The Yogi: Great songs – like ‘Free Fallin’ – are like great yoga classes

A good yoga session is a lot like a good song, says Mike Morris of Hot House NH Yoga & Pilates. Neither tries too hard to be anything -- they just exist. Courtesy of Mike Morris
A good yoga session is a lot like a good song, says Mike Morris of Hot House NH Yoga & Pilates. Neither tries too hard to be anything -- they just exist. Courtesy of Mike Morris

For the Insider

At Hot House N.H. Yoga and Pilates, we have a community room. There’s a water bottle filler, a big red couch and some balance balls and foam rollers. There’s a freezer that hides a few frozen treats. There’s a lobby where folks check in, and an assortment of plants to keep the place green and growing. These different parts of the studio are all spaces where we get to know each other. We even have a guitar or two kicking around, and last week I had the good fortune to share a tune with a fellow student.

I often end a yoga or Pilates class with some live music. Sometimes a cappella, sometimes accompanied by one of those acoustic guitars. This week, I grabbed my trusty Taylor GS Mini and started in on Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin.’ ” In my not-so-humble opinion, this is one of the great pop songs of all time. And a great song is very much like a great yoga class.

A great song doesn’t try to be anything. A great song just is. It may have all the key parts: a melody, a good beat, lyrics that speak to your head and heart, a strong statement or “hook,” and great production. A great song also has that “special something.” It has that connection between the song and you.

A great yoga class, like a great song, doesn’t try to be anything. It just is. Its “collection of parts” – muscles, movement, breath, the sequence of postures, the voice of the teacher, the clean, healthy environment – they are all intended to create that “special something” between the class and you.

In “Free Fallin,’ ” Tom Petty starts with very specific parts: a boy, a girl, Elvis, Jesus and America. He locks in on that catchy guitar riff. We hear that high voice that is uniquely Tom Petty. And by the time he sings that beautiful chorus, that emotional and soaring “Free,” we are hooked. You don’t have to know Ventura Boulevard or the vampires moving west to feel something from this 4-minute musical masterpiece.

Before Petty was writing hits, he put together a lot of pieces. He learned to play three chords on a guitar. He learned a few more. He croaked out a tune and learned to sing as only he can. He saw Elvis on television and decided he wanted to play rock ‘n roll forever. He put himself out there in the world. He simply kept showing up, and putting it out there.

Petty may have written “Free Fallin,’ ” but he didn’t do it alone. He needed some help along the way. He needed his people to make it a piece of rock ‘n roll history. Let’s just say if Tom is the “brain,” Mike Campbell (his longtime guitar player) is the “breath” and the Heartbreakers are the “body.”

How did Petty get from Gainesville, Fla., to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame? He decided to start. And he kept on doing it. When you start a yoga practice, it’s as simple as these two words: You start. You may not know a savasana from a sacrum, but that doesn’t matter. In the beginning, it’s like a collection of parts. Move this part, look at that part, squeeze this, stretch that. Keep showing up. Keep breathing. Keep learning. You begin to move better. You begin to feel better. Your parts begin to move more like a unit. Your body becomes like a band, and you are singing your song.

Ultimately, it’s not about music, or yoga, or “Free Fallin.’ ” It’s about caring. Perhaps your musical tastes lean towards Frank Sinatra, Frank Black, Faith Hill or Faith No More. Perhaps you are a golfer. Or a gardener. We all start where we are with the parts we have. We begin to create, and collaborate. And by the time the song, the season, or the class is over, we are greater than the sum of our parts. We care. We care so much that we keep showing up.

Tom Petty has a little something to say about caring, too. “If you’re phony, they will feel it in the farthest row of the arena. You have to really care. And you have to make yourself care time and time again.” He learned to care deeply early in his life, and kept working on what he cared about. That’s what we’re doing in the lobby, or the hot room, or the community room. Whatever your passion, your dream or your day brings, keep caring. Come for a yoga or Pilates class. Stay for something more. We’ll “Free Fall” together.

 (Mike Morris is the owner of Hot House NH Yoga & Pilates.)

Author: Mike Morris

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