Musicians' Mind Body Warm Up Challenge: Who is Karen Bulmer?
I first connected with Karen this summer, when she invited me to be on her new podcast, Music, Mind, and Movement. We share similar interests in yoga, movement science, and new approaches to moving, and I’m excited to share her work with you, especially since she lives far away!
Q: When did you first become interested in movement/mind body practices and how it affects music making?
A: A little-known fact about me is that I actually minored in dance during my undergraduate degree. I did not take dance as a child and I was NOT a skilled dancer! But the experience of inhabiting my body that I found in those dance classes had a profound effect on my development as a musician during that period. When I went on to grad school, I struggled to find movement experiences that were nourishing in the way dance had been. It was the 90s — yoga wasn’t really popular yet and the internet was just getting started, so you just kind of had to go with what was available in your neighbourhood or community. At Yale, a good friend and I did a bunch of random stuff like Egyptian Dance for Women and Meditative Yoga with Al. It was in the early 2000s that I starting doing yoga regularly, first in Toronto and then when I moved to Newfoundland. Eventually, I did yoga teacher training which was immediately followed by a yoga existential crisis (“Eek — I don’t think all that weight-bearing on the hands is good for a lot of musicians” etc) This eventually led to the exploration of many different movement modalities and a lot of study of current movement science. What I teach and practice now is a mash-up of yoga, what I guess you would call corrective exercise, somatic exploration, mindfulness, and nervous system regulation.
Q: What forms of mind body training do you have and what teachers inspire you?
A: I am a certified yoga teacher and have done my Level 1 Yoga Tune-Up training. I also studied meditation facilitation with Michael Stone and I have been working my way through the Movement for Trauma program with Jane Clapp. I get a lot of movement inspiration from teachers like Kathryn Bruni-Young, Brea Johnson, Jenni Rawlings, Jenn Pilotti, and Erin Jade. My approach to both movement education and mindfulness is heavily influenced by my training and research in nervous system dysregulation, including trauma. I spend a lot of time studying (and finding ways to apply) the work of researchers and clinicians such as Kristin Neff, Stephen Porges, Deb Dana, and Dan Siegel.
Q: What are your favorite ways to move (especially since you live in a very cold climate)?
A: I really love to walk and I am lucky to live in a beautiful and walkable city with spectacular hiking trails very close — even though the weather is horrible for a lot of the year! Good outerwear is a must. Otherwise, it depends on the day. Sometimes I crave a bit of strength work and other times I gravitate towards quieter, more exploratory practices. Usually, I end up moving in small chunks of 10 or 15 minutes several times a day because that’s what works for my schedule right now.
Q: If you could have coffee with a living or dead composer, who would it be?
A: Robert Schumann. I have always loved his music and have transcribed a lot of it for tuba.
Q: How can readers and challenge participants connect with you and your offerings?
A: My blog and podcast are both on my website: www.musicmindandmovement.com. The podcast is also on SoundCloud and most podcast apps including iTunes and Stitcher. @musicmindandmovement on Instagram and Facebook is the best place to go to stay up-to-date.