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Finger yoga works wonders.

February 24, 2010 at 12:07 PM


for the first time in ages I am going to write about something I find really exciting and significant.  For reasons I won`t bore you with I have been both unable to and uninterested in practice for about six weeks.   This is a very long time for me away from the instrument apart from teaching.  Also I am one of those people who goes back to Suzuki book 1 level if I take three days off so restarting the violin is always a horrible process that takes about three hours of torture.
Anyway, on a whim,  a couple of days ago I started playing with the finger exercises mentioned in the finger yoga thread.  The first day I just took a casual look and ran through a few of the sequences in a somewhat desultory fashion.  Yesterday I stepped it up although not with any real enthusiasm  Today I started to find feelings of release in the hands so I worked quite a lot at them in very small chunks when I had a spare moment ,  also playing around with them with the elementary school kids I teach.   By the end of the day I noticed the veins on the back of my hands absolutely engorged which is possibly charming for some people although I have my doubts.
This evening I decided to bite the bullet and relearn the violin.  Except I did@t have to. In fact my playing had drastically improved. I could control exactly where I wanted the fingers to go,  what I wanted to do with vibrato and support the weight of the bow with great sensitivity in all manner of ways. I worked on Agopian`s book `No Time to Practice` which demands very rapid whole bows and awkward combinations and because my hands felt so strong and sensitive the whole body reacted positively and the rapid whole bows were effortless and easy to control. The biggest surprise was the fingered octaves which I could play without any sense of stretch a all and just flutter as trills.  That was scary;)
So what is going on here?
Well, I have long been an advocate stretching for violists (as well as other exericse).  The reason for this is simply that the violin is held in a somewhat awkward position for the muscles which is not in itself harmful as long as the opposite stretch is done to bring things back into balance which is why yoga is so good for us.  That is what it is designed to do,  among other things. however,  if we really think about stretching ,  we don`,  or rather I don`t stretch the hands much at all.  And those are the appendages that spend a great deal of time contracting.  Now this is the key word because, as many AT teachers among others have told me,  the amount of time it takes to release the contracted muscle is longer than to time to use it in the first place. Thus, if all things are dne more or less equally the hands experience a progressive shortening of muscles and accumulation of tension of the years if one is not careful.  Now what I noticed during these exercises was what I call releases occurring,  I also found one of my right hand fingers was actually relatively dead (an old injury actually) and that finger actually increased its range of motion i one exercises by about three cm in a day. It was as though it was saying `thanks for finally noticing me.` And that I think is the crux of what these exercises about. The guy doing it , who is actually a musician,  often reiterates the statement `doing such and such increases the communication or contact with your hands.` That is different from strength training or exercises that don@t require thought to isolate fingers when they don't want to be isolated.  The mind does have to dig new pathways and it happens really fast.  So when one does pick up the instrument after a lay off the degree of mental control over the hands has increased and for sure, that improves the playing.  Shame it doesn`t develop you as an artist....
The possibilities are rather interesting for people who suddenly find they have restricted practice time and I am going to be using these exercises everyday from now on. Somewhere soon down the line so are my students.

From Steve Trei
Posted on February 24, 2010 at 5:02 PM

 Buri, can I ask what exercises you did?

From Roland Bailey
Posted on February 24, 2010 at 5:41 PM

He is probably referring to this thread:

Finger Yoga

From Laurie Niles
Posted on February 25, 2010 at 4:51 PM

You know, all yoga works wonders!

From maria chabrier
Posted on February 25, 2010 at 7:02 PM

Are you refering to Greg Irwin's exercices, or the fingered octaves?

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