Playing an instrument can put a strain on your body especially if you are unaware of improper posture and/or breathing technique. This can adversely affect your performance, stamina and your overall enthusiasm to practice. Yoga is a great way to improve all of these and make your playing experience a pain free one because it refocuses and realigns your body to a more healthy and natural position.
As flutists we are constantly trying to expand our lung capacity to extend our breaths as well as trying to enhance finger speed and tone quality. Yoga exercises are an easy and effective way to achieve these goals. There are many different yoga exercises, but in my experience, the most effective ones for flute players are those in which you are concentrating on your breathing and muscle tensions.
Many flutists struggle with breathing. Learning how to breathe properly so you use your lungs to their fullest potential is key. Your rib cage naturally moves up and outward when you inhale. But for a lot of students, when they inhale they take a breath that is mostly filling oxygen up in their upper lungs and not allowing them to take full, deep breaths. A great yoga exercise to increase lung capacity and awareness of breathing is to lay on a flat surface with your hands by your side and a pillow supporting only your head. Notice how your stomach rises and falls with each breath and control your breathing so that you can inhale and exhale slowly. On every inhale try to feel the oxygen reaching every inch of your lungs and on the exhale, release the air slowly and calmly. This is also a great exercise if you’ve had a hard day and just need to relax (Don’t fall asleep though!).
We tend to carry a lot of our anxiety and stress in our shoulders and back which can quickly cause strain in our arms and neck. A great exercise to do is to sit up with your legs crossed and hands in your lap (you may use a wall for support if you are not comfortable sitting up on your own). You should feel as though an invisible string is pulling you upward through the top of your head, elongating your spine. Relax the muscles in your shoulders and lower back and maintain steady, even, deep breaths. Concentrating on your breathing and relaxing the muscles can give you a more open and relaxed sound when playing flute. The most important part is to breathe deeply and concentrate on the muscles in your shoulders and back. The more in tune you are with these muscles, the more in control of them you can be while playing to maintain proper posture and decrease the likeliness of pain you may experience while practicing for long periods of time.
Yoga exercises are designed to make you aware of your body and by practicing simple yoga exercises that target your breathing and muscle relaxation, you can increase your stamina to play, breathing capacity and improve tone quality over time.