She may have four Grammy awards sitting on her mantle, so to speak, but that’s not stopping Ilana Davidson from taking her talents to the yoga mat.
“I’ve been singing since I was a toddler,” Davidson said. “Literally.”
Her father is a well-known cantor and composer while her mother was a choral conductor and music teacher.
“I sang in choirs, and then started doing serious training for my voice in high school,” she said. “I took auditions and did summer programs starting in 10th grade.”
Davidson grew up outside of Philadelphia, first majoring in music and voice at Carnegie Mellon University, before continuing on to get her master’s degree in opera performance at the Curtis Institute of Music.
“I have prided myself on only being a singer,” Davidson said. “But that has a little bit of ego attached to it.”
One of her first jobs out of school took her all the way to Germany where she sang with the Stuttgart opera company. Her vocal career continued to take her across the globe for the next decade, to Amsterdam and then back to Germany.
Perhaps the highlight of her career has been the four Grammys she won in 2006 as part of a team effort recording William Bolcom’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience,” conducted by Leonard Slatkin.
But as a performer constantly on the go, taking care of her body is crucial to Davidson — something that has led her to discover yoga.
“As a singer, I can’t get a cold. It’s a catastrophe,” she said. “I can’t be tired. I have to have good posture. I have to sleep well, I have to look and feel my best, and yoga does those things for you.”
In fact, it was a guided yoga DVD she bought while singing with the Stuttgart opera company in Germany 20 years ago that first sparked her passion for yoga.
“I was purely looking at it from an exercise point of view, something that was dance-like,” Davidson said. “What I discovered was that I felt remarkably different after my yoga practice. I could concentrate more on my music much differently, my body was open, I felt that my stage fright was more at bay because of the way that yoga affects your central nervous system. So, I became obsessed with it.”
Davidson started practicing yoga regularly, seeking out as many classes as she could find, no matter where she was. Now, she practices religiously.
Davidson always thought her schedule as a performer would prevent her from teaching yoga, that is until an instructor at the Nueva Alma Yoga and Wellness Studio in Yonkers — where she’s practiced for nearly three years — convinced her to become certified.
“I consider that my home studio,” Davidson said. “I was afraid on so many levels. I was afraid because I thought it might sacrifice my ego as a singer, which I now realize is ridiculous. I was afraid of the time commitment, I was afraid of the financial commitment.”
But Davidson took the leap, devoting more than 20 hours a week for four months toward her yoga teaching certification, in addition to learning about the philosophy of yoga and anatomy.
And she never looked back.
“It’s the best decision I’ve ever made,” Davidson said. “Health and wellness have been a hobby for me forever. Now, it’s another profession.”
Davidson stresses that her classes offer a sense of community. She hopes her teaching will bring people together for a greater purpose.
“I really think that having a women-only class in the community would be great, and a women-only class with diversification,” Davidson said. “I want to incorporate a mix of music that we can all move to, and music that is inclusive.
“I love getting to know more people in the community outside of music as well, and to help people cultivate a yoga practice.”