The benefits that yoga offers drummers – stretching a tight back, relieving stiff shoulders, loosening the wrists – are obvious. The subtle benefits, like improving your time or increasing your ability to remain focused for extended periods of time, are even more desirable.
These are attributes that are beyond the physical expression of drumming and more directly connected to musicality and feel. A groove isn’t great because you pull off some technical wizardry; it is great because of how it feels. Believe it or not, yoga can improve that aspect of your playing. Enter the Tree Pose, simple to practice, difficult to master.
1. Stand tall with your weight evenly balanced on both feet and your gaze fixed to one point straight ahead. Slowly shift your weight onto the right leg.
2. Place your left foot on the inside of your right leg, above the knee if possible, below it if you can’t reach yet. Avoid placing the foot directly on the inside of the knee as this could lead to injury.
3. Palms together in front of the chest. When your balance is stable, slowly stretch your arms overhead. Hold for as long as comfortable and increase the time as you can. (To increase the benefits, try the final step with your eyes closed. And be sure and perform the pose on both sides.)
As you practice Tree Pose, you might notice that your weight shifts forward to the ball of your foot, back to the heel, or side-to-side. I relate that to fluctuation in tempo or the inability to stay in the pocket. With practice you find a sweet spot, not rigidity but a supple firmness that brings the pose to life.
To me, that is staying in the pocket with a groove that allows the music to breathe. That might be a stretch, but hey, yoga always is (rimshot, please).