Monday, July 29, 2013

Yoga and the Cello

Until recently I was a skeptic. I've had many friends, cello teachers and acquantainces fervently tell me that yoga was the solution! I would nod and smile all the while thinking "the crazies!"Perhaps I've joined the ranks of the crazies or perhaps I've simply come to realize the truth in what they were saying. Needless to say, I am now a yoga fanatic.

My recent discovery regarding yoga came about when I was faced with a difficult dilemma.

Dilemma:
In May I was diagnosed with Scoliosis and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. This is bad news for a cellist and for someone whose former choice of exercise was running. I had been in a lot of pain, had to stop running, and eventually had to take a break from the cello. 

Solution:
Which leads me to the present: Yoga Addict

My first step toward "recovery" was establishing regular chiropractic appointments which would ensure that my back stayed aligned and healthy. But in between those appointments it is still my job to make sure that I'm being a good steward of my body and using it in a way that will help my career be a long one. Yoga does this.

When I was running regularly I would often wake up with neck and back tension. I also would frequently experience pain in my knees and shins (I've had people tell me that the pain I was experiencing was probably shin splints). Now I know that running doesn't affect every person this way, but it did me and I had to make a choice - keep running and hurt my body or switch exercise methods and continue on my career path.

I chose yoga.

For the past two months I've been doing yoga first thing when I wake up in the morning, in between rehearsals and also before I go to sleep. This has immensely helped my performance level and my ability to keep up with the demanding life of a classical musician.

I roll out of bed in the morning (sometimes I start the first few poses while I'm still in bed!) and begin my routine. Most of my morning poses are simply focusing on breathing life into my body, waking up my mind and waking up my sleepy joints and muscles. It used to be that I was stiff and inflexible in the morning. But now after a good twenty minutes of stretching and breathing I feel awake, limber and am able to start my cello practicing. 

This summer while I've been at Ohio Light Opera I've been taking advantage of our ten minute intermission during shows and using it for a time to open my shoulders up and stretch my neck and lower back. This aids in my durability (since the shows range from an hour and a half to three hours and 15 minutes!).

Lastly, before bed I like to do some light stretching and deep breathing that focuses on calming down my body and mind and preparing myself for bed. Shows can often go late and when you get back to your room at 11 PM and are wired after being physically and mentally active for the last three hours it can be quite difficult to calm down and fall sleep. This is where gentle movement, breathing and meditation can really help get you sleep-ready.

I'm still a newby at this but am completely loving my experience so far! Feel free to ask questions or share suggestions below!