After playing piano professionally for 30 years and teaching piano for the last 16, I have noticed that due to regular piano playing some people can experience similar physical and psychological problems. After observing students, colleagues and, of course, myself I have come to the conclusion that these problems can be alleviated if dealt with before they manifest.
There is a popular misconception that compared to the work of a dancer, a pianists work is mainly intellectually based. However pianists use the physical body as much as the mind – without both elements the expression of music would not be possible.
The most common physical problems for pianists are stiffness and pain in the shoulder girdle and lower back, stiffness and tension in the hips (mainly due to long hours of sitting), muscle fatigue in the hands, arms and right leg (due to pedaling), and a general feeling of blocked energy. As well as dealing with physical strain many pianists, especially those at a professional level, have to deal with the psychological stress of public performances.
Music students are expected and encouraged to practice a lot, some classical pianists practice up to eight hours a day. However, driven by the will to succeed they often ignore these issues continuing to practice and continuing to be deprived of the desired results because of the state of their physical and mental well-being.
After studying yoga for a number of years and then training to be a yoga teacher, I started implementing various yoga postures and exercises into the breaks between my piano playing sessions and found that the quality of my practice and my well-being improved tremendously.
The exercises outlined in Back Release Mini Series are designed to help pianists during and after their sessions by helping to rejuvenate and stretch the body, particularly working on the upper back. You can do each exercise individually between your piano practice sessions or do them together as a sequence.
Try to take notice and observe the way your body is feeling and choose the exercises that feel suitable for you. Also remember that all breathing during these exercises is done through your nose, with the mouth closed, unless you feel blocked and congested. In this blog I am introducing 3 Minute Tension Release:
3 Minute Tension Release
BENEFITS: Stretches the spine. Opens the hips. Warms up the upper body. Rejuvenates tired muscles. Restorative.
Props: Using a Grand Piano as a prop can be useful for stretching and releasing your back after a piano playing session. This exercise can also be done by placing your hands on a wall and then walking yourself backwards but is a little less effective. Recommended for adults only.
· Place your feet parallel and hip width apart
· Place your hands with your palms facing down on the lid of a grand piano (Do not do this with an upright as the height would not be appropriate).
Start slowly walking backwards while keeping your hands on the piano until you find yourself in an L-shaped positionHold position for a few minutes and engage abdominal muscles by drawing them slightly inwards to support the backTo come out of the stretch, slowly start to walk towards the piano while keeping your palms pressed on the lid until you reach an upright position
Photographer: Pamela Troni Model: Trudi Oliveiro Photos: © Piano-Yoga Ltd
If you like to learn this exercise directly from GéNIA click HERE to book your place on the Piano-Yoga® retreat at King’s Place on 18th May in London.