Yoga and Music
“And on an exhalation, step backwards into a downward dog,” my favorite yoga teacher says as I step back towards the edge of my mat. My back aches from all the sitting I’ve been doing at school. It feels good to stretch out my body. As a class, we move and breathe together until we complete a sequence, as guided by the instructor. After class, I chat and catch up with a few of my friends, and then I head home to work on my homework.
I have always enjoyed yoga, but I didn’t seriously start practicing yoga until my freshman year in college when I was enrolled in a music program. Yoga was a place for me to unwind, have fun, and enjoy myself. However, as time passed, I began to notice that yoga also helped me with my music studies. When I dedicated even just a little bit of time at the end of the day to yoga, I noticed that I progressed further than I otherwise would have. I performed significantly better as well.
One specific benefit that came from practicing yoga was the ability to be in tune with my body. Yoga helped me to completely focus on my body and how it felt. As a result, I began recognizing when I was holding tension or stress in my body and where. I also started to notice when something didn’t feel right and why. In addition, I began recognizing when I was capable of pushing my body further and when I needed to stop.
Now, what does yoga have to do with music? Playing the piano is a physical activity. Practicing music requires your hands, fingers, wrists, and arms. Even the way you sit and breathe impacts your playing. It involves an intense concentration on how you use specific parts of your body. When you are physically in tune with yourself, you start to recognize tension that arises from your piano playing. This allows you to stop, refocus, and let go of that tension.
Another specific benefit yoga has given me in my music studies is the ability to control my mind and thoughts. This has been particularly helpful for performances and dealing with performance anxiety. In yoga, students strive to completely clear their mind of unnecessary chaos and clutter. They try to enter a meditative, focused state. As I regularly practiced this in my yoga classes, it began to transfer over into my music performances. I began to consistently apply these concepts into my piano playing, and although it is something I still struggle with at times, it has significantly reduced my performance anxiety.
Yoga is definitely not the only cure for all the struggles a music student might face, but it has definitely helped me. There is an infinite number of things besides yoga that help and benefit a pursuer of music. I can guarantee that your hobbies and passions impact your piano playing, and I would encourage you to notice how they help you become a better musician.