I recently came across some old practice journals, and found a page I'd written after a yoga warm-up. I was reminded of several poses and breathing exercises that are especially beneficial for musicians.
It is no secret that yoga is beneficial for musicians, especially for the foundations of breathing, awareness, and the mind-body connection. Here are some of my favorite ways to incorporate yoga into my practice session, along with some favorite yoga videos courtesy of YouTube.
If You're Anxious...
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate Nostril Breathing will encourage slower breathing and has a calming effect. If you're seeking greater focus or mental clarity, try this first.
Guided Savasana (Corpse Pose)
One of the first notes I made in my yoga warm-up entry came after laying on the floor in corpse pose. I allowed myself to watch the journey of the air into the nose or mouth, and watched for any tendencies to help, force, or tighten at any point during the inhalation and exhalation. A crucial point is allowing a natural wave-like flow between the inhalation and the exhalation, avoiding any urge to hold at the top of the breath. Understanding tendencies such as these outside of playing provides greater awareness of anything that could interrupt a natural breath while playing.
WIDE-LEG CHILD'S POSE
Child's Pose provides an opportunity to observe the movement of the spine while breathing: Upon inhalation, the spine gathers. Upon exhalation, the spine lengthens. Additionally, I allow the abdominal muscles to release during the exhalation in this pose. When playing, releasing the abdominal muscles allows for greater ease in breathing and improved breath capacity!
Moving the entire body as a warm-up before practicing is a great way to feel energized before practicing, especially if you're feeling tired. The more warmed-up my muscles feel, the easier it is to play!
I love hip-opening poses, and Pigeon Pose is my favorite! Hip openers bring awareness to the lower body, and this pose provides an opportunity to feel the movements of the breath and their relation to the legs and hip joints. In addition, this provides another chance to allow the abdominal muscles to release, inhibiting a habit of gripping while enhancing the stretch.
What are your favorite yoga poses or stretches? Does your warm-up include a full-body warm-up?
(*Note, guidance from a certified instructor is recommended for proper pose execution to prevent injury. Always consult with a doctor if you experience pain or injury.)