by Rena Urso
Several months ago, I created a simple morning ritual for myself that was meaningful, productive, and joyful. By 11 am each day, give or take, I made a pot of my favorite tea, meditated, practiced yoga, and practiced my flute and piccolo. I don’t need to tell you how fabulous all of that has felt, having accomplished so much in a short period of time each day. But, over the past few weeks it all began to feel a lot like work, something I had to do instead of something I was choosing to do. Despite these feelings, most days I’ve found ways to push through, picking one or two morning activities and letting the others go for the moment.
I got to thinking: how did something I created, without any set parameters from outside forces, something which has given me such joy and felt so good, physically, emotionally, and mentally, suddenly become drudgery?
So, I sat with it. I meditated and journaled about it, and even chatted with a few close friends. And then something pretty great happened this morning: I rolled out my yoga mat and got back to business. As enthusiastic as I felt about getting back on the horse, I was sure my body would feel stiff and weak for not having been consistent in my practice these past couple of weeks. I was wrong. I actually felt stronger, more focused, and more flexible. I took all of that yoga magic to my practice room and had a super productive practice session. Excited and inspired, I immediately sat down to write this.
The thing is, even on the days when I haven’t gotten into my usual morning groove, at some point during the day, I have done at least one beneficial physical activity; taken a walk, napped, meditated, a few forward folds, or a short session of nighttime Yin Yoga. The tape that plays in our classical musician heads, the one that tells us that we’re never doing enough and need to always be doing something or else, is really not helpful. It’s perfectly OK to simply BE.
The lesson I was reminded of this morning was a valuable one:
Taking a break ultimately makes us stronger and helps us to be more grounded. That gift of time and space offers us much needed perspective and a renewed sense of creativity.
Think about times in your life that you have taken a break from whatever it is you do, flute related or not. Now, think about all the good that has come as a result of those breaks; vacations, a much-needed break after a recital or audition, time off after a busy semester, etc. If we’re not feeling it, we would do well to not force it. Instead, listen carefully to your inner voice and do that which will bring you joy. Giving ourselves the gift of time off is essential to our well-being. When we force things, or are in a state of incongruence, we quickly reach the point of diminishing returns – not only with regard to our focus or lack thereof, but also physically; forcing often leads to gripping, tension, limitation, pain, and even injury. I see these common patterns with many of the students with whom I work.
I’ve said this in previous columns, but it’s worth repeating: continue to deepen your awareness, trust and listen to your body, and take what you need. Be your own best advocate and let go of the need to always be doing something. You might be surprised at how much more fun you start to have with the process, both in and out of your practice room.
Happy practicing, and be well!
Rena Urso is a member of the faculties at California State University Long Beach and California State University Stanislaus, and a Course Coordinator for California State University Summer Arts – home to her popular biennial summer flute course, The Complete 21st Century Flutist at CSU Summer Arts, taking place again this July (https://www2.calstate.edu/SummerArts/Courses/Pages/the-complete-21st-century-flutist.aspx). As a Licensed Body Mapping Educator, she presents Body Mapping workshops and masterclasses all over the world. Rena is also a part of the newly launched International Piccolo Flute Academy. An active freelance musician in the San Francisco Bay Area, she is a member of the Oakland Symphony, the Oregon Coast Music Festival Orchestra, and Alcyone Ensemble. Additionally, she is a certified yoga and meditation instructor and member of the NFA Performance Health Committee. Rena lives in the Chicago area with her husband John and their dogs Lillie and Po. She is available for personal or group Zoom Body-Mapping sessions. For more information about Rena and Body Mapping tips, please visit www.renaurso.com.