This month, I take a quick break from the YEM series I have been building to share a yoga sequence that will be of benefit to musicians or any other busy, touring professional. Whether you are on the road, on stage or in the studio, yoga and meditation can provide you with simple, effective tools to help you get the most out of your valuable life-energy and time.
Hatha yoga helps your body-instrument stay in the tune of health. When you practice, be aware of your spine. Think of the spine like a flute, through which vital life-force flows. As musicians, we don’t force our sound, which may damage our instrument. We learn to allow the music of life to flow through us. As yogis, we treat our bodies similarly.
The spine can also been seen as a piano. Each keyboard note must be in tune to create good music. Similarly, when one of our vertebrae is out, we know it through pain and discomfort.
String players know that a string must be neither too tight nor too slack. The spine is like a string instrument tuned in perfect resonance, for optimal musicality.
Here is a simple flow, called Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation), which touches all the basic muscle groups and nerve centres:
READY: Stand at the front of a yoga mat or non-slip surface, feet hip width apart.
PRAYER: Inhale. Bring your palms together in front of your chest. Breathe. Become aware of your breath and bodily sensations. Imagine your body is a tube of breath. You breathe in life-force from the crown of your head, through your spine, right down to your toes. Root into the ground and allow the crown of your head to gently float and broaden. Your spine feels open and long, not stretched. Do not rush this process.
FORWARD BEND: Inhale. Raise your arms above your head, palms together. Exhale. Roll forward, vertebra by vertebra, so you end up folded over, hands by your feet. Keep your knees slightly bent to protect your lower back. Take a few breaths. Feel your head respond to gravity, and your legs and spine lengthen.
LUNGE: Bend your knees to place both hands on the floor by your feet. Inhale. Step your right leg back, placing the knee on the floor. Your left knee is over the left ankle, spine arched. Your pelvis releases and crown floats. Breathe.
PLANK: Inhale. Left leg moves back to join the right. Legs, arms, spine and neck are straight. Engage your abdominals by bringing your navel back to your spine and curling your tailbone in slightly. Imagine you are breathing through your tube-like spine from the crown to your toes. Breathe.
PUSHUP: Exhale. Bend your elbows, bringing your chest to the floor, keeping your elbows close to your body, shoulders relaxed. Your buttocks stay in the air, toes curled under. Breathe.
COBRA: Inhale. Slide your torso along the floor, through your hands so you are flat on the floor, soles of the feet open to the ceiling. Gently push up to open your chest, shoulders relaxed. Overdoing it will hurt your lower back. Breathe.
DOWNWARD DOG: Exhale. Press into your hands, tuck your toes under, move your hips up. Legs are straight, feet parallel, hip width apart, ears by your elbows. Palms are flat on the floor. Relax your neck and jaw. Breathe.
LUNGE: Inhale, right leg forward, knee over the ankle, left knee on the floor. Breathe.
FORWARD BEND: Exhale, left foot joins the right, head by your knees. Your knees are slightly bent to protect your lower back. Allow your head and spine to easily respond to gravity. Breathe.
ROLL UP: Inhale. Feel your feet release into the ground as you gently roll up, vertebra by vertebrae. Your arms follow. Still inhaling, arch back gently.
STANDING: Exhale, bringing your arms to your side. Breathe in through the crown of your head, into your whole body. Exhale. Feel alive.
For one complete Sun Salutation, repeat these steps for the left leg. With practice, each step will be just one inhale or exhale. Never rush or you may cause injury. The goal is not speed, but ease and focus. Maintain awareness of your breath and sensations in your body. Notice the movement of energy through your body/being. This is what makes the practice of yoga unique and powerful and a perfect asset to any musician’s toolkit, on the road, and in the studio.
Parvati Devi is the editor-in-chief of Parvati Magazine and an internationally recognized Canadian musician, yogi and new thought leader. As a chart-topping touring musician, Parvati spearheads the Post New-Age musical genre with her independent success hit single “Yoga in the Nightclub”. She founded YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine, a powerful yoga method that combines energy work and yoga poses. Her debut self-help book “Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie – A Revolutionary Life Makeover for the Sincere Spiritual Seeker” is forthcoming in 2016.