Yoga For Performers

About The Practice

This approach to yoga focuses on developing pranayama

(Sanskrit for control of life-force, or breath)

through those asanas (fluid postures)

that foster the greatest expansion and flexibility

for the parts of the body performers use most

(thoracic region, support mechanism, face, and limbs);

while avoiding asanas that may be less useful

or even compromising for performers.  

For example, asanas that may not initially 

be practical for larger bodies, or that

may put in jeopardy the cervical spine, neck muscles,

wrists, knees, and critical musculature

around the vocal folds are not a part of this practice. 

Once a performer is familiar with yoga,

more advanced postures can be incorporated.

YFP was developed by Robert Swedberg in 2003

as an outgrowth of many years training singing-actors. 

Focusing on the aspects of yoga

that might be best incorporated into that training,

the practice features asanas for flexibility,

strength building, balance and coordination,

with breath and mindfulness being central attributes.

 In 2008 Yoga For Performers

was added to the curriculum at the School of Music,

Theatre & Dance at the University of Michigan,

where Swedberg was Associate Professor of Music

(Opera Director and developer of the Opera Studio)

YFP was a class for credit, offered each semester

to 90 student and faculty participants. 

As the practice developed, the process was expanded

to help meet the needs of instrumentalists,

actors, and dancers as well.  

YFP has been offered at a number of universities,

and also featured at NATS, Classical Singer, 

Opera America, and NOA Conferences.

Why Yoga for Performers?

Many people who have not experienced yoga

have an image of super-flexible (usually skinny)

people sitting in lotus position

in some state of relaxed meditation. 

Yoga does lead to greater flexibility and relaxation,

but it offers so much more than that. 

Those who practice regularly find yoga

also builds stamina, better balance,

easier coordination, a stronger immune system,

and better weight control.  

These are all attributes

that are of the utmost importance to performers.  

Yoga practice can be slow, relaxed, docile;

fast, aerobic and hot; or some variation of all of these. 

It is a very practical exercise system, 

since you can take it anywhere with you

and practice whenever you have a chance. 

In fact, a yoga frame of mind

that extends through-out your day

is one of the goals of yoga practice. 

It requires no special equipment or clothing,

and once a practice is developed

by working with instruction,

it doesn't have to cost anything.    

How to approach your practice

Performers tend to be very competitive people. 

Training the technical side of the performer

is usually an intense endeavor with methods,

exercises, etudes, vocalizes, and texts

to guide in development of highly complex,

disciplined, left-brained activity. 

It is important to let all of that go

as you experience yoga.  

If you bend over to touch your toes

and find you don't go very far at first,

there is no need for concern. 

If you take several deep breaths

into a slow stretch in that direction

(after warming up) and reach your "edge,"

you will derive the same benefit that

a more experienced yogi or yogina finds if her "edge"

allows her to take her hands flat to the floor.  

Yoga is not a competitive sport,

and as it is an individual practice,

there is no need for comparison of one pose

or another with poses of anyone else. 

Thus, no one is "good at yoga" or "bad at yoga." 

The pretzel poses that we may see

on the covers of yoga magazines

are interesting and admirable,

but are really of no consequence

in the whole scheme of things.  

Enlightened yogis actually find it counterproductive

to "show off," as truly healthy yoga practice

is more about the breath in a pose than the pose itself.  

That is why yoga practice is ideal for performers,

as our art

is based on extraordinary development of breath. 

One merely spends time

(ideally measured in breaths rather than minutes)

enjoying the benefits of calming the mind,

expanding the spirit, 

and purposefully becoming more aware of the body.

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