Today's Daily Tip
Feel the Vibration
Alanis Morissette, 37, was thrust into stardom's spotlight back in 1995, making rock history with Jagged Little Pill, which sold 33 million copies worldwide to become the best-selling debut album by a female artist. The pop-rock anthem "You Oughta Know" embodied the raw emotion and the conflicted feelings of a spurned lover. Although disc jockeys may have bleeped out the most explicit words, they gave the song widespread radio play, and listeners around the world found themselves identifying with the young Canadian's tale of heartbreak. At the time, Morissette was just 21.
Her ascent to stardom was grueling and left precious little time to unwind or reflect. Looking back, she says she's glad she got to meet so many people and see the world, but admits that touring blasted her body and soul. The intensity was wearing.
Craving some alone time, she would hide out backstage, in hotel rooms, or even in bathroom stalls—anywhere that she could get some distance from the madness and tune back in to herself. She needed to recharge between performances, interviews, and all the demands on her energy, and at some point she realized that, rather than hiding out, she needed to truly rejuvenate herself. "I wanted to find a practice that was both physical and spiritual. Yoga was perfect for that," she says. "I felt like I was born to do yoga."
Her first taste of the practice was Yoga Mind & Body, a DVD made by the actress Ali MacGraw with renowned yoga teacher Erich Schiffmann, which Morissette discovered toward the end of the Jagged Little Pill tour. Since then, she has tried everything from Ashtanga to Bikram to Kundalini, Iyengar, Shadow, and Yin, and she has studied with a variety of well-known teachers, including Kathryn Budig, Sara Ivanhoe, Matt Pesendian, Nicki Doane, and Eddie Modestini. She loves vinyasa flow.
Fortunately, Morissette's twin brother, Wade Imre Morissette, is a yoga teacher and kirtan artist. He is, she says, one of her favorite teachers, not just because of their close connection but also because he combines a respect for tradition with "a recognition of the realities of modern life."
The realities of Morissette's busy life now include marriage, to rapper Mario "MC Souleye" Treadway, and a new baby, Ever Imre, born on Christmas Day 2010 at home in Los Angeles. Morissette's new album will be released this winter.
She's been committed to yoga for years now, something that was evident when she rocked a full Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One-Legged King Pigeon Pose) with both hands clasping her foot on the day of her cover shoot. Her husband has started practicing, and you figure it's just a matter of time before Ever gets on the mat, too.
Yoga Journal: What do you love most about your practice?
Alanis Morissette: It gives me a great microcosmic snapshot, a clear picture of what's going on in my life. If I push myself on the mat, it's likely I'm pushing myself off the mat as well—a cue to be gentle. When I don't practice, there's a lack of checking in on my part. How I approach my time on the mat gives me a glimpse of my needs. It's a great invitation to tune in to what's really going on.
YJ: Has it affected your creative process?
AM: The impetus to do yoga comes from the same place where my songs are birthed. When I'm writing songs or doing yoga, I'm curious about what's really going on: What's happening in my body? What's happening in my heart? What's happening in my life? What's happening in the larger context of the planet? What's happening in the evolution of consciousness? What's happening in my knee? It's all the same muscle of curiosity.
That's the most powerful quality I bring to my own creative process. It's just this curiosity that shows up, which I love. There's also a lack of judgment. When I was 21 and doing yoga, I would kick my ass because I wasn't flexible enough or because I was depleted. Now, I just notice.
YJ: Has yoga helped you in relationships?
AM: I think that the more mature qualities, such as curiosity, nonjudgmentalness, and noticing—those benign qualities help. In my moments of conflict with the people I love, I aspire to manifest those qualities.
My commitment to the practice definitely pays off in my relationships because it requires me to be courageous and push myself to my edge, but also to cut myself a lot of slack and be gentle. So I push myself to my edge and then relax into it—that's kind of how I live my life these days.
YJ: How did you arrive in a place where you were ready to be in a relationship?
AM: Oh, by messing up left, right, and center for years and years in a row. Being a love addict. Being a co-dependent. Not having enough self-knowledge. As I moved toward more self-knowledge, I realized I'm an alpha female. There's no way around that one. I started to figure out who would be a good teammate in this journey. And I waited to find the kind of person who would be an incredible man to be the father to my future children.
Until I knew who I really was, I had no idea who would be the perfect complement to me. I had to figure out how to be responsible for my sensitivity and for what I needed around my career and self-care. The more I knew what I needed, the more it became innate.
Before, if I dated someone and there was chemistry, I would just go for it. Chemistry is hugely important, but I moved beyond the "Wow, his eyes are so deep, and I just wanna make out," you know? Later, the first question I'd always ask became "What's your mission?" I didn't want someone overly obsessed with work or travel. When my future husband said his mission was to be an incredible husband and father and to be of service through his art, I was like, "Whoa, this really warrants more time and energy."
YJ: Did yoga help you during your pregnancy?
AM: It's all about awareness. I am a naturally flexible person, and relaxin, that hormone released during pregnancy, made me more so. I had to learn not to overstretch or injure myself.
I've always attempted to focus on the spiritual-ascension process and philosophy and intellectualism—all heady pursuits, you know? But I'd have these moments of revelation when I was taking a walk, when it would hit me like a ton of bricks: I'm an animal. There's a physiology to me, DNA, genetic predisposition, muscles, bones, ligaments, and hormones. I turned into this science experiment!
YJ: How has your practice changed over the years?
AM: There's a quiet power that I hadn't really cultivated 10 or 15 years ago. Back then, everything was kind of balls to the wall, soldier style. Now I can call upon the soldier when I need it, but it's not the default position I go to.
These days, my practice isn't uninterrupted. I'll practice for 35 minutes, and then I'll have to breastfeed. Then I'll go back to my yoga. The mat just stays there, and I just keep coming back to it.!--page-->