Music students from the University of Missouri (MU) have a rather unique schedule in their timetable. Every Friday, they would take an hour outside of their noisy rehearsal rooms to center themselves on mats in a dark, quiet room just to practice yoga. According to Paola Savvidou, an MU assistant professor of piano pedagogy, yoga aids the musicians with their body alignment and tone.
“Pianists and other musicians a lot of times hold their breath, which tightens muscles,” stated Paola. At the same time, wind musicians can also get strain while holding on to long notes, hindering their tone quality. This is where yoga comes into play. The movements in yoga assist musicians better in regulating their breathing for practice as well as performances.
After Savvidou, co-adviser of MU’s Collegiate Chapter of the Music Teachers National Association, did some research on incorporating movement into her piano lessons to improve alignment, she managed to connect with the group’s vice president, Grace Lyden, a piano student with an interest in yoga. From there, both of them decided to offer a free class to the musicians. Grace last requirement in order to attain her yoga certificate was to teach a free class as service hours. Although she was already teaching yoga at the MU Student Recreation Complex, she still wanted to combine her training with music.
As for Savvidou, she is starting out on a qualitative study in the fall with her new course called movement and wellness for musicians. She is hoping to expose musicians to various exercises and techniques that makes use of movements. According to her, relating movement and music is a relatively new field. Currently, she makes full use of injury-prevention strategies, which can also be used by anyone, to relate them towards musicians. These students will be part of the study to demonstrate how yoga can improve their physical approach to their instruments. The relaxation techniques in yoga can also help in performance anxiety and teach them to manage stress. Rachel Aubuchon, an MU School of Music accompanist, explained that yoga “helps loosen up a lot of rigidity and soreness from sitting all day.”
Grace will be making full use of specific poses and stretches to benefit the musicians. They include hip openers to relieve the tightness caused from sitting in the practice room for long periods of time. “Musicians especially love when movement happens with the breath because they are familiar with using pulse and rhythm,” she explained. She also added that poses such as cat-cow or moonflowers and sunflowers feel more natural. You can read more on the story here.