Category: Yoga


‘The Kate Way’ – Guest blog post by Kate Lovell

May 25th, 2017 — 8:11am

Kate Lovell © Genevieve Stevenson-1-10Kate Lovell is a Yoga Teacher and Holistic Health coach based in London.  Kate grew up in a small town near Boston in a musical family where she learned to play the piano, but her passion for languages and Europe brought her to France, then Italy and eventually London to live and work.  While working in the media, Kate trained to teach yoga and studied nutrition and holistic health in order to turn her passion for well-being into a career.  She discovered Piano-Yoga® and my teaching approach quite by chance while looking for a piano teacher in London.  Kate loves teaching yoga to beginners and believes in making yoga accessible to everyone.  She equally loves offering support to her coaching clients to help them develop habits and awareness that feed a healthy approach to eating and living for the rest of their lives.  She weaves her insights into monthly newsletters and her blog so that more people can help incorporate healthy habits into their lives. Read on below to hear about Kate’s experiences playing the piano and visit her website for further advice on health, nutrition and well-being! GéNIA

 

It’s been a long time since I have been called upon to perform a piano piece in front of an audience, but I can remember the nerves and anxiety that accompanied my bi-annual recitals like it was yesterday.  I started playing the piano around the age of nine and performed in recitals up until the age of twenty, a time period that unfortunately preceded my many years practising yoga and studying nutrition as a means towards improving my well-being and reducing stress.  I have been teaching yoga for a decade and health coaching just slightly shorter than that, and believe that if only I had the tools and knowledge I do now to help me stay grounded and centred, I would have welcomed more opportunities to perform and perhaps have even enjoyed the experience.

 

I have always been interested in the food-mood connection and how what we eat affects how we feel.  If people drink coffee or consume sugar as a pick-me-up, then surely there are foods that also do the opposite?  And the opposite of feeling overly stimulated and jumpy is exactly what one needs to perform well.  I remember my piano teacher telling me to eat something that made me feel calm before a recital where I was playing one of my most challenging pieces yet.  She recalled an incident where she and a close friend who were performing a four-hand piano piece decided to have a coffee together before going on stage.  The performance was like a car crash – they couldn’t control the tempo and their hands were shaking from the caffeine.  Not all of us responds to caffeine with the same sensitivity, but often if our stress hormones have been activated and our autonomic nervous systems sent into fight-or-flight mode (for example, because of stage fright or fear of forgetting one’s music), consuming foods or beverages that are ‘yang’ (energetic) in nature just adds fuel to the fire.  Imagine Flight of the Bumblebee but inside your body!

 

With nutrition, there is no one way.  We are all programmed a bit differently and require different diets depending on our body types and lifestyles (as is taught in Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine).  However, I generally I find that given our stressful lifestyles and the increasing demands placed upon us due to technology (in the case of city-dwellers especially), we are living in more of a yang (energetic) state than a yin (cool) state and thus require foods that are more calming or ‘sattvic’ in nature to balance these energies.  Calming foods are generally easy to digest, have nutrients that steady the nervous system and have textures and temperatures that are soothing to the body and mind.

 

So if, like me, you get really nervous, agitated and flustered before a performance, consider some yoga practices but also think about what foods you could eat to help reverse that feeling. Below are just a few suggestions that work for me:

  • Avoid any caffeinated beverages like coffee or tea, and opt for a herbal tea like chamomile and plenty of pure, room-temperature water to stay hydrated (but maybe not too much just before going on stage!)
  • Have a warm, nourishing and fresh cooked meal with root vegetables (because they come from the ground, they help you stay grounded!) before performing – something like baked sweet potatoes with some brown rice (contain Serotonin) or a warm porridge with nut milk, cashews, almonds and brazil nuts (their Omega 3 Fatty Acids feed the brain)
  • If you get a really upset stomach when you’re nervous a warm vegetable or chicken broth could just the thing to calm your tummy and feed your brain
  • I often drink a warm nut milk with a bit of ghee and some spices like cardamom to help sooth me before I sleep and find this is also good when I want to feel more grounded
  • Avoid refined sugar and high sugar energy drinks, instead have fruit like bananas (good for Potassium to support brain function) and kiwis (good for Vitamin C) but keep in mind that too many raw foods might challenge your digestion

Visit Kate’s website here for further information on health coaching, well-being and yoga.

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How to Find the Best Piano Teacher for You

December 16th, 2016 — 11:39am

Piano-Yoga Teacher

In finding the best piano teacher, there are many ingredients that must be right. Sometimes the best piano teacher for one person could be inappropriate for another. Therefore, when choosing the right teacher for yourself, child or even for someone else, it is important to use certain criteria which work over and above professional qualifications and/or a friendly personality.

Below is a simple “TO DO” list I recommend anyone to go through when looking for the piano teacher:

1) Qualifications
2) Years of teaching experience
3) Main area of expertise
4) Level of Professionalism
5) Personal Compatibility
6) The extent of piano teaching
7) Location
8) Online Piano Tuition

Here is a little more information about each of those points:

Qualification

It is good to have the teacher who studied at one of the major Music Schools and Colleges. If you live in London (UK), it could be The Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama or Trinity College of Music to name just a few. Why? Because this will guarantee that the teachers who studied at these establishments have been taught well and therefore will teach to high professional standard and will be unlikely to pass on any wrong or ‘unhealthy’ methods to their students. You can indentify which institution someone has graduated from by simply looking at the letters following their name, and later, checking them online. Also, if you can access the teacher’s biography, their degrees and diplomas may be explained further.

Amongst the most established UK qualifications, here are a few examples of Music Degrees:
BMus, MMus, MPerf, MComp, MA, MPhil, PhD, MMP, DMus and Diplomas LRAM, PGDip, AdvDip, ARCM, DipRCM, ADCM , Artist Diploma, , LGSM, AGSM, PGDip, Dip GSM., ATCL, LTCL, FTCL, PGA, PGD . I have used the examples from the main educational bodies – Royal Academy of Music (www.ram.ac.uk). Royal College of Music (www.rcm.ac.uk), Guildhall School of Music and Drama ( www.gsmd.ac.uk) and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance ( www.trinitylaban.ac.uk)

Years of teaching experience

This can also be quite beneficial. Although there are a lot of young teachers who can be very good and effective, the benefit of working with a more experienced teacher is that, once a student starts facing difficulties (and believe me, this moment always occurs at some stage along the tuition process), the experienced teacher would be likely to guide a pupil through these difficulties more quickly, whereas the younger teacher may not be able to help so immediately, or at all, whilst stumbling through the blocks. It is also good to get any feedback from past and current students of the teacher in question and, if possible, find out about the teacher’s achievement list (for example how many students won competitions, got high grades, participated in all sorts of public performance, etc.).

Main area of expertise

Some teachers are strictly classical, some do mainly jazz, some do a few instruments. The last group would be the ones I would approach with caution, to make sure that their level of expertise is high enough to teach each instrument. It is also quite good to see if the teacher can play a little bit for you, as then you may know straight away if you would like to learn from this person.

Level of Professionalism

This is a quality that I personally value very much in any area of expertise – it is important that a teacher starts and finishes the lesson on time, clearly explains the fee structure and terms & conditions of the lesson. It is important that a teacher informs a student what needs to be brought to the lesson and what role they expect the parents to play in the students’ education.

Personal Compatibility

This is a very important quality for a teacher to have. It goes beyond just being friendly. The energy and the overall approach of the teacher should match the energy of each student. For example, if the student is in a receptive mode, then the teacher should provide a lot of knowledge, so to be in a ‘giving mode’, but if the student is in a creative and active mood, then the teacher should provide this knowledge through inspiration, by encouraging the student to find an answer for themselves. Experienced teachers should be able to match the energy and state of a student’s mind on each separate occasion. It is very important that both a teacher and a student have a harmonious and balanced energy exchange during the lesson.

The extent of piano teaching

This area often gets overlooked, as all we want at the beginning is piano lessons. However, with the passage of time, some students want more then just an hour of piano lessons per week. They would like to know about performance opportunities, the best competitions, thorough help in choosing piano repertoire, information on the best performers, concerts, etc. If you know in advance that you might require some of the above information, it would be a good idea to ask the teacher if they would be prepared to give it to you. Some of them would be happy, whilst some would not, sometimes purely because of the lack of time and/ or knowledge.

Location

Of course, if you want to learn to play piano, you should try to find the teacher who best fits all the points outlined above, and the best might not be in the area close to you. However, it is important to consider the location as, particularly, if you live in a big city where travelling takes an hour or more each way, taking your child after school on a weekly basis may tire them out, and therefore this is important to consider. In general, from my personal experience, students tend to have more regular lessons with teachers who are close to them as compared to less regular, often prolonged classes with the teachers who live far away. For more advanced, adult players this may not be a big problem, but if you are a beginner, you may want to have more regular lessons on a weekly basis (and this is what I would recommend).

Online Piano Tuition

During the last 5 years, the number of students I teach via Skype has grown. With faster and better internet connection, this method has became possible. I find the benefits of teaching via Skype (apart from obviously the lack of travel) include the fact that lessons become more precise and concentrated, where the camera lets you direct its focus to a specific angle of the hand and/or finger. The drawback is the quality of sound which, of course, will never be as good as the live sound; however it is still pretty decent. For those of my students who live far away from London, Skype piano lessons provide a great solution which should not be overlooked when choosing the best method of studying to fit in with your lifestyle.

To help you further I devised a simple questioner which I give out in my GéNIA MUSIC School and Piano-Yoga® School, to students who enquire about lessons. This helps them and us to choose them the best teacher and the best approach to the piano tuition:

1) List Your Name
2) List Your Age
3) Describe your current piano playing level
4) What is your piano aspiration (perform in public, do grades, learn to memorise, etc)
5) How much time do you have to practice (realistically)
6) How often can you come to your piano lessons (one a week, twice a week, once at fortnight, come when I want to) or would you prefer to do a lessons via Skype? Or would you prefer to do both?
7) What pieces are you playing at the moment?
8) What pieces you would like to play?
9) What pieces you listen to?
10) What type of memory do you have (photographic, symbolic, literary, aural)?
11) How do you learn best (aurally, motorically (by repeating after teacher) visually, etc)?

When you start looking for your teacher, it would be a good idea to finalise for yourself what you are looking for, as this would help you to focus on finding the best piano teacher!

Good luck with your search!

GéNIA

For more information on how to improve your piano playing visit our Piano-Yoga® website www.piano-yoga.com and Piano-Yoga® Studio at Schott Music, 48 Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7BB, where GéNIA teaches regularly.

Russian Virtuoso Pianist and Compser GéNIA is a founder of Piano-Yoga® Method. She runs Piano-Yoga® Studio located in Central London: www.piano-yoga.com

 

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Thank you from GéNIA to all Piano-Yoga® Club members!

January 13th, 2016 — 1:18pm

Piano-Yoga Club with GéNIAThe idea of setting up the Piano-Yoga® Club came to fruition last year, after I received numerous emails and requests from our lovely supporters. Now, looking back, after having done five Piano-Yoga® Clubs, I must admit that it has been not only very productive, but also a very moving experience for me. By now we have some long-standing loyal supporters, whom I call ‘Piano-Yoga® Veterans’, and, at the same time, we continuously have new guests, often those who are visiting London and come just for one event.

I have been absolutely overwhelmed with the feedback that I have received, and this is what gives me growing confidence in the usefulness of Piano-Yoga®. Whether you have stage fright issues, problems with the technique, pains in your body that relate to or arise from practising, Piano-Yoga® has something to offer everyone. Bringing yoga into piano playing, from the anatomical and psychological point of view, dramatically changes one’s attitude to piano playing and therefore to playing itself.

Last time we had guests from the Unites States and also from the other cities in the UK. I now have been asked to organise similar events online, as for many of you it is not easy to come to London. I promise to work on that, and we will try to do something as soon as possible.

Meanwhile here is some of the feedback that I received:

‘An excellent class taught by an excellent teacher! The class is one of a kind in London!’ Salman   

Piano-Yoga Club‘Illuminating!’ Meredith 

‘Very useful! Practising revamped:-) Maybe more events outside of London?’ Liz

‘Very helpful indeed, especially structuring one’s practice time. Plus I feel more energised and more alert after doing your recommended exercises!’ Deborah

‘Another very illuminating Piano-Yoga® Club – I really enjoyed it and looking forward to applying some of the techniques!’ S.P.C.

‘Always very insightful and helpful!’ Olivia

Thank you very much again, and I wish you all wonderful and fruitful 2016!

Looking forward to seeing you at our Piano-Yoga® Club events!

With love,

GéNIA

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Calling all future Piano-Yoga® Teachers out there!

October 20th, 2015 — 3:32pm

We are very excited to let you know that the Piano-Yoga® Teacher Training Programme has almost been finalised. GéNIA has been working very hard to create a simple and structured method which will be easy to learn for those who would like to become a certified Piano-Yoga® Teacher.

To help us to put the finishing touches to the course, we would be the most grateful if you could let us know how many of you are seriously interested in becoming qualified Piano-Yoga® teachers by emailing us as well as enclosing the details of your current qualifications in piano performance and/or teaching, and the level of your experience in practising yoga. Please also indicate if you will be prepared to take an online Piano-Yoga® course in case you cannot attend the course in person. Anyone who emails us will automatically receive a special early bird concession for the Piano-Yoga® Teacher Training Course.

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Pianist Magazine Writes Article about Piano-Yoga®!

August 5th, 2015 — 3:56pm

p68_pianist85-for-webPianist Magazine recently spoke to Piano-Yoga® founder GéNIA about the creation of the method and the new Piano-Yoga® Club launching in September!

To read the first page of the article HERE.

To read the second page of the article HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

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GéNIA Talks on BBC LONDON 94.9 Radio about The Piano-Yoga® Club

August 5th, 2015 — 7:17am
GéNIA talks to Jo Good on her show at BBC London Radio 94.9

GéNIA talks to Jo Good on her show at BBC London Radio 94.9

GéNIA was a guest on Jo Good Show at BBC London  94.9 Radio on Tuesday, the 4th of August, where she talked in details about the launch of  the Piano-Yoga® Club, what to expect, who is it for and when it will start. If you are considering of joining the Club this interview will give you a great insight (starts from 1:07): LISTEN HERE 

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Piano-Yoga® Book Sale 4th-5th October 2014

October 1st, 2014 — 10:17am

Piano-Yoga Paperback BookPiano-Yoga® is having a sale! For one weekend only on Saturday 4th to Sunday 5th October we are offering 40% off our ‘Transform Your Hands: A Complete Ten Week Course of Piano Exercises’ book. It comprises of a unique hand and finger workout that will do more for your technique than hours of practising pieces: the muscles of your hands could become much stronger and in turn your finger flexibility should increase.

By the end of the first two weeks you may start noticing changes and as the programme continues your span on the keyboard may also increase.

 

Instead of £24.99 it’s now just £14.99*

 

To purchase your book please click HERE or email us at info@piano-yoga.com for alternative payment methods.

*postage not included

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Piano-Yoga® Masterclasses With GéNIA in Monaco & Nice

August 8th, 2014 — 3:46pm

We are very pleased to announce that Piano-Yoga® will be heading to Cote d’Azur for the first time to host two masterclasses! The first will be held on 3rd September in Nice and the second on 4th in Monaco.

GéNIA will share her teaching on the topics of Efficient Practice with Piano-Yoga®; Combating Stage Fright with Piano-Yoga® and Musician’s Body Mapping that will help musicians to learn how to pinpoint their personal strengths and weaknesses (as well as those of their students) and work on those.

Click HERE for more information and to book tickets for the masterclass in Nice.

Click HERE for more information and to book tickets for the masterclass in Monaco.

 

 

 

 

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Back Release Mini Series by GéNIA: 3 Minute Tension Release

May 13th, 2014 — 7:49am

After playing piano professionally for 30 years and teaching piano for the last 16, I have noticed that due to regular piano playing some people can experience similar physical and psychological problems. After observing students, colleagues and, of course, myself I have come to the conclusion that these problems can be alleviated if dealt with before they manifest.

There is a popular misconception that compared to the work of a dancer, a pianist’s work is mainly intellectually based. However pianists use the physical body as much as the mind – without both elements the expression of music would not be possible.

The most common physical problems for pianists are stiffness and pain in the shoulder girdle and lower back, stiffness and tension in the hips (mainly due to long hours of sitting), muscle fatigue in the hands, arms and right leg (due to pedaling), and a general feeling of blocked energy. As well as dealing with physical strain many pianists, especially those at a professional level, have to deal with the psychological stress of public performances.

Music students are expected and encouraged to practice a lot, some classical pianists practice up to eight hours a day. However, driven by the will to succeed they often ignore these issues continuing to practice and continuing to be deprived of the desired results because of the state of their physical and mental well-being.

After studying yoga for a number of years and then training to be a yoga teacher, I started implementing various yoga postures and exercises into the breaks between my piano playing sessions and found that the quality of my practice and my well-being improved tremendously.

The exercises outlined in Back Release Mini Series are designed to help pianists during and after their sessions by helping to rejuvenate and stretch the body, particularly working on the upper back. You can do each exercise individually between your piano practice sessions or do them together as a sequence.

Try to take notice and observe the way your body is feeling and choose the exercises that feel suitable for you. Also remember that all breathing during these exercises is done through your nose, with the mouth closed, unless you feel blocked and congested. In this blog I am introducing 3 Minute Tension Release:

 

3 Minute Tension Release

BENEFITS: Stretches the spine. Opens the hips. Warms up the upper body. Rejuvenates tired muscles. Restorative.

Props: Using a Grand Piano as a prop can be useful for stretching and releasing your back after a piano playing session. This exercise can also be done by placing your hands on a wall and then walking yourself backwards but is a little less effective. Recommended for adults only.

  • Place your feet parallel and hip width apart
  • Place your hands with your palms facing down on the lid of a grand piano (Do not do this with an upright as the height would not be appropriate).
  • Start slowly walking backwards while keeping your hands on the piano until you find yourself in an L-shaped position
  • Hold position for a few minutes and engage abdominal muscles by drawing them slightly inwards to support the back
  • To come out of the stretch, slowly start to walk towards the piano while keeping your palms pressed on the lid until you reach an upright position

 

Photographer: Pamela Troni
Model: Trudi Oliveiro
Photos: © Piano-Yoga Ltd

If you like to learn this exercise directly from GéNIA click HERE to book your place on the Piano-Yoga® retreat at King’s Place on 18th May in London.

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Back Release Mini Series by GéNIA: 3 Minute Shoulder Release

May 7th, 2014 — 11:44am


Back Release Mini Series by GéNIA: 3 Minute Shoulder Release

Very often I see musicians who suffer from shoulder pain, but instead of dealing with the issue, they ignore it, hoping that the pain will go away. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. Instead the tension in the shoulders keeps building up and, if not dealt with correctly and in a timely manner, could affect many areas of the body: in the arms, which start experiencing tension that prevents musicians from playing freely; in the neck, by creating pain that in turn could lead to heightened blood pressure, ‘tired’ eyes and even double vision; and in the lower back, by creating extra stress in this area, (which supports the entire spine) and therefore destabilises the whole sitting or standing position of the player. These problems are common for all types of musicians: pianists, string players, wind players, percussionists and even singers.

However all these grim side-effects can be avoided if musicians start taking care of their body on a daily basis, treating these exercises like ‘maintenance work’. And knowing that no one has much time these days, I decided to introduce a short Blog ‘Back Release Exercise Mini Series’, that can change the way you feel about you body, open it up, release stress and tension and invigorate!

However, please note, if you are already suffering severely from tension in your upper back and shoulders, I recommend you see a specialist first – osteopath, back specialist, cranio-sacral therapist or just a masseur. If the condition is too acute. we do need external help and it will be a waste of time doing the exercises and could even risk doing damage.

Also it is important to know about any dis-alignments you may have, as some of the exercises may not be appropriate. For example, if you are suffering from a frozen shoulder, please do not do any exercises that work with the shoulder area without the supervision of a specialist, and if you used to suffer from this condition, approach with the caution, do it slowly and always with bent arms. Therefore it is always good to contact a specialist before you try new exercises – whether it is yoga, pilates or the little mini exercises which I introduce in these series.

Here is a simple Shoulder Release exercise, which would be great to do either before or in between your practice. To start, try to keep your hands wide, as it is easier, and you do not have to keep your arms straight; bent is fine, as long as your shoulders are down and in line with the body. This shoulder release exercises also suits anyone who sits at the computer for prolonged periods. It’s one of my favorites, and only takes a few minutes!

 

Shoulder release

BENEFITS: Stretches the spine. Opens the shoulder blades. Warms up the upper-body. Improves circulation. Opens and stretches the front body. Invigorating.

Props: Yoga belt or tea towel

  • Sit on a chair or in a kneeling position, take hold of a yoga belt or tea towel, stretch your arms out in front of you slightly more than a shoulder width apart
  • On an inward breath, with straight elbows, start to slowly raise the arms until they are in line with the ears
  • Try to keep the shoulders down and the chest in, and on an exhale bring the arms down. Repeat 4 times
  • Do this one more time, and this time, try to keep your arms raised for 5 seconds or more. For more adventures practitioners, try to take your hands further behind your ears, if you can manage this.

 

If you are suffering from any medical conditions, and in particular frozen shoulder, neck pain, high blood pressure or any severe back pain, I do not recommend that you do this exercise. If you just feel stiff, you can bend the elbows and take your hands as wide as possible.

Do this exercise before or in between your music practice or prolonged computer sessions. Enjoy!

Photographer: Pamela Troni
Model: Trudi Oliveiro
Photos: © Piano-Yoga Ltd

Click HERE to book your place on the Piano-Yoga® retreat at King’s Place on 18th May

Click HERE to book your place on the Piano-Yoga® retreat for the ISM in Liverpool on 11th May

 

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