Photo credit: naturalawakeningscnj.com
Since I met my boyfriend Ohad and his friends, I learned a lot about classical music and a musician’s lifestyle. We’re talking about real pro musicians here, acknowledged soloists on the international level, great performers and members of reputable orchestras. Speaking to them and observing them, I learned about some of the physiological and psychological concerns they have around being a musician. Some of them take yoga classes already and a lot of them should be doing so, but they are not.
Below are the two main reasons why musicians should be practicing yoga:
1. Practicing playing an instrument daily for hours is strenuous on the body.
My boyfriend practices piano every day for a few hours because he strives for a high quality of sound and would not settle for anything less than that. Any self-respecting, professional, and ambitious musician does the same. Practicing daily for hours is hard on the body: the muscles can get very tight and inflamed, the nerves get pinched, the joints become less mobile, flexibility can diminish, and the result of this all is most probably pain or even injury. Even if there is no pain or injury (yet), there is certainly a simple and very real diminishment of the possibility to be the best musician one can be as the body becomes less capable to perform in its maximum capacity.
A lot of the musicians I know put therapeutic tape all over their body, which looks kind of funny but is very sad. Now, Ohad is lucky he plays piano which is a fairly symmetrical instrument for the body in the sense that both left and right sides of it are engaged equally and therefore balanced out. Think when this is not the case and imagine what kind of physiological disturbances are created as a result! In these cases activities such as yoga are absolutely essential to balance out the activity of the muscles on the left and right side of the body and build overall strength that allows the body to function as one unit.
With yoga, professional musicians can learn how to relax their muscles, balance out the opposite sides of the body, prevent muscle or nerve inflammation and dislocation, increase the mobility and flexibility of their joints, and build overall strength to help their bodies perform in their maximum capacity without depleting it and taking away from its overall health. It is such a no-brainer and yet you would be surprised how many musicians miss out on this opportunity! The younger they are, the less they see the necessity to do yoga, but as time will take toll of their bodies they will realize that doing yoga is a must. The good thing about yoga is that it is never too late (although the earlier it is practiced – the better!)
2. To play an instrument well one needs focus, concentration, determination, discipline, will power, and self-mastery.
Just like in any other activity in which one wants to become a master, or, in case of the musicians, rather a maestro, one has to work hard, practice a lot, and engage fully in the task at hand. For this, focus, concentration, determination, discipline, will power, and self-mastery are essential.
Any musician needs to be focused and concentrated in order to perform well. One needs to be completely engaged in the play and consciously aware of the numerous factors that determine an excellent kind of performance. The mind is not allowed to wander or float off, engaged by unrelated thoughts and occurrences. The mind however can get so one-pointed that it can get completely dissolved in performing music, and this is exactly when a musician becomes a virtuoso. With yoga, one learns focus and concentration. With yoga, one becomes eventually a master of one’s mind.
Since professional musicians need to practice daily and for long hours, they need a lot of determination and discipline to do so. Even the most determined and ambitious musicians need strong will power to practice when they do not “feel like it”. It takes guts to practice repetitively the same thing over and over again in order to perform it finally in front of the public in such a way, that it touches them, that it makes them feel all of the emotional depth and value behind the piece. With yoga, one learns self-discipline and improves his or her determination and will power.
Finally, what it is the difference between a good musician and a great musician? What makes a regular musician into a soloist? What is the secret behind a maestro’s performance? For me, this secret is in self-mastery. Self-mastery is the ability to continuously learn and improve both one’s technical abilities and one’s ability to feel and understand a piece of music. Self-mastery also includes the components of risk-taking and never-ending battle against fear. Fear of being judged, fear of being criticized, fear of disappointing. A maestro is not afraid, or at least when afraid he or she still does what they think is ought to be done. Yoga is all about self-mastery, it is about a continuous search for ways to improve and find new challenges. It is a way of accepting what is and yet still trying to always make that is better. Both yoga and music are paths towards perfection.