Sweet Harmony: Harnessing the Power of Music and MindfulnessBy Madison ArsenaultPosted in Music and Wellness
Our audiences know first-hand the uplifting power of live performance. But anyone with a radio, a playlist, or a record player can also vouch for the incredible ability for a simple song to change your mood and promote a healthier sense of well-being. Inspired by this physical connection, the COC created the Music and Wellness series. Throughout the year, we’ll explore how the body and mind interact with music through lectures and recitals, as well as hands-on activities, like yoga and sing-alongs, that put musical theory into practice.
On October 19, Madison Arsenault leads our first yoga session. She began her own yoga journey eight years ago while pursuing her Bachelor of Music degree, with just a YouTube video and her mat. Madison had come to the practice with hopes that it would relieve some anxiety and help with her breath management as a singer—but she soon found the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits were undeniable. After becoming a certified instructor in 2016, Madison turned her passion into a specialized career with her company, “Yogapella: Yoga for Singers” and currently works with singers and choirs on harnessing the benefits of the ancient practice.
We asked her to share some of the physical practices she often recommends to singers—but you don’t have to be a singer to enjoy the calming and invigorating benefits of the tips below!
Yoga is a fantastic practice for anyone looking to improve their well-being. By moving your body into various postures, and breathing with intention, you can deepen the mind-body connection, and find more peace throughout your daily life. Try practicing these postures at home and see for yourself!
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
If you’re sitting and slouching a lot during those long rehearsals, try Mountain Pose (Tadasana) to help with improving your posture.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana) Alignment: Stand with your feet two fist widths apart. Root down through the four corners of your feet. Lift and spread your toes, then lay them down gently. Lift your kneecaps and engage your legs. Bring your arms down by your sides, palms facing out. Draw the shoulder blades together on the back, and reach through the crown of your head. Practice long and slow breaths through your nose for 8-10 cycles.
Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
Do you ever find yourself lacking focus and energy by the end of the day? Try Eagle Pose (Garudasana) for a few minutes to help strengthen your joints, open your hips, and improve mental clarity through the art of balancing!
Eagle Pose (Garudasana) Alignment: From Mountain Pose, bend your knees, lift your right knee and wrap it around your left leg, if you can’t hook your foot behind the calf, either leave it in the air or place the toes on the ground near your standing leg. Square your hips and lengthen your tailbone down. Squeeze the legs together. Add arms by reaching out to the sides bend elbows, and hook your left elbow over your right arm. Try to twist tie your arms so your palms touch. Sink your hips back more, lift the elbows. Breathe. Try to keep your shoulders over your hips and back lengthened. Now go try the other side.
Gate Pose (Parighasana)
For the strength and freedom of breath it takes to sing long phrases with ease, try practicing Gate Pose (Parighasana) to help strengthen and lengthen the intercostals, which connect and wrap around the ribs. These muscles are crucial for breathing, so this pose is perfect for singers!
Gate Pose (Parighasana) Alignment: Come to hands and knees, bring your right shin out to the side and tuck your toes. Make sure your knee is directly under the hip. Extend your left leg long, and plant your foot in line with the back edge of the mat. Plant your right hand in line with the shoulder and reach up through the left hand. Reach your left arm overhead and breathe into the right side of the body. Feel the space between each rib. If you want to challenge your strength, start to lift the left leg. Flex the toes and engage every muscle on the lifted leg. Breathe space between the ribs. Come back to all fours and try the other side!
If you’re ever feeling anxious before a performance or audition, try a forward fold. You can do this pose standing or seated (as shown below). It is a wonderful way to calm the body and mind. This is definitely a favourite of mine to help with performance anxiety!
Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottonasana) Alignment: Sit on the mat with a folded blanket under your pelvis. Adding some height under your hips help to free up the low back, allowing you to fold a little deeper. Keep the legs long and as straight as possible, flex your toes toward your shins. Inhale to life the arms above the head, exhale to fold and reach for your ankles, feet, or the floor beside your shins. Bend your knees slightly if you feel any pulling in the low back. Think about drawing your sternum (breast bone) towards your knees, and keep lengthening the spine. Breathe deeply through the nose, and focus on creating long exhales.
Garland Pose/Yogic Squat (Malasana)
Does your low back ever feel tight and sore after a long performance, or standing for too long? Try a yogic squat, or sometimes called Garland Pose (Malasana), for instant relief or any low back discomfort. This is an excellent pose to find length in the spine, and to open up the hips. It’s a total spinal reset and can be practiced almost anywhere! I personally do this pose at least twice in almost every rehearsal.
Garland Pose (Malasana) Alignment: From Mountain Pose (Tadasana), bring your feet about shoulder width apart, and sink the hips down until you are in a full squat. Try to bring the feet closer together. Bring your elbow to the inner knee and press your palms together. Engage the arms, press your elbows to the inner knees, and broaden through the chest. Tuck your chin and reach up through the crown of your head. Breathe deeply for 8-10 rounds.
If you found these practices helpful and would like to learn about more postures and breathing techniques, no matter what your profession or yoga background, join us for the COC’s new Music & Wellness series. No experience required at all—just come dressed to be active and bring your own mat!
Please note: tickets must be bought in advance, and can be found here.
October 19, 2019
Yoga Instructor: Madison Arsenault
Artists: Lauren Eberwein, soprano and Rachael Kerr, piano
January 25, 2020
Yoga Instructor: Madison Arsenault
Artists: Vartan Gabrielian, bass-baritone and Rachael Kerr, pianist
May 2, 2020
Yoga instructor: Priya Shah
Artists: Jamie Groote and Liz Upchurch
For more content like this, check out Madison’s other articles about yoga for singers, featured in Schmopera.