Month: September 2019

My 30 days of yoga (and how it relates to piano)

Imagine you know two people who both do yoga. One tells you they have been practicing for a year and a half, while the other tells you they have practiced for 30 days. Which person do you think would be more advanced in their mastery of yoga?

Most of us would say that the person who has done it for a year a half would surely be more advanced.

Yet you might be surprised to find out that the 30 day yoga practitioner has actually developed better technique and progressed further.

How could this be possible?

Let me explain.

My Yoga Journey

I first took up yoga in January 2017 when I signed up for membership at a nearby studio. I went “regularly” about once a week, each time for a one hour yoga class. There were definitely weeks that I missed every now and then but I tried to go when I could. I kept this up for a year and a half until July 2018 when my membership expired and I decided not to renew it. We were in the middle of a house move amongst other things but at the heart of it, I just didn’t feel all that motivated to keep going.

The classes were pretty much the same all the time and I got bored with doing the same things over and over with no visible progress.

So I took a big long break from yoga.

One whole year went by.

Piano with Po Studio

Then one day I realised, hey, in this new place we had moved into, not only is the space big enough for my piano studio, it’s also big enough to do yoga in without banging into furniture. During the year that had passed, I had wanted to get back on the mat every now and then but I wasn’t keen to take up another membership for the same experience as before. With the realisation that I could practice at home, I decided to try and re-discover yoga in a new way. I bought a brand new, beautiful (expensive) mat which gave me that final push to get back on (there’s nothing like a bit of financial investment sometimes to get things going).

I set a goal for myself: to incorporate yoga into my daily routine for 30 days. One. whole. month. I was allowed one day a week off only on my gym workout days. I had no expectations of how things would turn out and I was happy to just see what could happen. Concrete goals are a big motivator for me so I knew at least that I would try my darnedest to stick to it.

And stick to it I did!

As with most things, it was hardest at the beginning when I had to deliberately find time in the diary to squeeze yoga in as it hadn’t become a habit yet. Then as the second week went by, I started to really look forward to my daily yoga sessions. A day didn’t feel complete until I had done my yoga practice, whether it was in the morning, lunchtime or evening. By the time the final week rolled around, yoga had truly become part of my daily routine. It had become as second nature as brushing my teeth and I was happy to see that I could do a lot of the poses with greater ease and confidence.

What a difference 30 days make

30 days of yoga (and how it relates to piano)

At the outset of 2017 when I was a complete newbie to yoga, I did make some obvious progress as I went from knowing nothing to knowing something, e.g. how to hold basic poses, how to do fundamental flows etc. But I plateaued in improving my form probably around the six month mark. What I could do in December 2017 wasn’t wildly different to what was possible for me in July 2017.

However, with this recent 30 day yoga challenge, I could really see and feel the difference at the end of the month compared with where I was only 3o days prior. I was able to reach further and go deeper in many poses, and if I really wanted to I could do a whole session on my own without any verbal or visual guidance. For the yogis out there who are reading this, I was also able to actually touch my knee to nose before the step-through to one leg forward one leg back, and to hold the bukasana (crow pose) for a few seconds. Neither of these was ever possible for me before!

But really, how could 30 days beat a year and a half?

Quite simply, it comes down to regularity.

Doing a bit of yoga every single day over a short period of time made a bigger difference than doing it for an hour each week over a prolonged period.

With a once a week practice, my body never really got the chance to get used to new movements and to have them become muscle memory. Rather, my body was spending a part of each week’s class simply re-learning the old as opposed to building something new.

With a daily practice, there’s not enough time in between sessions to forget what I had done the day before. My body could reproduce the same actions as yesterday much quicker as there was no re-learning to be done. It was simply a matter of getting more and more used to the actions. This allowed space for adding more complicated movements and going into deeper stretches.

Numbers also tell a story

The thing about doing something only once a week is that it’s easy to lose a lot of weeks without you even noticing.

Looking back at my history of class attendance between January 2017 and July 2018, it turns out that I didn’t go as regularly as I thought I did. My total attendance tallied up to 36 classes which, at an hour a piece, only amounted to 36 hours of total practice. 36 hours over one and a half years?! Putting that into perspective, 36 hours is less than one standard working week! You could say that I had really only done yoga for a week in total. It’s little wonder that I made zero progress after the initial learning phase.

Compare this to the recent 30 days where each yoga session averaged 25 minutes:

30 days * 25 minutes = 750 minutes

750 minutes ÷ 60 minutes = 12.5 hours.

My total time on the mat ended up being 12.5 hours. At this same rate of practice, it would only take another two months of daily yoga practice to reach my prior year and a half total of 36 hours.

How this relates to piano

I sometimes hear parents speak about their children having learned the piano for X number of months or X number of years, and then using that time frame as an assessment of where they think their child should be in terms of playing ability. In some instances, it’s used as a direct comparison against other children of a similar age. “They have only been learning for six months and can do that. Why can’t my child do the same thing after a year?”

Taking my yoga story as an analogy, I think it goes to show that a year of lessons doesn’t always mean a year of practice.

How far a child progresses over a period of time isn’t only dependent on how many lessons they’ve had. It’s determined to a larger extent by how much time they spend working on quality piano practicing.

My 30 days of yoga (and how it relates to piano)45 minutes a week over one year only amounts to 39 hours of lesson time (and that’s being generous as it assumes a 52-week year with no missed lessons which never happens).

45 minutes * 52 weeks = 2,340 minutes

2,340 minutes ÷ 60 minutes = 39 hours

If you consider a child who, in addition to their 45 minute weekly lesson, practices at home for just 15 minutes a day on the 6 days in between, that’s already an additional 90 minutes they spend on the piano every single week. That’s a whole lot of extra muscle memory and technique being developed. To compare their ability with another child who does no practice at all wouldn’t really be a fair comparison.

There’s no doubt in my mind that a little bit of practice every day makes a big difference to progress. It may seem daunting to do something every single day, but you don’t have to start big. Start with just a little bit. Maybe try playing one song 3 times every day for a week. Pretty soon, you might find yourself practicing 5 songs every day without even thinking about it.

Go on, take on a daily practice challenge and see where it can lead you!


Have you incorporated something into your daily habit? What kind of results did you see? Share with us in the comments below!


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Let Them Be Silly

As a piano teacher, I am very conscious of every minute that goes by in a lesson. There is always so much I want to teach and there’s rarely enough time to squeeze it all in. 30, 45 or even 60 minutes can go by really quickly and it’s tempting to cut short parts of the lesson that don’t seem like they’re “value adding”.

However, what I’ve come to appreciate more and more is that these seemingly “unfocused” parts of a lesson can be more valuable than they appear to be on the surface.

Take for example the first time I introduced a backing track to my student Sarah*. We had been playing ‘My Piano Song‘ for a couple of weeks and she was having a hard time keeping to a steady beat. Having a backing track to play along to sometimes helps students with keeping time so I wanted to see if this would help her.

I pressed play on my phone and out blared a synthetic sounding melody accompanied by a boppy drum beat. We listened to it together once through, and then it was Sarah’s turn to play along with the music.

When we listened to the nine second introduction again, Sarah went from:

  1. Sitting still waiting to play; to
  2. Casually bouncing her head to the beat; to
  3. Getting off the bench entirely and doing what I can only describe as a belly dance.

There was so much dancing (and giggling) going on that she of course missed where she was supposed to come in with her piano playing.

But that was okay! It was the first time she had heard the track and this was her unbridled response to the music. Kids are so uninhibited and respond to new things in completely different ways to how adults have been conditioned to. Sarah was clearly enjoying the track so I let her continue with the belly dancing a little while longer. Not only was she having fun with a song that had become tiresome for her to figure out rhythmically, she was now listening in an engaged way and embodying the beat through her dancing. Having a few minutes of fun and silliness helped her to relax and we were able to approach the piece anew after laughing it out.

Anyone walking in on our lesson during those five minutes might have questioned whether I was “teaching” or simply letting my student run amok. At times when I’m teaching at my students’ homes I do get a little self-conscious and worry that parents listening in might think I’m goofing off too much with their kids.

But there is always method to my madness.

Learning the piano can be frustrating sometimes when you feel like you’re stuck and unable to do what you’re trying so hard to do.

A little bit of silliness can be just the thing that’s needed to help a student shake off some tension, re-energise and tackle the challenge again.

The silliness ends up being a very valuable use of five minutes if it means my student is happy and relaxed for the remaining 30!

“Enough of the silliness”?

Not in my lessons. Let them be silly!



Are you a fan of the silliness? Let me know in the comments below!


*I always change the names of my students for my blog posts to protect their privacy.

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