experience the beauty of life at the present moment and any moment of our existence.
INDIAN CLASSICAL MUSIC
Indian classical music through the approach of the Raga can act deeply in our soul and offer abundant therapeutic benefits to it. With the term ‘Raga’ a Sanskrit term, we can say ‘coloring the mind, the soul’ . Using different notes in a certain way and putting emphasis on some of them we can feel a ‘painting’ being colored or a similar feeling to the soul. The term Raga comes from the ancient times of India. It is said Shiva as a great yogi spent time in the nature practicing it.
It is attributed to specific moments of the day, like morning, afternoon, evening, night or in more specific periods like spring, winter, or summer in order to bring rain.
We observe in the nature of a musician as yogi who has grown sidhis (spiritual powers) can influence and heal though the sound.
The nature and atmosphere of this type of music according to the history was from practitioners who lived in nature and in tune with it and explored the Raga.
We can observe an intense approach to the spiritual element, a search for God through the sound.
Today we can find this kind of music on concert halls but its essential position is through meetings in small rooms, or ‘bhaitak’ as they are called in India, which reminds a gathering of meditators.
Indian classical music is a tradition based on vocal as the main means of expression. It can also be expressed through musical instruments that can imitate the voice usually string or wind.
Sitar is one of the most popular instruments of north India, as it is referred in texts from around the 13th century.
Surbahar or as it is translated ‘sound of spring’ is similar to the Sitar but larger in size with a deeper and base sound.
Both instruments originate from the Rudra Veena as their ancestor that its construction is said to be an invention of lord Shiva.
It is said that while Shiva was in the forest he build it in order to explore the more fine parts (shrutis) of sound.
Inspired by his wife’s breasts, Parvati, he placed two large pumpkins as the speakers while he used Parvati’s bracelets as frets. He also used one hair from each of the seven Rishis (saints) for the strings of the instrument.
Another important instrument that is used is the Tanpura, keeping the main drone for the musical instruments.
AS A MUSICIAN
As long as I remember myself, music was always a good friend.
Since my experiences and taste of music varied from time to time, whenever the appropriate sound touched the right part of my soul I always felt healed by it.
I always loved music, but I become interested to learn it around the age of 25.
Luckily, I was in an Indian classical music concert in Thessaloniki, north Greece, in ’95.
I experienced something like being in a temple where the prayers happened through the sound, pure sound without adding words.
In the coming year, I travelled to India and came back with a sitar.
I had few basic lessons and I realized that if I wanted to learn it properly I should go to its ‘source’, India.
Next year, in ’98, I travelled to Varanasi, north India, following a recommendation to meet a certain Sitar teacher.
Surprisingly I found out that he was the same musician I had seen on stage two years ago in Thessaloniki.
For the following 12 years, I used to spend about half a year in Varanasi studying with Rabindra Narayan Goswami the sitar and later the surbahar (a base instrument similar to the sitar).
Music was the main reason that I was there, but Varanasi had to offer more like yoga, philosophy, Vedic astrology.
I would like to point out that the way and approach of this music as I experience it myself is a spiritual path.
That approach was something that I have not experienced before and I was inspired to devote a part of my life to it. Of course, there is no end to it, just I could say that those years the seeds of music were ‘implanted’ within me, something that grows through time.
I am very grateful to my teacher for many reasons and for sure that if it was not him probably I would not continue to study this type of music.
It took time for me, practice and persistence for achieving the basics like tuning, rhythm and comfortable position.
It is said that it takes at least 10 years to be able to enjoy your practice, 20 for the listeners to enjoy your playing, 40 for your Guru (teacher) to enjoy your music and at least a lifetime for God to enjoy your practice.
I never approached this music as Indian, in the sense that it is only referred to those who come from India, but as a path through the sound to see deep within me, where I could see an endless universe.
Through the period that I spent in India, I had the chance to meet many interesting yogi- musicians and to listen to many concerts.
Later around 2008 I got another special musical instrument the Rudra veena.
Soon I travelled to the Gurukul (a place where someone studies music) of the Dagar family. There I had the chance to spend some time with Fariddudin Dagar, one of the last Ustad (someone with deep knowledge and experience of music) of the Dhrupad scene (an approach to Indian music with a deep meditate quality) and to study with Bahauddin Dagar the Rudra veena, something that influenced my approach to music much.
Another important musician that influenced me deeply is Pushpraj Kosthi from Mumbai. The above musicians had the deepest influence on me, but there are also many others I met and listened to their music.
Two musicians that had a very important impact on me and influenced me deeply though their recordings, since I never met them, are Nikhil Banerjee and Zia Mohiuddin Dagar.
I cannot see any limits in this path and I enjoy its practice, as well as I feel very happy sharing it with open listeners.