The Yogic Om and Adult Piano Lessons

The Yogic Om and Adult Piano Lessons

Earlier this week at yoga, I received an unexpected confirmation of the progress I’ve made in my adult piano lessons.

At the Thursday night Be-evolution class, the brainchild of Jagadisha, our studio owner, I placed my mat next to a man who appeared to be a newbie.  He sat crossed-legged, his eyes closed.  Wearing a puka shell necklace over his bare chest, he might have fooled me into believing he was a regular, except for the fact that his mat cut across one of the lines formed by alternating swaths of carpet.  Jagadisha is very strict that we line up our mats.

Jagadisha entered the studio.  After asking the puka-shell man to fix his mat, our teacher opened the class with three Oms.   I used to consider chanting Oms to be a somewhat threatening, new-agey idea with little perceived value, but now the Oms are actually one of the favorite parts of class.  There’s something very peaceful and centering about exhaling this one tone with lips rounded in the O-shape.

Jagadisha’s Oms appear to be two or three tones below middle C, perfect for me since I am an alto who fakes her way through soprano church hymns.  Even better, Jagasdisha keeps the note centered, without wavering in pitch.

“Ooooooommmmm.”  The newbie in the puka shell necklace next to me was droning Om loudly, off-tune.

After that auspicious beginning, my neighbor in the necklace continued to advertise his presence.  Halfway through the class, he belched loudly.  In my eight years of attending hot yoga (I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve been practicing so long since my postures aren’t so hot), I’ve never heard anyone burp quite that way in class.  While I was hyperventiliating during the excruciatingly painful pigeon pose—I have the world’s tightest hips—puka-shell man slurped loudly from his water bottle, then snapped the plastic in and out.

When we arrived at the final Om, he once again sang flat.  Loudly.  It seemed to me he had dipped down a semitone.  I had to admire how Jagadisha did not stray from the original note.  At the end of the chant, I was proud to see that I also had held my Om through the dissonance.

When I lay down on my mat for the final savasana, I had to admit that the new guy with the shell necklace, although he rankled, had done me a favor.  He had helped me recognize a new skill that was no doubt related to my adult piano lessons.  I was proud that I could discern that he had chanted Om flat, as opposed to sharp, and that he had strayed only about a semitone.

When I returned to adult piano lessons in 2005, after a twenty-five year hiatus, I felt insecure about my musical abilities.  Instead of allowing that I might be rusty, I told myself that my musical abilities were limited.  I lacked so much confidence that I decided I could not recognize when my piano was out of tune.  So making a quick call on the poor puka-shell guy’s off-tune chanting of Om felt like a precious marker of progress.

For me, reclaiming the piano has ushered in a change of life, a new way of being, a more centered existence, at the heart of which exists the single tone Om.

Copyright © 2018 Nancy M. Williams. All Rights Reserved.

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