I always knew I wanted to be a musician.

I knew I wanted to be a professional musician since I was in middle school. Supported by amazing parents, I was lucky enough to have the foundation to follow my dream. I went to a performing arts high school and received a scholarship for viola performance in college. I worked hard; so hard, in fact, that I suffered from tendentious, carpal tunnel, thoracic outlet syndrome, and other overuse injuries throughout my schooling.

Pain: A Pathway to Disconnection

I treated the pain with cortisone injections, high doses of ibuprofen, and surgery. My body sent me strong distress messages, but I didn’t listen. Instead, I ignored and numbed the pain. Honestly, I didn’t know how to listen. I was too caught up in narratives that said, “you are not good enough,” “push through the pain,” “practice more!

Through this habit of separating my body from my instrument, I excelled musically. However, I also excelled at the art of NOT listening to my body. This disconnection translated into my life outside of music as well. I was totally disconnected from my body. I developed anxiety, panic attacks, which I didn’t have the tools to deal with.

Music was synonymous with pain

The tagline of my mind/body relationship was “music equals pain.” As a result, after college, I quit playing altogether. The pain was not sustainable. I moved to New Orleans directly following Hurricane Katira with a passion to help rebuild the city. I traded music for a musical city.

After a few years, the musician in me crept back out and I began to play with local bands. My old friend pain was not far behind. I struggled with a balance of “how far can I push it,” while taking naproxen to mask the pain. Once again, being a musician meant being in pain. One couldn’t exist without the other.

And then I found yoga.

I had previously heard that yoga is good for musicians, but I was too scared. I was scared to move my body in ways I didn’t understand. I was scared to open up. Honestly, I didn’t understand how my body worked, and I shied away from anything that was weight-bearing.

The day I walked into my first studio class, I felt terrified, awkward, and uncontrollably excited. I felt as though I was putting the fate of my body into a stranger’s hands. I walked out feeling like I had found a long-lost companion, and began a journey to put the fate of my body into my own hands. Something had definitely shifted. I discovered a new language to use with my body. It was liberating, to say the least. I walked differently, I moved differently. And most of all, I played music differently. As I continued to practice yoga, my fear around my body began to to dissolve. So did aspects of stage fright and negative self talk too.

Yoga changed my relationship with my body

Nowadays, I still have pain, but I have a different relationship with pain. I have confidence in my body’s ability to heal. I understand and recognize the impressions playing music leaves on my physical body, and how this applies to my yoga practice.

As a result, I am proud to call myself a professional New Orleans musician. I feel incredibly grateful for what I have been able to accomplish. I have performed at the New Orleans Jazz Fest eight times. I recorded on Arcade Fire’s latest album, Everything Now; I toured with Judith Owen and renowned blues Artist Samantha Fish. I continue to explore and collaborate with local musicians such as Micah McKee and Kelcy Mae of Ever More Nest.

From student to teacher

I eventually realized that I could provide the same opportunity for fellow musicians to explore the body/mind/instrument connection and pursued a teacher training at Wild Lotus Yoga in New Orleans. Yoga teacher training — or Soul School, as we called it — was life-changing. As soon as I graduated, I began to teach as much as I could. I sought my own voice as a yoga teacher, the voice of the mind/body conscious musician I had become.

In addition to regular studio classes throughout New Orleans, I now teach three classes a week for musicians. These classes are free, in a comfortable setting where questions are encouraged, and geared specifically to a musician’s body and mind.

How I developed yoga classes for musicians

To determine the best way to offer yoga to musicians, I first examined the main reasons I was originally resistant to yoga:

  • Financial cost of a class: New Orleans musicians are severely underpaid and often don’t have access to proper, quality healthcare.
  • Fear of trusting someone else with my body: A small injury could mean months of no income.
  • Fear of trusting my own body: I did not understand how my body worked. I was scared to listen to my body and didn’t know how to do so.
  • Beginner’s nerves: As someone who was new to yoga, I felt uncomfortable and intimidated by the practice.

Then, I created an environment that directly addressed them. As a result, the yoga classes I offer for musicians are:

  • Free/donation-based: I do not turn anyone away for lack of funds. In addition, mats are now available for those without, thanks to the Give Back Foundation!
  • Discussion-based: I encourage students to stop and ask questions to not only me, but also one another to uncover common experiences.
  • Focused around listening to the body: I explore different meditation and movement techniques around listening.
  • Held in my home: I create a small, intimate environment, in which musicians feel safe and heard.

The necessity of yoga for musicians

Each week, a new musician reaches out to me. This speaks so loudly to the need for a yoga class of this nature in New Orleans! The classes appeal to musicians who, like me, have a curiosity around yoga. However, they may feel like they don’t know enough about yoga. Perhaps they feel uncomfortable in, or excluded from a traditional yoga setting.

As we flow through each class, I encourage questions, comments, laughter and tears (as well as gig announcements!). My goal and my passion is to help musicians feel comfortable in their body, on and off the mat, through the transformative nature of yoga. Hopefully my classes are a stepping stone for further, deeper, exploration.

Looking forward to the future: collaboration and growth

So what’s next? I get goosebumps just thinking about the possibilities! And I continue to ask myself this question. I hope in some small way, these classes can help keep the music alive and flowing in New Orleans. But how can I reach more musicians? Different demographics? Where are collaborations possible? On a local, national, and international level?

Thanks to the Give Back Yoga Foundation, I received ten free yoga mats that will enable me to bring the class out of my house into music venues and other non-traditional yoga locations. Collaborations are in the works with local music venues and festivals — but where else? So, I ask you, the reader! Running a festival? Touring with your band? Reach out! Let’s bring yoga to musicians!

Help more people like Rebecca

With your generous support, we can help more people like Rebecca transform their relationship with pain through yoga.