Breathing and stretching exercises for healthy practice and living
Compiled for Pianodao by ANDREW EALES
Earth Posture is a very simple Qigong stance which combines many of the most basic benefits of qigong practice, and offers a great entry point to qigong.
In this exercise you will focus on posture, alignment, balance, breathing, and release of tension. These are all crucially important for qigong practice, and of course for piano playing.
Earth Posture also offers a fabulous way to quiet the mind prior to mediation, or as a meditation in itself.
Good posture (at least as assessed by external observation) seems elusive for many pianists. Qigong practice in general addresses posture through an internal awareness of alignment and balance.
At the same time, Earth Posture facilitates good circulation, thus promoting improved general health.
These benefits are, of course, not instantaneous. I would advise practising Earth Posture daily for a few weeks to experience the maximum benefit. Even many experienced Qigong and T’ai Chi practitioners return to Earth Posture as a prelude to their practice.
The full instructions are written below, but you may find it more helpful to use this recording:
- Stand with your feet hip width apart
- Knees should be “soft” (slightly bent or unlocked)
- Tilt your pelvis forward gently just enough to take the tension out of the lower back
- Lift the rib cage and take a deep breath from the lower abdomen (“abdominal breathing”)
- Circle the shoulders backwards a couple of times to release any tension
- Tuck the chin in slightly to bring the head into alignment
- Gently stretch the neck upwards
- Allow your tongue to rest on the roof of your mouth behind the front teeth, as if you were about to make the sound “Ler“. This technique allows the energy to circulate through the two main energy channels of the body. The connection is called the “Magpie Bridge” and the energy circuit is called the “Microcosmic Orbit”, which balances the two main energy channels of the body.
- Visualise a golden cord attached to the top of your head and it is gently stretching you upwards. Visualise your spine gently stretching upwards too, so that you are growing taller.
- Visualise a tennis ball under each arm pit with the arms hanging relaxed by your side, giving you a more rounded feeling.
- Relax your hands. Imagine a pencil between each finger separating them, with fingers pointing towards the ground.
Imagine roots extending from the soles of your feet, deep into the ground. Still the mind and focus on deep abdominal breathing; hold this stance for a few minutes.
I would like to thank my teacher Allan Howlings for sharing this exercise.
Qigong for Pianists
Breathwork has made a significant difference to my quality of life, health and wellbeing, with a beneficial impact on my piano journey.
I hope that by trying the simple exercises in this post you will discover similar benefits and be encouraged to explore the practices further…
If you are ready to build on the Piano Qigong basics introduced on the Pianodao site, start your journey here!
In this article, I will build on the foundation of the exercises and ideas previously shared in the article Breathing at the Piano.
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“For me, it is breathing that is vital. You must breathe naturally, like a singer. Pianists and string players often tend to forget the necessity of breathing and they can become very tense; then they get back pains and wrist pains and so on. Usually it can be sorted out through the breathing.”
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