5 Reasons Musicians Can Benefit From A Yoga Practice Routine Blog
I have been a yogi almost as long as I have been a musician. I started music at around age twelve, and I found yoga probably somewhere around sixteen or so, and both have been constants in my life ever since. To write about each and every time yoga has made it possible for me to keep being a musician would take one hundred thousand words, as would describing all of the times that music and yoga have crossed paths on my journey. I will certainly try here, in this blog,to quantize my experiences into a few worthy bullet points intended to help musicians and yogis bridge the gap between their worlds.
Life is inherently rhythm oriented. From the constant and consistent babble of a brooke, to the sound of birds singing their songs (legend has it that the initial notes and intervals of Beethoven’s 5th was inspired by a bird!), to the strumming of a guitar or the playing of a drum, and of course to the very flow of a yoga asana. Tapping into rhythm is the common thread. Life seeks balance of the rhythms, and so finding rhythm is a crucial element in the journey.
Yoga and music are both breath driven practices. In yoga the breath is used to fuel the work, much like a singer uses it to drive their voice. Breath IS life. It is the carrier of sound, the mechanism for verbal communication, and the element of air which is the archetype for intellect and creativity. Music itself even breathes, in the way that a conductor or composer uses space and air to create dramatic moments, while moments later using that same air to create the energetic fuel required to play an instrument or produce a note from a voice. Breathing is musical in nature when one notices that the action, though somewhat involuntary, occurs with an inherent rhythm … in..out...in...out…
Yoga sequences, and practices can be somewhat random, depending on the school of thought or intention employed, but many, if not most yoga traditions have a compositional element. This composition often includes elements such as mantra (chanting), pranyama (breathing), asana (movement) and other aspects, and this is not unlike writing a song, where components such as verses, bridges, choruses and solo sections are crafted with the intention of creating a dynamic flow of tension and release, ebb and flow. Studying this dynamic can cultivate a sense of how music can start off from a place of lower energy, which eventually builds until climax, and then cools down to a conclusion. Music and yoga can both be viewed as compositional practices.
4. Focused Meditation
Yoga teaches practitioners how to use focus as a tool that can refine a practice. When in a challenging pose focus is used to keep the mind steady and motivated, and this is exactly the same skill set required to deliver an optimal and inspired musical performance. Focus creates mindfulness and acute attention, and when someone is working on a masterwork from composers such as Bach, or Miles Davis, focus is absolutely a necessity. Listen to Toccata And Fugue, and you will see exactly why focus is key when 32nd note arpeggios are flying by at a brisk pace while also performing the left hand chord and bass lines. Meditation is an art of focus unto itself, even if that focus is based in the practice of non-focus, or clearing the mind. It still takes a mindful effort to not think about things that come up in the mind, or to not give attention to the sounds of the world outside the window.
The old saying, practice makes perfect, is relevant to both yoga and music. Yoga routines are often referred to as “practice”, as in having a yoga practice. The idea is that the work is never done, just continually refined and maintained. This is also the nature of being a musician, because without the hours, days, months, and years of work, mastery is not attained. Practice is a requirement for the development of ANY skill. Yoga helps to create a habit of consistency and regularity, and this is beneficial for musicians in multitudes of ways.
The parallels between music and yoga, as well as the benefits of a married practice of the two are endless. The best way to learn of the benefit, is to experience it first hand. Yoga studios are prevalent these days, as are the styles, and formats that are offered, so if you are inclined to, set aside an hour or two and take a class. Free classes can be found online with a little searching, and of course Youtube and things like streamed programming will have options available as well. Give it a try!
As they say in yoga at the end of a class, “Namaste”, which means “the light in me sees the light in you”.