The Keyboard Faculty at Trinity-Laban Conservatoire invites pianists to a series of Yoga and Mindfulness sessions taught by Professor Elena Riu especially designed to address Performance Related Anxiety, injury prevention and build resilience before the final assessment run.
The sessions will take place on Thursdays from 8.15-9.30 am on May 10th & 17th in Room G29 at Trinity-Laban.
Some of the well-documented benefits of yoga :
Increases resilience and stamina
Reduces anxiety and stress through increased Parasympathetic activation (relaxation)
Encourages brain integration and emotional regulation
Greater lung capacity and improved Heart Rate Variability
Improved circulation, digestion and mental functions
Promotes self awareness , self esteem and empathy
Prevents injury as it maintains lubrication in all the joints and restores full range of motion
Increases concentration and mental focus
The Yoga exercises and breathing we did on the course were easy and calming. Playing the piano afterwards is always different, the anxiety and other negative things get pushed to the back of the queue … I can concentrate much more on the type of sound I want to produce and the mood of the piece. It was very noticeable when listening to others, the sound made could be incredibly different afterwards.
Jackdaws Music Course participant , May 2015
Elena Riu has been a concert pianist for many years and is a Professor of piano at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance where she has recently led a Pilot Study about the benefits of yoga for musicians suffering from PRA and MSD’s. The pilot study was jointly funded by Better Practice: Musical Impacts, Teaching and Learning and the Keyboard Faculty. She also has a dance background.
Elena has taught kids classes at The Special Yoga Centre and at Yoga Home. Last summer and this summer she organized the Yoga for Kids and Families activities at Santosa Yoga Camp where she taught Yoga , Mindfulness and Yoga Nidra for children, workshops on how to incorporate Tich Nath Hanhn’s Pebble Meditation into a yoga class and Womb yoga.
Drawn from yoga exercises, this sequence of warm up exercises for the pianist was devised by pianist and teacher Penelope Roskell.
Start each exercise from a ‘neutral’ stance – i.e. feet hip-distance apart, shoulders down, spine and pelvis in a neutral position, chest lifted and open, chin parallel to the ground – and keep all movements natural and free.
1. The Swing. Swing the arms forward and back, allowing the arms to fall back through their own momentum/gravity. You can be as energetic or gentle as you like. After a few minutes, your hands should start to feel warmer.
2. Empty Sleeves. Imagine you are wearing a coat but without your arms in the sleeves. With your arms hanging by your sides, twist your body slightly from side to side. Your arms should swing freely, following your torso, as you turn—one wrapping around your body in front, the other back, like coat sleeves flapping in the wind. Keep your shoulders, elbows and wrists relaxed at all times. Increase the movement to extend the swing and start to engage your feet and knees too.
3. The Monkey. Bend forward slightly and let your arms hang loosely in front of you. Swing your arms across your body at hip, chest and shoulder height. Gradually increase the movement, and notice how the opposite foot starts to engage in the move as well. Again, you can make this move as energetic or as gentle as you like.
4. Shoulder Drop. Inhale deeply (“thoracic breathing” – you should feel your chest expand noticeably as you breathe) and as you do, raise your shoulders towards your ears without tensing the neck. Hold the pose for a moment and then exhale, as if you are trying to push all the air from your lungs, while allowing your shoulders to drop down. Repeat five times.
5. Shoulder Roll. Exactly as described. Roll your shoulders forwards and up, then backwards and down, with your breath.
6. Softening the feet and legs. With your feet planted firmly on the floor, start to shift the weight from heel to toe and back again, one foot at a time. Again, gradually increase the movement and walk around the room, making sure each step is carefully planted.
7. Neck Circles. Allow your chin to rest on your chest and slowly rotate the head gently from side to side, ear to ear, in a half-circle move. Repeat a few times, being very gentle as the head comes back to the starting position.
8. Hand stretch. Hold the back of one hand in the palm of your other hand and bend it forward at the wrist. Then bend the wrist back keeping fingers and arms straight.
As with any physical exercise, work within your limits and stop immediately if you are in pain. These exercises are also very helpful in alleviating the effects of performance anxiety.
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