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 woman with holding flute behind her, vertically in line with her spine
 
Studying yoga is the best music lesson I’ve ever had. – James Kortum, flutist, music teacher and yoga teacher
I was so happy to be back in my dear Wingsong Choir this week after nearly two months away. A warm welcome and the joy of joining in with thirty or so others in song made for a soft landing, once more in wintry Australia.
 
I’m always on the lookout for exercises to help me be a better singer. Partly to improve my singing, and partly to share with the members of my group, as I lead them each week in warm-up yoga stretches. 
 
Recently I was contacted by Jessica Dais from TakeLessons. Her educational organisation presents instruction in various kinds of exercise that supports musicians in improving their skills. Here she describes some of the benefits that a musician might receive from doing yoga:

It’s no surprise that yoga is beneficial to your overall health, but did you know that if you’re a musician, yoga can improve your playing abilities? There is science-backed evidence that speaks to the significance of yoga for musicians of any instrument.

Musicians who do yoga have two main advantages over others: more controlled breathing and better alignment.

Let’s start with the voice. Every talented singer knows just how important correct breathing is. The strength behind a singer’s high notes, in addition to how long he or she can hold those notes, comes directly from the breath.

Pranayama, or regulation of the breath in yoga, has been found to strengthen the respiratory system and pulmonary functions. It takes the act of breathing from an involuntary action to a conscious action. Singers have found that practicing a rhythmic pattern of breathing everyday will over time increase breath capacity, strength for powerful ‘belts’, and control for softer tones.

Ujjayi breath, sometimes called throat breathing, can be especially beneficial for singers as it focuses on lengthening inhalation and exhalation. At the same time ujjayi breathing draws attention to the abdomen and strengthens the core.

Proper posture is another necessary quality for many musicians, especially pianists. Long hours of practice at the piano bench, for instance, can take a dangerous toll on your physical health. Much research has been conducted in an attempt to figure out how to prevent piano injuries.

According to one study by the University of Missouri, some of the common causes of injury among pianists are skeletal misalignment and excessive muscular tension. It follows that the emphasis on relaxation in yoga is an important contribution to pianists.

Yoga postures, or asanas, have been found to dramatically improve alignment, even in musicians with scoliosis. Practicing yoga postures regularly ensures that the shoulders and spine are relaxed, and weight is balanced while playing the piano.

Yoga is an important tool for many different kinds of musicians. Whether you sing, play the piano, guitar, or flute, yoga and other exercises can help you improve your alignment and breath support. When it comes to playing music, applying yourself to a regular and holistic exercise regime will make a big difference.

Here are some simple fitness exercises that you might think about adding to your daily routine to help with your breathing, alignment, and overall health.