What do Piano playing and Yoga have to do with one another? For many years I would have answered "Well, nothing of course!" Recently however, I started practicing Yoga (a combination of public classes and the excellent YouTube channel Yoga with Adrienne) and am changing my mind. Now I realize just how much Yoga can help with piano playing both on the mental as on the physical level.
Yoga can help with concentration while practicing
Holding your concentration during regular practice sessions can sometimes be challenging . One is easily distracted by thoughts that pop up out of nowhere, not to mention the distracting "pinging" alerts whenever someone sends you a message on social media etc. Unfocused practice is not only pretty unhelpful, it can also be counterproductive, leading to wrong habits that are difficult to uproot later on. So finding a way to support concentration is very appropriate to piano players. (Please note: The first step to focused practice would be putting the phone on flight mode, or just switching it off.)
In my new discovery of yoga I decided to try it as a means of sharpening my focused undivided attention on whatever I am doing, while keeping the body as relaxed as possible. Yoga gets you to settle into a pose that requires a physical effort to hold while breathing deeply and maintaining this pose. As in piano playing, you are actively engaged and at the same time must stay calm, relaxed and fully in the flow. Quieting the mind through deep breathing, accomplishing challenges through presence of mind...there seems to be a great deal yoga can contribute to piano playing.
Here are some poses for improving and supporting concentration
Yoga can help you relax before performing
Performing in front of other people is a cause of stress for many players. Some feel very nervous before they start the performance and may get cold/sweaty/trembling hands or a racing pulse. Many players find it difficult to keep their attention on the music while playing for other people. There is that voice from the inside that chatters on and on, warning you not to slip and make mistakes, commenting on what you just played, remembering who is listening to you and wondering what they are thinking...this endless "noise" has to be controlled and silenced if you would like to perform well.
This link (From 0:40) has some breathing exercises that can help quieten the mind before performing.
Yoga can help prevent cramps and tension
Another way I found Yoga to be extremely helpful in piano playing is through the stretching exercises and poses. Piano players sit in the same position for a long time and many tend to get tense and cramped especially around the shoulders and neck and in the arms and wrists. There are quite a few Yoga poses that stretch, open and lengthen the chest, shoulders and arms. Here is a link to some of them you can do seated at the piano whenever you feel you are getting tense.
Yoga supports good piano technique
You can't correct your piano technique just by doing Yoga. Generally, if you play piano correctly you should not be experiencing tension or cramps. However, Yoga can be a wonderful supplement to your piano playing and can make it easier for you to flow in and with the music.
Pianoways on Facebook
- How to Build up Confidence Before a Performance
- Solo trumpeter Yigal Meltzer shares performing tips
- Piano Technique