Body and Mind For Violin

To play the violin with a correct posture you don’t have to be a yoga master (although one of my students is a yoga master and I must admit it adds a lot to her playing quality).
Having said this, yoga is really useful for the fundamentals of a healthy mind and a healthy body; thus (this is where we get in) a healthy posture. One of the fundementals being breathing, we the violin players sometimes underestimate its importance both while performing and while teaching.
When we are trying to focus on an instrument, or on the score we are trying to dechipher, (or reading a book, improvising a crazy solo, reading this text atm, swiping down on Instagram, chopping onions, stitching a cloth, you name it), we tend to hold our breath.
It is better to be aware of this habit and to let go of it, and it is healthy to be aware of your breathing as much as possible. Breathing nice and deep (without exploding your lungs obviously) helps you to stay in the moment, stay focused and stay healthy.
Your muscle strength, development and relaxation depends a lot on your breathing. If you are not with a good posture when you try to breath normally, you will see that your back needs to straighten up a bit.
This is a nice posture to start playing the violin.
Or chopping onions, if that is what you would like to do.

Tips for Relaxing The Body and The Mind

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Listen to your body

Our bodies know how to keep us alive. When necessary, they can even shout things out loud. But we all must eat before starving, sleep before passing out, and just like that, we must give a brake before burning out our muscles. Resting is a big part of the practice. “5 minutes more, then I will stop” can start to demotivate you in the long run, you may not want to go back to the practice after the brake. So be rational and be patience with your body. It will gradually adapt to your minds’ needs.

Listen to your heart

Unwilling practice is mostly not productive. If you don’t want to practice that piece, you have to listen to your heart a bit more carefully. Search for ways to motivate yourself. Try to see why you don’t want to practice. The thing you are working on might be too hard or too easy for you. You may not like the music of it. Instead of quitting the whole practice session focus on something else that is looking more appealing to you and work on that  In the next lesson bring the piece you didn’t like to practice and try to explain the reason why you don’t want to practice it. A good teacher will figure out the reason why and either sell the idea behind the homework better by explaining its benefits, point out the interesting parts you might’ve missed out or will find another piece/exercise that can benefit you in the same area.

Mirror as your teacher

Even a really cheap wobbly mirror has the answers to following questions;
Is my back straight? Is my right elbow too down or up? Is my left thumb tense? Is my head tilted? Am I doing that funny facial expression again? Is my neck tense? Is the violin in good position?

Warm up before playing

Build a small ritual of your own that can be even less than a minute of stretching before grabbing your violin. You will see the difference right after. At the beginning it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you give the heads up to your muscles about the show is about the start. And (this is where my secret plan becomes visible), you will love the sensation of it so much that you might start to have a longer periods of warm up sooner or later!

Cool down after playing

Everybody has their own pace depending on their levels, but after a hardwork of 10 minutes or 4 hours, when you go back to your “other” life (the violinless part of the day), you will be doing much more different stuff than what you were just doing. Your body needs to adapt to the change. So give a bit of stretching time to yourself before moving onto the next best thing, may it be meeting with a friend, preparing dinner or planting flowers.

Refresh during brake

When you are in a brake, go put yourself a tea, coffee or something, and stretch while the water is heating up instead of scrolling on Facebook. 😉
If you want to stay where you are, try to think of something out of your usual for your mind to freshen up.

Be aware

Quoting Ivry Gitlis;
There is no such thing as exercise for exercise’s sake, and repeating the same movements endlessly is as senseless as it is dangerous. Failing to establish balanced relationships between different parts of one’s body can create the cramps and pains which are fatal to the natural development of a violinist. Both teacher and student should avoid using exercises as a substitute for responsibility and thinking.
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Be realistic

When someone practices for 4 hours, it doesn’t mean 4 hours straight. Plan your brakes in advance, and go according to them as much as possible. Put 10 minutes of brake between each 30 minutes, 15 minutes between each 45 minutes, 5 between each 20, if you listen to your body it will tell you the ideal for itself. There are many varieties of recommendations.

Procrastination loophole

We’ve all been there. It never completely goes away. Suddenly your priority list goes upside down and doing laundry becames the most important thing. You just can’t practice if you don’t tidy the bathroom first. Deep down, you know what you must be doing. When this feeling comes, try to see the real reason why you don’t want to practice. It might simply be because the challenge you see infront of you is bigger than you can handle. In most cases calming your mind down by remembering small things matter works. Aim to get better, not to reach the goal.

Speaking of Yoga…

As an amateur of yoga, I find these poses really relaxing after a long session of violin. Try to blend them into your yoga sequences.

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