I had a wonderful time yesterday absorbing Piano-Yoga. I was invited to attend a retreat held at King’s Place, the urban concert space near King’s Cross station in London, by pianist, composer, teacher and Director of Piano-Yoga, GéNIA. Having never experienced anything like this before, I really didn’t know what to expect, but it’s always fun learning new skills especially those which can be usefully applied to piano playing.
Sixteen students congregated in the Limehouse Room at 10.30am for classes. The class was an eclectic mix of piano teachers, amateurs and piano students (including one from the Royal College of Music), all wanting to learn the benefits of applying Yoga movements in order to achieve balanced playing as well as improving technique. Russian pianist, GéNIA, has been running her classes for many years and is a very experienced concert pianist and teacher. She started by explaining how she had arrived at the seemingly improbable idea of using Yoga to improve piano playing. We were then encouraged to introduce ourselves and explain why we had decided to attend the classes.
A series of beneficial exercises were introduced; I have done Yoga before and ended up in terrible pain so I was interested to try GéNIA’s approach. I’m happy to report that I managed every movement and am still in one piece today! The gentle exercises were useful, relaxing and calming too, allowing the back, arms, and shoulders to stretch and bend. There is no doubt that this is an excellent way to practice correct posture at the piano which is vital for good playing.
Lunchtime was the perfect opportunity to chat and make new friends, and on returning to the Limehouse Room after lunch, we found two Steinway pianos had been placed in the room, so each performer was spoilt for choice! GéNIA started the afternoon classes by addressing individual technical problems. Students were encouraged to play pieces or sections of a particular work which needed attention. GéNIA then worked on the problematic areas demonstrating copiously at the piano. Students visibly improved and for me, it was a fascinating excercise just observing another teacher, which is not something I do regularly.
The second part of the afternoon was a masterclass where brave pianists offered various works, and we enjoyed Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu Op. Posth. 66, A Debussy Prelude, A Chopin Nocturne and Albeniz’s ever popular Tango to name but a few. GéNIA was able to sort technical issues and inspire students to try a different approach particularly regarding freedom of movement and technique. She also emphasised the importance of sound and tone production which is an area I also focus on when teaching as I believe this to be of paramount importance in good piano playing.
The closing Yoga exercises were also useful; opening up shoulders and again, aligning posture. Piano-Yoga is certainly helpful and advantageous, and I would urge anyone with movement issues to go along to these classes.
Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.
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