Koto Performance and Yoga

madoka kasahara

koto-performance.jpgI started learning Koto – a Japanese traditional music instrument – when I was small, and I studied it for 16 years. I did a lot of concerts, at least once a year, at different places in Sapporo, Japan. Before leaving Japan for America, however, I decided to take a break from Koto for a while.

Umm…but a strange thing happened: Koto came to me. Now, you must be wondering what I mean by that.

I never thought about buying a Koto here because I already have two at home in Japan and I didn’t think I would play it here in US. One day, however, my classmate suddenly asked if I was interested in taking a look at a Koto that her friend had just been given from his old friend in San Francisco. I was surprised – how did she know that I played Koto? She said she remembered it from one of our regular conversations! Good memory, I must say…because I don’t even remember mentioning it!! Ha, ha!

When I left Japan for the US, I brought all my Koto accessories, such as picks, with me just in case I happened to come across a Koto again. Well, when I saw the Koto that night, I just started playing, playing, and playing. My friend – whom I eventually bought that Koto from – still talks about this event, and he repeatedly tells me this must have been the Koto’s destiny. Obviously, it was also my destiny.

A few years ago, I did play a Koto once at a small concert in Claremont, California. But then I stopped playing completely because I was busy with my daily life, including one of my biggest obstacles, which was moving in and out of various apartments.

Recently I was asked to play the Koto again. I accepted the offer but was curious about whether I would still be able to play or not.

The first performance has been scheduled for July 12th. Wow – time flies… it’s this weekend!

So I’ve been practicing the Koto for at least two to four hours a few times a week for almost a month. The Koto is played with three fingers of the right hand, and you either sit on the floor or in a chair. Your lower body is at a 45° angle, with the Koto in front of you, and your upper body faces straight to the front. You can imagine how awkward this position is for the body.

The more familiar I’ve become with yoga, the more I’ve realized the Koto position is not good for my body at all. Now that I’m practicing so often my body is not centered and I’m also using too much of my right arm and wrist – for four hours straight! There is also the dilemma of having to concentrate hard on playing since I haven’t practiced the Koto for years and now have a performance right around the corner. But if I continue to practice these crazy hours, my arm and wrist are going to be very painful. As it is, I can already feel the pressure and stress in my right arm – and more on my wrist. It’s very uncomfortable. It’s too much. And it doesn’t help that the weird angle of the seated position is warning me that my body is not aligned.

I asked Christina what yoga poses would be best to help keep my body aligned, especially after the practice is over. She suggested I do the downward facing dog, the cobra, and the mountain pose. And she also reminded me to make sure my shoulders are open, since my shoulders and chest are closed when I am playing.

I agree with her advice and have been doing the downward facing dog whenever I feel that my body is not aligned. Downward facing dog is a quick and powerful yoga pose that I always use to help center my body. Yoga also helps me manage all the pressure and stress that is resulting from preparing for a Koto performance.

Koto Performance and Yoga:

[tags]koto, japanese instrument, music, concert, koto performance, destiny, downward facing dog, alignment[/tags]

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