Yoga seems like the perfect practice for a musician such as a violinist or violist -- it builds strength, increases flexibility, and helps with injury recovery and prevention. It can even help tame a racing mind.
But how do you get started? And once you've started, how do you specialize your practice to address the particular strains of performing and playing an instrument?
I've got great news - there's an app for that! It was just released this week, and it's free. It's called Intermission, and you can click here to download it.
The app was created by violinists Elena Urioste and Melissa White, both touring soloists and Sphinx laureates. The two have them have been running a program for the last two years called Intermission, which offers yoga retreats for musicians as well as drop-in sessions at schools and festivals.
I downloaded the new Intermission app, and I have to say that I'm happy to have something on my phone that, instead of sucking me into a vortex of depressing news or social media posturing, aims to help me make my life better!
The app contains videos of Urioste and White demonstrating yoga poses that relate to posture, breathing and overall movement. They get specific about body alignment for a variety instruments, including violin, cello, piano, bassoon, clarinet, flute -- they even have a conductor in there! They also show ways to bring yoga into the practice room, the dressing room, even onto the airplane, demonstrating mini-routines that one can try in these situations. And when it comes to the mental aspect of yoga, they present ideas to help with attitude - for example, a segment called "observation without judgment" - we can all use a dose of that in the practice room!
"We imagine you taking these videos into your dressing room before a performance, or maybe using them to unwind at the gate waiting for a plane, or just in the comfort or privacy of your own home before you are about to practice," White said in a video introducing the app. Urioste added, "The videos on the app include stretches and strengtheners for every part of the body, ways to get the blood moving in a cold practice room, breathing exercises to calm the mind before a performance and even some fun silly exercises that we made up on the spot, to connect music, movement and mindfulness."
And no worries, none of their videos require folding yourself into a pretzel or balancing upside-down on your head. The exercises are perfectly do-able for someone who has never tried yoga. At the same time, I've been doing yoga for 20 years, and I found it very useful to see how White and Urioste relate these practices specifically to the physical and mental rigors of being a musician. While I've gone to hundreds of yoga classes, I've never gone to one that was custom-made for a violinist!
So enjoy, here again is the link to their free app.
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