Perfect Pitch: Why I Practiced 12 Hours of Yoga

The oboist plays an “A.” Woodwinds sound like a whisper in a quiet forest, the brass are brash and bring images of military style marching band uniforms with the inevitable overly large pith helmet slipping down over the tubist’s eyes, as he puffs his cheeks and blows an “A.” The violins whine, the cellos soften the intonation, and the double bass moan as the entire string section breathes out on an “A.” Overtaking individual intonations, “A” swarms every corner of the hall.

I hear the orchestra tune to one pitch at the start of a yoga practice. People come off the street, out of tune, strangled by their every day movements. My left hip is stuck in my left hip joint, from driving around in the car. My neighbor’s shoulders are rounded over in kyphotic worship to a computer screen, and the list goes on. No one comes to the mat without bringing their day, their night, and every yesterday.

We breathe in as a group, stoking a fire in our bellies, and we Om together. The sound starts as an “Ah” at the back of the mouth, becomes an “Uh” sound towards the middle of the pallet, and closes with a gentle vibration on the lips. We tune the sound three times, at the beginning of class. We tune up our bodies for an hour and a half, breathing through motions to unfold the body’s natural alignment. At the end of class we breathe in again for that final sound, and somehow everyone is on the same pitch. The “A” rings out to every corner of the room. Practitioners get up and walk out straight and strong.

Tuning up my body through an hour and a half yoga practice is sufficient to take me through the day connected in mind, body and breath, so naturally, I wanted to see what could happen if I amped up my practice. It took all the presence from my hour and a half practice for me to sign my name to a piece of paper committing me to 12 hours of yoga. In addition each participant had a goal of $500 to fundraise for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Compared to fundraising, binding my thigh with both arms, hands clasped in prayer, raising my toes to the sky, balancing on the opposite foot and opening my heart seemed like a piece of cake.

The apprehension rode me for the next couple of days. Every time I walked into class, I had to remind myself “shoulders back, head up, eyes closed.” Every time I tuned in with the rest of the practitioners I’d buck that feeling. Every time I left class, it would climb back on. I sent out the usual email blasts, special little pleas to my parents, and close friends, but the money trickled in slowly. Frustrated, I did something I do only as a last resort, I listened to advice. I started posting on Facebook, writing in my blog, and giving friends and family the chance to connect, to tune in with me. I received donations from friends I hadn’t spoken with in years.

Each participant at last Saturday’s Yogathon at City Yoga brought connections to the mat. Tuning in, tuning up, tuning for every person that gave, for every person that connected and reconnected for this cause. At At the close of the practice that “A” rang through walls, rolled over the country and leapt oceans.




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