Musicians' Health Collective

Musicians' Health Collective: Supporting the health of musicians

Music and Yoga: An Interview with François Raoult

By CHARLENE YEH

François Raoult, director of Open Sky Yoga Center in Rochester, NY, has long been interested in the ongoing connectivity between music and yoga.  A certified Iyengar teacher until 2010, François began teaching in 1975. A year later, he started extensive training with the great yogi Sri B.K.S. Iyengar.  A graduate of the Ecole Nationale de Yoga in Paris and a Certified Iyengar Instructor, he has studied meditation with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, Ayurveda with Dr. Robert Svoboda, and anatomy with Thomas Myers. After studying architecture and philosophy, trekking and recording sacred music in the Himalayas, he completed a Masters in ethnomusicology.  Charlene Yeh, a violist and yoga instructor based in Toronto, ON, asks him a few questions about his experiences.

CHARLENE YEH: How does the yoga practice of a professional musician differ from the practice someone who is not a musician?

FRANÇOIS RAOULT:  The practice of a professional musician should include more pranayama (breathwork) and resting/meditative poses to prevent repetitive injuries and anxiety/stress. One can be more conservative with poses which involve weight bearing on the hands and wrists, there’s no need to push your luck! The art of sitting and standing is to be in aplomb (on one’s central axis), a bit like the principles of Alexander technique.  

     There IS no special yoga for musicians. It is more about the selection of practices, as well as a common vocabulary, a sensitivity, and a curiosity that artists have that makes them appreciate yoga more. But all humans have an inner artist, so yoga can open everyone up to art and music, even those who haven’t yet had the chance, either through education or culture. Playing music in savasana or in sitting meditation is also a form of yoga.

CY: How did you start working with musicians?

FR: In 1978, I had a baroque violinist in my classes named Patrick Bismuth (who later played with Jean-Claude Malgoire), and we organized a 10-day retreat for violin and yoga. Then, when I studied composition at the conservatory, I teamed up with a teacher to offer vocal improvisation and yoga, and later on had a yoga retreat with a drummer doing drumming circles…..those were the 70’s! I also had a piano teacher as a teenager who was extremely avant grade, close to Stockhausen…...he listened to stimmung and aus den sieben tage in the dark all night!

CY: How are music and yoga the same?

FR:  The music of yoga, the yoga of music…..yoga is a state of being, so it can be applied to anything. Feeling and meaning are common ground as well, and those evolve with practice, mindful repetition and education. Playing music does not make you a musician, "doing" yoga does not make you a yogi. There is a transpersonal element as well in both, which is being moved. 

Photography courtesy of Open Sky Yoga and François Raoult.

Photography courtesy of Open Sky Yoga and François Raoult.

      Being close to John Cage in the 80‘s, there was no difference between life and art. Everything is music, everything is yoga. Not interfering with nature. Minimalist composers and classical Indian musicians practice a form of naada yoga (the yoga of sound): it affects your moods, your mind state towards deeper perception.

CY: How does your experience as a musician influence your teaching?

FR: Deep listening: being touched by a melody, a harmony, a vision, an experience. Understanding and promoting personal practice and exploration. Creative interpretation of the classics and also  improvising on a theme/ a structure, which is the greatest freedom according to Stravinsky.

      Music and yoga share breath and heart. Both have to transcend technique to enter a zone of bliss... where music plays you and asana (posture practice) plays you as well as an instrument. The more relaxed are you are, the more resonance and fluidity you experience.

In addition to directing Open Sky Yoga Center and its creative Teacher Training program in Rochester, NY, François Raoult teaches yoga seminars worldwide. Francois is also certified in Gong Yoga and in “Laughing for no reason”!  You can find his upcoming schedule at www.openskyyoga.com  To learn more about Charlene Yeh or to take a class with her, visit her at www.CharleneYeh.com.