Hayley Koch

Yoga for Musicians – Applying River Flow Yoga Teacher Training

Hayley KochBy Cameron Ripley

You might not think that yoga and music have much in common, but that’s not what 200-Hour River Flow Yoga Teacher Training graduate Hayley Koch has found. As a classical singer, she found yoga to be extremely helpful in making her a better musician and has even started teaching yoga classes specifically designed to help other musicians with aspects like breathing and performance anxiety.

Despite her busy schedule, I found some time to sit down with Hayley and ask her a few questions about the incredible work she’s doing and how she has applied her yoga teacher training.

What Did You Get Out of the Yoga Teacher Training Personally and Professionally?

When I found the River Flow yoga teacher training, it was at a transitional time for me personally. I had just gotten my undergraduate degree and wasn’t sure what to do next. A friend of mine introduced me to Viniyoga, and I was hooked. I wanted to learn more about it, and that’s when I found the River Flow teacher training. The only problem was that the classes were in Wisconsin, and I was in Chicago.

Despite the distance, I still badly wanted to take the training, so I found a wonderful family who were nice enough to let me stay with them when I had class and ended up taking a long bus ride from Chicago to Milwaukee once a month to attend the classes. It turned out to be a great experience. Even before I went to any classes, they were helping me grow as a person!

I learned a lot from the training. It helped me with my own yoga practice and taught me how to be a better teacher not just for yoga, but a better teacher in general. I picked up new, helpful techniques that I could use in my music classes as well. It was really cool because I was still teaching both yoga and music while taking the yoga teacher training, so I could apply the lessons I learned right away to see how the techniques worked in real life.

How Has Yoga Helped You with Your Music?

Music is very personal and a lot of it is mental. Classical music can be especially intense because musicians are always striving for perfection. They can often forget to take care of themselves, and since their body is their instrument, their music suffers.

Yoga helps to ground you. It balances your energy, teaches you how to deal with your nerves, and helps you maintain stable mental and physical health. Once you’ve learned to calm down and take care of your own wellbeing, you’ll become a better musician.

Music can also be stressful. Pre-performance anxiety is a common issue for musicians, and yoga can help alleviate some of that stress before a big show. I actually created a yoga course designed to help musicians deal with their performance anxiety, which has been a fun project to work on.  I could go on and on about all the ways that yoga can benefit musicians, but there’s not enough time in the day!

How Is Viniyoga Different from What You’ve Been Exposed to in the Past?

I actually didn’t have much experience with yoga before learning about Viniyoga. I took a few generic yoga classes in college, but nothing really stuck. After I graduated, a friend of mine’s mom, a yoga therapist who practiced Viniyoga, introduced me to Gary Kraftsow and gave me a few of his DVDs. I was hooked.
What attracted me to Viniyoga was that it involved more than just the physical asana practices; it included all the traditions of yoga too. It was a more holistic approach to personal wellbeing. And, as a singer, I really appreciated that it was very breathing-centric.

How Have You Used What You’ve Learned in the River Flow Yoga Teacher Training?

I have used my training in so many different ways, even beyond teaching yoga. I think what I learned most was better teaching techniques. The yoga teacher training taught me how to use clear language to give instructions and how to direct people to the point that they don’t even need to look at me, which is a skill that transferred to my music lessons as much as it has my yoga classes.

When I took the teacher training, I was the youngest person in class, which turned out to be a blessing. I got to observe people of all ages, skills, and mobility levels and learn how to adapt my teaching techniques to fit different people. Again, it was a wonderful skill that has also helped me with teaching music as much as teaching yoga.

What Are Some of the Difficulties Teaching Yoga to Singers?

The hardest part about teaching yoga to singers is getting them interested in yoga at all. Not that the stereotype is always true, but many musicians don’t think of themselves as athletic. They chose the arts because they weren’t comfortable doing physical activities. And, being classical musicians, they have to deal with a lot of perfectionism, self-doubt, and rejection. If they believe they won’t succeed at a task, they aren’t as interested to try it.

Luckily, Viniyoga has a high level of accessibility that’s great for singers. Typically, I just need to get them to try it once so they can see that it’s possible. I always love when my students tell me that my class was the first time they enjoyed yoga because it wasn’t all about whether they could do the pose or not.

How Has Your Teaching Been Impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic?

I still teach, but all my music and yoga classes have moved online. I used my quarantine time to start filming my “yoga for performance anxiety” course, which has been a lot of fun to make. I’ve actually found that singers love the online format because it can travel with them and adapt to their busy schedules, so this might be something I’ll stick with even after the pandemic is over.

What Are You Looking Forward to Doing in the Future?

I have big plans for the future! First, I’d like to refine my yoga for singers program and, seeing how fun it is, would like to expand my online courses.
I’d also like to reach out to more high-school or university level musicians to teach more in-person yoga workshops. Workshops are always a fun experience. I enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I’d like to set up regular workshops, but it can be hard to fit them in around musicians’ busy schedules.

Overall, I’d just like to say how great the River Flow Yoga Teacher Training was. I learned so much and grew both personally and professionally. The teachers and students were a genuine pleasure to be around, and I feel like we formed our own little Sangha community. I feel like I could reach out to anyone from the training and they’d offer their support without hesitation. Even with the long weekend bus rides, I have nothing but good things to say about it!

Cameron Ripley is a writer who helps small businesses with marketing and communications.