By Barb Gibson, Certified Yoga Therapist
Musicians require incredible skill both physically and mentally. As a Certified Yoga Therapist at Achieving Health Integrative Pain and Sports clinic, I work with clients to help them stay on top of their game by keeping their bodies supple and strong and their minds clear and focused.
Muscles in the upper back can become both tight and weak in musicians and asymmetry between sides can be present depending upon the instrument and if it keeps you in a static and/or hunched position. Simple movement with breath can help develop the upper back area and release tension as you work with potentially increased curvature in the upper back. Here are a few basic movements you can do in your studio, at home, or even on the road:
Sitting in a chair, move forward so that your back is not touching the chair and the feet are squarely on the floor. Place your hands on your thighs by the knees. Find a neutral spine as you sit upright and bring your attention to your breath taking 6-8 breaths to deepen your inhale and lengthen your exhale.
On Inhale, raise your right arm up forward and overhead with palm facing inward moving the arm as far back (without too much tension) as you can. Feel the stretch along the front of your torso on the right side and notice the upper back and shoulder area working. On exhale, bring your right arm back down to your right thigh to the starting position. Now switch and do the same thing on your left side noticing the stretch along the front of the torso on the left side and the upper back/shoulder muscles working. During inhale, lightly lift through your chest feeling sternum lift upwards. During exhale, feel your abdominals lightly contract to help your spine stay neutral. Continue to alternate sides for 4 – 6 repetitions per side.
Next, place your hands on your chest area (one hand over the other). On inhale, move your palms outward and to the sides until they move behind your shoulders. Notice the shoulder blades contracting and moving towards each other and the chest expanding to the sides. On exhale, bring your hands back to the chest. Feel your shoulder blades move away from each other as you bring the hands back in and bring your chin slightly towards your chest feeling the back of the neck and upper back elongate. Continue to do this movement for 4 repetitions and then switch to arms elongated in front of you with palms touching during exhale for 4 repetitions.
Then bring arms forward with one arm under the other, bending the elbows and bring palms together in eagle (garudasana) pose for 6 breaths. On inhale, lightly lift elbows and chin upwards and feel muscles between your shoulders working. On exhale, move elbows and chin downwards elongating between shoulder blades and upper back. Switch arms for another 6 breaths.