I am sure we will all agree that some of the basic requirements for a professional to deliver a successful interpretation, be it in the booth or in a court or other environment, is to firstly have a disciplined mind to render the task at hand without distractions and in order to have a disciplined mind, your physical body must be healthy, relaxed and rested.
During my 30+ years in the business, I have tried a lot of methods to achieve this goal in the most expedient and effortless manner, ranging from diet, to personal trainers, to mind control methods, etc., all of which I found lacking in some aspect. Either they conferred better health without the necessary relaxation and mental concentration or they met some other incomplete set of criteria.
Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding, and I have been able to verify through my personal practice, that the combination of the three basic legs of yoga: the postures, breathing exercises and meditation, achieve this end exceptionally well.
The postures differ from traditional Western exercises that focus on developing large muscles and disciplining the body. They positively affect both the mind and the body. They are unique in that they also tone up the chief endocrine glands of the body, such as the adrenal or suprarenal capsules, the pineal and pituitary glands, the thyroid, carotid, the gonads, etc., which produce hormones that regulate your body’s growth, metabolism, and sexual development as well as function.[i] We need a well-tuned body to carry out the oftentimes stress-inducing work of interpreting, which will in time adversely affect us if left unchecked. It should be noted, in our youth-oriented society, that the gonads are responsible not only for an individual’s sexuality but also for his remaining in an optimum state of health. They maintain youthful vigor, prevent the onset of senility and exercise a deep psychological and physiological influence on the organism.[ii]
By learning to control our breathing, we can control our life energy, which we draw in through the breath, therefore life itself and its activities. The aim is not to build a bigger chest as in the West, but to increase oxygenation of the blood. All metabolic processes in the body are regulated by oxygen. Our brains process billions of bits of information each second. Our metabolic processes work to rid our bodies of waste and toxins. Even our abilities to think, feel and act require oxygen-related energy production. Scientists now also agree that oxygen plays a powerful and primary role in our overall health and well-being. A growing number of researchers have shown that the best way to improve health may be related to the optimum oxygenation of every cell. [iii]
When energy is distributed evenly through this technique, we achieve psycho-physical coordination, get rid of our emotional complexes and the unbalances that give rise to fear, anger, envy or a sense of inferiority.[iv] The breathing is an indispensable resource for interpreters that may succumb to any of the above during an assignment because of external circumstances or because of his own sense of inferiority due to a very demanding job. It swiftly counteracts anxiety and allows us to perform optimally.
Lastly and most importantly, there is meditation. The fatigue of the senses demands rest. Hence we sleep at night. However, the mind is subtly working even during sleep so we do not achieve full rest. Real rest is only secured through meditation.[v]
The whole mind and nervous system are re-modeled thereby. New grooves, cells and channels are formed.[vi] These will allow you to experience serenity, a sense of focus, one-pointedness of mind, patience and contentment at all times. Even under stress. They will allow you to control the wanderings of the typical mind that often jumps unrestrained from one thought to the next without respite. This is an invaluable asset in our field where we have to continuously render the thoughts and words of others, playing down the normal interference created by our minds as a reaction to said input. It creates a space where our mind is stilled and we can be creative in how we manage the output of what we are hearing.
Not convinced? Check it out. The philosophy of yoga starts with the tenet that any idea not confirmed by experience must remain mere speculation.
[ii] Yogi Gupta (1958). Yoga and Long Life, pp.36, Yogi Gupta New York Center.
[iv] Yogi Gupta (1958). Yoga and Long Life, pp.121, Yogi Gupta New York Center.
[v] Swami Sivananda (Fourteenth Edition 2011), Concentration and Meditation, pp. 120.
[vi] Swami Sivananda (Fourteenth Edition 2011), Concentration and Meditation, pp. 124.