Welcome back to The Conductor as Yogi! I took a break from blog writing this summer to create some space to breathe, be with my family, explore other writing projects, and to enjoy the summer’s long days and what nature has to offer. I hope you, as well, had a chance to make some space in your lives for what was most needed.
This blog, as the title suggests, offers reflections on our conductor/teacher/leader role from a broader perspective, a whole-life look at what it means to be human and a maker of art. In some way, these posts will be reflective of an aspect of Yoga, understood authentically as an Eight-Limbed practice that includes, but far exceeds, the physical mat practice most of us think of when we hear “yoga.” This summer, I expanded my understanding of the integrative role of yoga by earning a certification as a Brain Longevity® Specialist from the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation. The Brain Longevity® program is a research-based certification program on yoga and integrative medicine for brain health and healthy aging, focusing on diet/nutrition, stress management, exercise (physical and mental), and spiritual fitness, including having a sense of purpose. My particular interest is on applying the emerging research to the development of brain-healthy lifestyle habits in college-aged students (or choral singers in any setting) to help support their musical experience and performance quality.
Having some space, in time or responsibility, allows for clarity to emerge. I realized again in recent months that as valuable as the physical practice is, yoga is even more powerful as an “invisible practice.” This summer, I spent more time outside and returning to a weight-training routine than I did on the yoga mat, yet I practiced yoga every day.
I attempted to practice the yogic principle of ahimsa, non-harming, by taking better care of myself in any way that I could—more unstructured time, better eating, more fun, and greater variety in physical activities. I practiced pranayama by stopping to notice my breathing at various times throughout the day and guiding myself towards a more balanced, equal-breathing pace to reset my system. And I limited time on social media to avoid the comparison-and-judgment mindset that is the mark of our modern world.
The physical mat practice is a powerful component of the yoga practice, to be sure. On the mat we stop and disengage from the outside world in order to learn more about our inside world. We strengthen our body, mind, and breath. We learn through this embodied experience to come back to who we are so that we can re-emerge as our best to offer our best. But when we understand and respect yoga in its fullness, we realize we can practice in multiple ways, any day, any place. Visible, in a mat class, or “invisible,” in our breath, our mindfulness, our relationship to self and others, and in the pause that we take.
As we begin anew in our own corner of the world, may we be well, practicing in whatever way that can bring us towards finding ourselves whole . . . and helping others do the same.
Dr. Ramona Wis is the Mimi Rolland Endowed Professor in the Fine Arts, Professor of Music, and Director of Choral Activities at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois and the author of The Conductor as Leader: Principles of Leadership Applied to Life on the Podium. Dr. Wis is a 500-hour CYT (Certified Yoga Teacher) and a certified Brain Longevity® Specialist, a research-based certification on yoga and integrative medicine for brain health and healthy aging. Reach her at: