Music majors learn to improve focus, build strength and relax.
by Caroline Collier Photo by Leo Wesson. Art by Tracy Sterling Bristol.
Kristen Queen leads a session of Yoga for Musicians in the PepsiCo Recital Hall.
More from Winter 2016
More in Campus News: Alma Matters
Topics: Inside the Classroom
by Caroline Collier
Photo by Leo Wesson. Art by Tracy Sterling Bristol.
About the Course:
Students majoring in music develop improved alignment, balance, breathing, flexibility, relaxation and strength. Using postures adapted to each student’s level, class participants develop improved alignment, breathing, physical skill and focus. The routines involve periods for meditation and include elements of two types of yoga: Vinyasa, or flow, and Hatha, or posture-holding.
Tuesdays and Thursdays: 9:30 – 10:20 a.m.
Meeting Place and Instructor:
The stage in PepsiCo Recital Hall, which is in the Mary D. and F. Howard Walsh Center for Performing Arts. Music students typically perform solo recitals in the space, but the course instructor Kristen Queen wants to change class participants’ perceptions of the room. “Hopefully, when they come back to that space, it’s less intimidating,” says Queen, assistant director for academic programs in the School of Music and flute instructor.
11 students, including undergraduates, graduate students and two music faculty members
None required but students are encouraged to read three books:
The Musician’s Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness by Gerald Klickstein (Oxford University Press)
Musician’s Yoga: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Inspiration by Mia Olson (Berklee Press)
YogaFit by Beth Shaw (Human Kinetics)
“As musicians, a lot of us have what are called ‘repeat use injuries,’ whether that’s carpal tunnel or tendonitis or back problems, hip tightness,” says Queen.
Yoga teaches practitioners to move their bodies in novel ways using breath and alignment, which reduces stress on muscles and joints and develops a mindful attention to the functioning of the body.
The twice-a-week class meets in the morning to help students release stress and set an intentional foundation for the rest of their day. Students learn to let go of a mindset of competition, which is common among musicians, and get in touch with how their bodies feel through yoga poses.
As the semester proceeds, Queen teaches meditation, which she describes as “intense concentration coupled with intense relaxation.” In a safe, nonjudgmental environment, musicians learn to cultivate focus, which they can use during performance situations.
Sample yoga poses:
Seated Spinal Twist:
This pose unwinds the spine, cleanses the digestive organs, releases tension in the lower back and opens hip joints, which can be stiff especially for bench-sitting piano players.
This pose strengthens and improves flexibility along the back of the body. It improves posture and opens the lungs, a valuable aid for vocalists and musicians who play wind instruments.
This pose stretches the thighs, hips, shoulders, upper back and wrists, which are a common problem area for musicians, who manipulate their instruments with their hands and tend to repeat the same movements.
Final Resting Pose:
Also known as the corpse pose or savasana. This is the common finale for yoga routines. Holding still and letting go allows the student to enter a meditative state and “scan the body, feel the change in blood flow, oxygen,” says course instructor Kristen Queen.The pose offers several minutes of quiet time for observing patterns of the brain. Queen encourages students to associate thoughts with the image of a sailboat. “It’s going to float by,” she said. “You decide if you want to get in that boat and ride.”
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