Yoga for Musicians
Getting Into It
Yoga practice is a lot like music practice; its a set of exercises to set the mind and body in a specific direction. It's done everyday, it follows a regimen, and it can be done practically anywhere. With every yoga practice, there is a mind/spirit connection. You try and be in the moment. Focusing all of your energy on the matter at hand. You take time to notice how your body feels while trying to quiet the mind. There is the constant 'practice' of working on something, keeping focused, working hard and getting better everyday. It becomes a ritual but not automatic. It becomes an important part of your day. It becomes part of you.
Before you start any yoga session, you're encouraged to slow down and empty your mind. In the first part of a yoga session there are some very simple gestures and poses. These are to settle the mind down and get you into the right mindset.All of the external problems and mind think is thrown out the window and all of your energy is in the moment, concentrating on the material at hand.
The same should be for your practice sessions. Use the first 5 minutes to get your mind into what you're doing and away from all the usual noise going on. Part of the reason I always start with a simple finger exercise is because they're so useful in slowing the mind down. That's why it's good to always do your warm-ups slowly and deliberately. It gets the mind into the right mindset while getting the fingers and muscles ready.
An important part when learning how to meditate is concentration. It is essential for effective meditation. Some people believe that concentration is something that you have or don't have. Concentration must be developed; like working a muscle or learning a new skill. We all have various amounts but can develop greater abilities with some practice.
I've written before about making the most of your practice sessions and how important it is to stay focused. Concentration is a big part of this. Much more can be absorbed when there is a constant concentration on the material at hand. It's much more effective to practice for half an hour and be totally focused and concentrating on the practice session than it is sitting a couple of hours in front of the TV, noodling aimlessly. While working through exercises keep the mind on the material. Ask yourself questions, throw yourself some curves, keep the mind in it. Even when going through scales and other material that's almost automatic, keep the mind engaged. Sing the scale while playing it. Take notice of what your fingers and body is doing. Try to 'hear' the scale before you play it. Notice the sound of the scale and differentiate it from other scales. The more ways you do this, the better.
Get With the Program
Yoga sessions aren't arbitrary. There is a program and a logic to every move and the overall session. The point is to work different parts of the body and making sure that there is variety while the most important techniques are always included.
Your practice sessions should follow a program. It's the best way to ensure success and make sure that there is some development. Consistently changing the program doesn't allow any material to really take hold and master. It's important that certain skills are done regularly and the basic fundamentals are taken care of. It's also important to have variety and encourage creativity and self exploration.
One of the greatest things yoga can bring to us is the ritual of the daily practice. It's all about setting aside time to practice everyday. You're encouraged to do it at the same time in the same space, everyday. The mind is cleared and the practice begins. It's about gently pushing yourself a little everyday. Trying to get better without pushing too hard. Have patience. Be in the moment. Let your mind be absorbed with what you're trying to achieve and nothing else.
Try to approach your practice sessions everyday with the same paradigm and see how it enriches your whole musical experience.