Recently, I was inspired to build a class around… Beyonce.
Fan of Beyoncé’s or not, it’s clear the woman has influence—or at least people are curious about the Queen Bey’s ascent to music diva-dom and her relationship with Jay-Z (one of my faves for practice playlists).
Beyoncé’s thoughts about life and living out her dreams broke media records: on February 16, 2013, her interview on Oprah’s Next Chapter drew 1.3 million viewers, and her HBO special, “Life is But A Dream,” pulled in 1.8 million—the largest audience for an HBO documentary since ratings measurements were revised in 2004.
I was one of the viewers, and even though I’m not a die-hard Beyoncé fan, I was definitely engaged. Afterward, I had a discussion with my student and friend about whether Beyoncé is Beyoncé because of talent—or commitment to her craft. Clearly, she has talent, but what separates her from the pack?
Through the yogic lens, Beyonce’s ascent and success story reminded me of the section within the The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali on effort and commitment.
Beyoncé has conquered music, film and launched multiple business spin-offs. On this path since she was a child, it’s taken years of practice, performances and both mental and spiritual dedication. The Guardian once called her “the hardest working woman in show business.” The Atlantic, writing about her supercharged Superbowl halftime performance earlier this month, claimed, “Beyoncé’s not a divine being—she’s a human who puts a lot of effort in to achieve incredible things.” Newsweek’s The Daily Beast wrote, “… there’s the dance aspect, there’s the singing aspect, there’s the writing aspect. It’s a five- or six-skill game—and not everyone is working as hard as Beyoncé.”
There’s even an eHow page on “How to Work Hard Like Beyoncé.”
During the Oprah interview, Beyoncé shared that she gave a show three months after giving birth to her daughter. Oprah asked Beyoncé about her dedication to her career, and whether she ever felt pressure to out-Beyoncé herself. The diva replied, “In the beginning.”
In show business, commitment generally delivers commercial success. From a yogic perspective, commitment is an explicit path toward manifesting something greater for the self.
Sutras I-20 & I-21 speak of a commitment to practice to manifest an awakening, a shift and a movement toward one’s own illumination or God. Essentially, they say that your willingness to live by certain virtues, with conviction, allows for a more meditative state, and the more intensely and frequently you practice, guided by these virtues, you are led further down the yogic path and more likely to realize a greater awareness.
In other words, a commitment to practice yoga, just like Beyoncé’ commitment to her craft, can generate a transformational journey. Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers also explores this concept of practice and commitment to examine what makes certain people winners. Gladwell claims 10,000 hours is the magic tipping point at which a person with special skills becomes a “success.” Aren’t these modern, real-world applications of the Sutras on effort and commitment?
Whether it’s success, meditation, peace or awareness you seek… practice and commitment have the undeniable power to shapeshift a journey.
I’m often inspired to fuse pop culture with yoga in class, not only because it’s fun, and not only because it gives me an opportunity to throw down joyful playlists that keep us going in flow, but because creative-types in our modern midst can connect us with the relevance of these ancient teachings in today’s hectic world. (BTW, Beyoncé’s guitarist is a yogini.)
You may not be able to wrap your head around the Sanskrit messages of the ancient yogis, but you can wrap your head around the concept of Beyoncé… or someone like her… and get inspired to practice. Maybe with a safe practice, you can even wrap your leg over your shoulder (wink)! I know it will be many years before that manifests for me, if ever. In the meantime, I’m on my yogic path, leg wrap or not. Practice is fun. Yoga can be a celebration. It’s amazing what we can manifest when we combine effort and commitment.
See also: CCY blog post and class inspired by LL Cool J’s comment: “Dreams Don’t Have A Deadline”
Bonus: The Beyonce Playlist on February 18, 2013
Chant: “Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram, Om” to channel virtuous self and dedication.
Christine Chen is a two-time Emmy winning, 10-time nominated broadcast journalist, turned yoga teacher and wellness writer, with an upcoming yoga book based on the personal yoga practice she developed during her own healing and transformation (represented by Zachary, Schuster & Harmsworth). On Friday nights, she is a couch potato. She lives in Manhattan. You may reach Christine at her website, through Twitter (@christinechen_), or on her official Facebook page.
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Ed. T. Lemieux/Kate Bartolotta