I’ve taken yoga classes once or twice a week on and off for about six or seven years now. In the last few months I’ve begun to really step up this practise, taking up to four classes per week and doing my own little sessions at home. The reason for this is mostly financial – previously my pain-management and prevention included semi-regular remedial massages and Alexander technique lessons in addition to yoga, but those things cost lots of money I don’t have. Yoga classes, at around $10 a pop, make a noticeable difference to how I feel physically but also mentally, have greatly improved my posture and body awareness (Alexander technique still features in my consciousness, but the muscular imbalance in my shoulders thanks to too much fluting and the emotional imbalance/s in my mind made the sole practise of AT quite stressful and frustrating for me at times), and also keep me pretty fit and healthy.
There are various kinds of yoga, and there are some I generally avoid. Hot yoga (Bikram, Ashtanga, etc.) isn’t really my thing – I did practise it intensively for about a month while in Sydney for work and escaping some pretty extreme emotional turmoil, but I really don’t think it does my body much good, and certainly not all the good I outlined above. I tend to find it a bit ‘Westernised’ (as is a great deal of how yoga is taught and practised in Australia…). I don’t mind a bit of the Vinyasa flow, but still it’s a little too full on sometimes. General Hatha-style yoga works well for me a lot of the time, especially to create balance in my body, and the gentleness and focus on alignment and restoration of Iyengar yoga is really wonderful.
My success using yoga and keenness to step up my practise has led me to start thinking about the possibility of taking teacher training next year, with the idea of running a ‘Yoga for Musicians’ type class in future (or even more specialised – ‘Yoga for Flautists’!). We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ve found a couple of really great texts that I’m working my way through – 30 Essential Yoga Poses by P.T. Judith Lasater and Yoga for Emotional Balance by Bo Forbes. That second book I really feel is quite an important one for musicians, and begins to answer a question Patrick raised with me the other day – why do so many flute players struggle with anxiety and depression? Is there something physically about playing the flute that leads to it? Something about the breathing? Leaving aside the societal causes and the prevalence of mental health issues in young people today, I really think that the round-shouldered posture encouraged by the flute-holding position and the collapsed chest may be greatly to blame. As Forbes says, round your shoulders, collapse your chest and feel your heart space sink and contract, and in a few minutes you’ll be feeling really quite down and negative. I certainly have felt a great sense of ease and lifting as I practise gentle, reclining, chest-opening postures. Interesting…
So yes, there’s a great deal of potential here I feel, both to improve my own mental/emotional(/physical!) condition, and to eventually help others. And, yes, I have to say there’s a kernel of wanting to be a little Eva Furrer in my own way…!