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Home Articles Ukulele Yoga: Yoga exercises for ukulele players

Ukulele Yoga: Yoga exercises for ukulele players

Yoga can help you become a better ukulele player!

by Jennifer VanBenschoten

Is there such thing as Ukulele Yoga? When most people think of yoga, they think of serene rooms full of peaceful people twisting their bodies into unusual and uncomfortable positions while soft, soothing music plays in the background. Well, I’ve been practicing yoga for over 20 years now, and I’ve been teaching yoga for over seven years now, and I can tell you for a fact that yoga can be useful to anyone – even ukulele players!

Yoga exercises for ukulele players might not be something that you’d ever thought about before now, but yes, yoga can help you become a better ukulele player! Read on to find out how.

What is Yoga, anyway?

Quite simply put, the word “yoga” roughly translates to “union”, meaning the connection between your mind, your body, and your spirit. It’s a practice that is thousands of years old – no one really knows for sure how old it is – and has evolved over the last two centuries into something totally different.

Yoga practice is any combination of mindful breathing, meditation, and physical poses or postures. Over the course of my 1,000 hours of yoga teacher training and over 2,500 hours of teaching, I’ve learned how to use this practice in pretty much every aspect of my daily life. Because really, what good is a practice like yoga if you only do it once a week at a yoga studio?

Yoga exercises for ukulele players will help you calm your mind, get in touch with your spirit, and help your physical body to play your ukulele better every day!

Physical Yoga Exercises for Ukulele Players

Take a moment right now, wherever you are reading this, to think about how your body feels. No, how does it really feel? Where does your mind go? Do you feel stiff in your shoulders or neck? Are you tight in your hips and lower back? These are all places where we naturally build up tension, and ukulele players are no exception! 

You probably already know lots of stretches for your fingers and wrists and hands to keep them limber and ready to play. But what about the rest of your body? Try a few of these yoga exercises for ukulele players to give your whole body and mind a tune-up the next time you sit down to play!

One very important thing to remember: if you try any of these yoga exercises and they hurt, DON’T DO THEM. Pain is always a signal from your body that should never be ignored. If it hurts, don’t do it. 

Heart-opening yoga exercises for ukulele players: You might wonder what the heck a heart-opening yoga exercise is, right? In yoga, a heart-opening pose or exercise is anything that helps you lift your chest (heart) and draw your shoulders back. On a physical level, these yoga exercises can actually improve your posture over time, help you release tension in your upper back, shoulders and neck, and relieve tension throughout your upper body. Makes sense for a ukulele player, right? 

Try this: in a comfortable seat, either in a chair or on the floor, imagine a string running from your chest to the ceiling. Lift your chest towards the ceiling, like the string is pulling it up. Feel your shoulders fall back away from your ears, and gently squeeze your shoulder blades together. When you feel tension in your upper back or upper body, take a big breath in through your nose and open your mouth to let it out. You can start by dropping your chin towards your chest to stretch out the back of your neck as you lift your chest up towards the ceiling, and then gently lift it until your chin is parallel to the floor. Don’t drop your head back and gaze up at the ceiling because you can crunch up your vertebrae near the base of your skull and hurt yourself. 

Read more: WHY use a Pick for the Ukulele or Guitar?

If you want to take this yoga exercise a little deeper, bring your hands behind your back and interlace your fingers. You can press your palms together as long as it doesn’t hurt your wrists. Roll your shoulders back and gently squeeze your shoulder blades together, and then very gently try to straighten your elbows and move your hands away from your low back. Keep your breathing deep, slow, and even and use your exhales to release any tension you feel in this pose.

Side stretches to release tension

Another good yoga exercise for ukulele players is to do a gentle side stretch to release tension from your whole body. You can sit comfortably in a chair or stand up with your feet flat on the floor, about hip width apart from each other. Drop your shoulders down away from your ears and lift your arms up over your head.

You can clasp your hands together here and point your index fingers towards the sky, or just leave your hands clasped together. Making your torso as long as possible, reach your right arm up just a little bit, and then slowly bend over towards your left. Let your right arm lead the way, and make sure to lengthen the left side of your body as much as the right. Once you’ve reached over as far as you can, take a deep breath in and exhale.

Take a few more breaths here, then move back to center as you inhale. On your next exhale, repeat by bending over towards your right side. Keep the right side of your body as long as your left side and keep your breath slow and deep and even. Come back to center, and on a big exhale, slowly drop your arms down to your side. Now, lift the corners of your mouth and let out a big laugh!

Neck stretches for ukulele players

Pain and tension in your neck from long periods of ukulele practice can sometimes lead to headaches. This is my favorite easy and gentle neck stretch – but remember, if it starts to hurt, back off or don’t do it at all. 

Start by sitting comfortably in a chair or on the floor. Drop your shoulders down away from your ears and lift your chin just slightly so that it’s parallel to the floor. Take a nice deep inhale, and as you exhale, drop your right ear over to your right shoulder but keep both shoulders dropped down towards the floor. Resist the temptation to scrunch your shoulder up to meet your ear! Once you feel a gentle stretch in that left side of your neck, you can carefully experiment by lifting your chin up more towards the sky or roll it down towards your chest. Remember that everyone is different, so you won’t feel the stretch in the same place as someone else. When you feel a nice stretch, take a few deep breaths, and then slowly unwind and bring your head back to center.

When you repeat this gentle neck stretch on the other side, remember that each side of your neck is going to be different depending on things like which hand you write with, how you hold the phone up to your ear, and other quirks. This stretch might feel completely different on the other side! Enjoy it, play with it, and remember to use your breath to release any tight spots you might feel.

Yoga Exercises for Your Low Back and Hips

Of course, sitting for long periods of time when you’re playing the ukulele can cause some minor aches and pains in your lower back and hips. This is my favorite gentle stretch for reducing tension in the low back and hips!

Sitting comfortably in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, pick up your left foot and put your left ankle on your right knee. If you’re tight in your low back and hips, you will definitely feel this one right away! If you need a little more sensation, drop your shoulders down and away from your ears and very slowly hinge at your waist and bend forward a little bit at a time. When you feel the sensation start in your left leg, stop and take some slow deep breaths. When you feel ready, come back up and then switch legs. 

You can also do this exercise lying down in bed. On your back, bend your knees and put your feet flat on the floor or on the bed. Then pick up your left leg and put your left ankle on top of your right knee. In this version, you can get more sensation by picking up your right foot off the bed or floor and drawing your right knee towards your chest while pushing your left ankle into your right knee. Give it a try and see which one feels better!

Tuning Up Your Spirit with Yoga Exercises for Ukulele Players

I’m going to go a little woo-woo on you here for a minute, but once you’ve done some of these gentle yoga exercises, do you notice that you feel a little different? Maybe a little lighter? Those deep breaths you were taking have an actual measurable effect on your physiology: they can lower your heart rate and even increase the amount of oxygen in your blood. Multiple studies have shown that when you do them consistently over time, they can even increase your lung capacity! 

Read more: The UkeLikeThePros UKE-CON Summer Festival is here!

So what does this all have to do with being a better ukulele player?

In my opinion, we are too rushed in our daily lives. Taking time to play the ukulele and do something that truly brings us joy is a great way to look after our mental and spiritual health. Adding in some of these gentle yoga exercises and slow deep breaths can help us really feel our connection to the music we play. 

Ready to learn some more heartfelt ukulele songs now that you’ve had a body and soul tune-up? Check out all the amazing courses on Uke Like the Pros and find your new favorite song today!

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