Sunday, July 25, 2010

The song of the birds

A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.
Lou Holtz

When you truly stop and listen to the birds singing, their songs go straight to your heart. Their songs are as beautiful as any music created by humans. Many composers including Vivaldi, Beethoven and Mozart have used birdsong as a springboard for some of the most enduring compositions of all time.

Birds sing to communicate about courtship and territory. But they also sing as an escape valve for excess energy, and as a manifestation of the peak vitality reached by a bird during the period of reproduction. Birds perfect their performance through imitation, stimulation and practice. The nightingale can sing up to 300 different songs. The canary breathes 30 times a second to replenish its air supply.

Birdsong is the perfect medium for communicating over long distances, or when it is hard to see the singer. Birds adapt to their environment by using a sound that works best for that habitat. Sounds bounce off trees and are absorbed by leaves in the forest so birds living high in the trees repeat a brief signal so that it will eventually be heard if the message is missed the first time. On the forest floor birds use low-pitched calls that will not be distorted by the ground. In open areas like prairies, birds use a buzzing message that will carry over long distances.

Song birds have a sweet. melodic sound while crows and ravens have a raucous flavor to their calls. Owls have a more mysterious soft sound that aligns with their symbolism of being connected to magic and their ability to see in the darkness. Eagles, ospreys and hawks have a piercing shrill sound that mimics their strength and hunting skills.

Just as we need to be quiet to really appreciate the song of the birds, we need to have a quiet center to be fully present in our yoga practice. Birds have endurance, their bodies are light, and their feathers have an exquisite softness. This combination gives them the gift of flight. Every yoga pose should have a balance of strength and softness. The song of the birds come from a deep primal instinct and when our poses reflect our deep inner knowing, they begin to soar.

Our understanding of what and why birds sing is limited. However they reflect the fullness of nature in their song. They sing with abandon and without regret. Sometimes they sing just because they are bubbling over with joy. What a refreshing way to live.

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