The October issue of Choral Journal is online and features an article titled “Breath, Body, and Being: A Yoga-Inspired Choral ‘Practice’” by Ramona Wis. You can read it in its entirety at acda.org/choraljournal. Following is a portion from the introduction.
I recently found a paper on motivation that I wrote as an undergrad in a Psychology of Coaching course. A late-blooming competitive swimmer, I was grappling with strictly synchronized breathing, the physical rigors of long practices and lots of chlorine, and the voices in my head wondering what I was doing on a Big Ten athletic team. Now, many years later, I realize this was an important chapter in my life, the beginning of a journey toward understanding the embodied self. My journey continued as a choral professional researching gesture as physical metaphor, the role of the conductor as leader, and in the last decade, yoga, through personal practice, certification, and teaching.
I have developed a deeply integrative mindset, studying the opportunities and challenges we encounter as humans striving to be our whole, authentic, uniquely gifted selves. This has led me to see my work as a “practice”—an awareness-based building of Breath, Body, and Being habits that can have immediate and long-term benefits for our art and our life. Reframing my teaching within a yoga-inspired context has resonated deeply with singers, especially as anxiety, depression, and stress loom large in our rehearsal rooms, and it has reminded me that conductors also need habits of wholeness if we are to be, and lead, at our best. While researching mental health, I found this definition remarkably compatible with the choral experience and the yoga practice: Mental health is a dynamic state of internal equilibrium which enables individuals to use their abilities in harmony with universal values of society. Basic cognitive and social skills; ability to recognize, express and modulate one’s own emotions, as well as empathize with others; flexibility and ability to cope with adverse life events and function in social roles; and harmonious relationship between body and mind…1
Choral singing and yoga share many characteristics: both teach us to breathe fully, use our bodies in flow, and think deeply while working with others in a challenging but hopeful world. As a practitioner in both fields, I have been exploring the intersections, bringing yoga to the rehearsal as mental health has become a critical issue. This article will examine how a yoga-inspired choral “practice” can enhance mental health as it supports our musical goals and experience.
1 Silvana Galderisi, Andreas Heinz, Marianne Kastrup, Julian Beezhold, Norman Sartorius, “Toward a New Definition of Mental Health,” World Psychiatry, June 2015. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wps.20231
Read the full article in the October 2021 issue of Choral Journal at acda.org/choraljournal