Professional pianists and advanced piano students must maintain top physical form in order to sustain the rigours of advanced practicing and repertoire.
Here is a curated suite of yoga practices from Yoga with Adriene, my favourite online yogi. Each one has a particular focus, though most prepare the upper body, arms, wrists and mind in a way that would heighten your piano practice and make it more effective.
This blog post is designed for personal use by pianists and as a resource for teachers of advanced piano to share with students.
Focus on Fingers, Wrists and Hands
This 11-minute yoga practice draws our attention to our fingers, wrists and hands. Let’s be mindful of how we care for these oft-used body parts and build a rich connection with them prior to practicing the piano.
Accommodation for injuries
Normally when doing planks and other downward-facing poses, hands are placed flat on the mat with fingers splayed. However, if you’re a pianist with an injury, you’ll want to protect your wrist and avoid this inverted wrist angle until you’ve had some healing.
With an injury, it is recommended that you keep your injured wrist or wrists straight and put your weight onto your fist.
Posture – Freedom of shoulders and arms
This 15-minute morning yoga flow is perfect as a prelude to practicing the piano. Ideal for experienced or novice yogis.
- Encourages freedom in your shoulders and arms.
- Helps if you’re struggling with tension in your upper body or if you have a shoulder injury.
- Good for stretching your backbone to encourage good posture while sitting on the piano bench.
- Helps with grounding the feet, also key for good piano posture.
Awaken spine, upper body, shoulders and arms
This 21-minute morning yoga flow is excellent for awakening the spine and upper body with lots of connection to your breath.
- Gentle spinal twists help limber up the torso for good sitting posture at the piano.
- King cobra pose helps open up shoulders and strengthen extended arm positions.
- At the close of the yoga practice, when Adrienne asks you to “set your intention” — decide on your primary goal for your piano practice.
Preparing the mind for focus
This 22-minute brain-body balance yoga practice is great for preparing to focus in your session of piano practice. Are you going to be learning new music? Memorizing something? Connect your body with your mind first.
The ultimate shoulder-opener practice
If you or your students are struggling with posture or have a shoulder injury, this practice is for you. Several years ago I tore my left rotator cuff while swimming and it took months for me to recover. After physiotherapy, this yoga practice was key to renewal.
If you are new to yoga, simply adapt the more advanced poses into something you can do for now. If you keep returning to the practice, over time you may find that you’re ready to add them.
This practice is longer, at 35 minutes. You may prefer the shorter yoga sessions prior to regular piano practices. Use this session in case you have a reason to work extensively on shoulders.
I hope you find these practices helpful as you prepare to further your piano practice!
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Video of the Week
For Rue (Early Advanced, Level 8), a pastiche in the style of a Chopin waltz. From the print and eBook Madge’s Notebook, A Piano Tribute to The Hunger Games, Early Intermediate to Early Advanced piano, music that offers hope. Or, check out the For Rue eSheet!
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