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Yoga Yogi: Animal Moves

By Robert Barton Published in DRUM! Magazine's August 2008 Issue

We’ve all gotten up from long hours of playing only to find our backs stiff and maybe even sore. Prolonged sitting creates compression in the spine, and once you factor in the physical demands of drumming, the lower back can take a real beating.

A simple movement called the Cat-Cow will help keep your spine fluid and flexible. The Cat-Cow relieves tension and stiffness after long hours behind the kit, and it’s useful as a pre-play warm-up. With this exercise, the breath and movement flow together in a hypnotic rhythm to flex and extend the spine.

To start, get on your hands and knees, hands beneath the shoulders, fingers apart, and knees beneath the hips. The spine is in a neutral position.

1. As you exhale, slowly tuck your chin toward your collarbones and draw your tailbone under, the spine arching upward toward the ceiling like a cat.

2. As you inhale, reverse the action by lifting your head and rolling the tailbone toward the ceiling, while the belly opens toward the floor.

3. Keep flowing back and forth and stay focused on the breathing. The breath should remain smooth, even, and unhurried – it’s like learning to wait for the 1. If you rush, it won’t feel right.

Now upon closer observation, you will see that not only is the spine being flexed and extended, but the hips and shoulders are being warmed up as the pelvis and shoulder girdle roll back and forth. Depending on the placement of your hands, the wrists can also be stretched.

The Cat/Cow offers immediate relief to drummers already suffering from the effects of playing, as well as those who wish to avoid the chronic buildup of debilitating tension. One of the greatest benefits from practicing yoga is an increase in postural awareness which can free you from habitually poor posture that can create tension and drain your energy. You will be able to play longer with less fatigue, so stretch out and rock on!

As always, check with your physician to make sure this exercise is suitable for you.

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