Musicians today are encouraged to stretch the limits of their abilities, both mentally and physically. Yet, this type of strain can erode the joy you feel when you play, and if you’re not careful, cause serious injuries.
But, what if there were some very simple techniques that you could practice every day, which would guarantee to improve your execution, precision, and performance abilities? Wouldn’t you gladly incorporate them into your practice times?
A growing number of physicians and physical therapists are exploring the benefits of yoga for violinists. As an effective way to strengthen, stretch, and tone muscles, yoga offers a solution for musicians who suffer from stress related injuries, while at the same time, builds your capabilities.
The following six yoga positions for violinists are gleaned from a 2010 research paper created by Malgorzata Leska, entitled, Violin And Yoga: Benefits Of Yoga For Violinists. According to researchers, “performance anxiety affects as many as 69% of musicians.” The influence of stress and overexertion often combine to create a host of physical problems. You start to feel tired, then slack off on form, and before you know it, you have muscle cramps and strains. Since violinists, in particular, depend highly on their neck, back, and wrists, they are susceptible to both repetitive motion and overuse injuries.
Violinists can utilize yoga exercises to combat the detrimental effects of faulty technique, incorrect posture, and excessive use. Rather than jeopardize your health and possible career, practice these easy to follow positions every day. By doing them before or during your sessions, you’ll notice a tremendous increase in flexibility and strength. Regardless of your skill level, these exercises can have a beneficial influence on your performance capabilities, while helping to prevent and rehabilitate injuries.
Posture—although this is not necessarily an “exercise,” good posture has an incredible influence on playing ability. Violinists who practice yoga understand how crucial posture is to your overall health. Research suggests these methods to develop beneficial posture:
#1. Sitting Posture
- The pelvis is vertical and balanced on the center of the two rounded bones at its bottom. It is neither tilted forward (causing the lower back to sway) nor tilted back.
- The lumbar curve assumes a forward curve.
- The ribcage hangs down toward the pelvis.
- The shoulder girdle rests on top of the ribcage and the shoulders are relaxed; the chest floats up and the upper body widens.
- To position the head properly, the spinal column lengthens upward through the center of the neck as the head floats up to balance on top of it.
#2. Standing Posture
- The feet are placed directly under the thigh sockets with the toes facing approximately straight ahead.
- The knees are relaxed and in line with the thigh and ankle joints.
- The pelvis rests on top of the thighs and is neither pushed forward nor tilted back.
- The trunk is balanced as in the sitting posture.
- The arms hang along at the sides”
Remember, good posture is an essential practice for preventing overuse injuries, and you should never “lock” your joints. With both postures, remember that allowing your head to come forward stresses the spine, and you should allow your weight to be distributed through your feet—a natural triangle from big toe to little toe to heel.
Fundamental yoga poses for violinists that develop healthy posture and counteract rounding your spine:
Without lifting the shoulders, clasp hands behind your back. Don’t forget to synchronize your pose with breathing, and never hold the pose to the point of strain.
#4. Tadasana (aka: Mountain Pose)
This is one of the most fundamental poses of yoga for violinists, and it can really help develop your posture. View the full instructions here.
Unfortunately, playing the violin is extremely hard on your shoulders and neck. These exercises can help you strengthen the joints and muscles in that area:
#5. Downward Dog
While standing in Mountain Pose, exhale and fold forward from your waist (slightly bent knees). You can also start from an “all-fours” position, which is much easier for many beginners. Palms to the floor, bring the feet back and straighten your elbows, essentially forming a triangle with your body. Read the full instructions or watch video.
#6. Balasana (Child’s Pose)
This is another great yoga pose for violinists because it opens the shoulders while strengthening the spine and neck. Watch it here.
To learn more about yoga, and how it benefits musicians, especially string players, check out these great yoga sites:
 Cox and Kenardy, “Performance Anxiety, Social Phobia, and Setting Effects in Instrumental Music Students,” 49-60; Fehm and Schmidt, “Performance Anxiety,” 98-109; Miller and Chesky, ”The Multidimentional Anxiety Theory,” 2; all quoted in Khalsa et al.,” Yoga Ameliorates Anxiety and Mood Disturbances,” 280.