Exercises for flexibility for older violinists

Edited: November 21, 2021, 12:27 PM · I started learning the violin at a pretty late age (late 30s). A lot of things are harder with the violin when you start playing as an adult, and my question is about the health aspects.

I wanted to ask older violinists here (not necessarily those who started late but older ones who are playing) what kind of exercises they follow to maintain overall flexibility - in the wrists, arms, shoulders etc.

I do yoga, cardio and strength exercises regularly for general fitness, but if there are specific things I should look at to continue playing the violin well please share them.

Replies (10)

Edited: November 20, 2021, 11:23 AM · 1. What I do - I continue playing the violin. (also play viola & cello but not so much since COVID).
2. Weekly I put the trash cans out to the curb and remove them (weakly!).
3. Up and down steps to the garage and laundry.
4. Grocery shopping and carrying the bags.
5. Toughest exercise is getting up from a chair!

The thing that helps most to keep me fit for music making IS MUSIC MAKING!

But then, I'm probably lots older than you are.

Edited: November 20, 2021, 11:53 AM · I would recommend Shradieck Book 1. It's a great way to get your fingers warmed up and practice the frame of your left hand. Yost is great for becoming more comfortable with all the shifting patterns, and Carl Flesch scales and arpeggios can't be beat. : ) Yoga, cardio and strength training are all excellent for keeping fit. Please be careful not to strain your wrists, though, especially when gripping dumbbells or doing weight-bearing exercises on your wrists (like down-dog in yoga.) When holding dumbbells, try to hold them as loosely as possible without dropping them, and warm up your wrists a bit with gentle stretching before yoga. Sounds like you are on the right track! The last two suggestions came from a physical therapist I worked with at Peabody who has a lot of experience working with musicians.
Edited: November 20, 2021, 6:18 PM · Greetings,
first and foremost there is Alexander technique which can be one of the best investements one can make for a healthy life. Unfortunately it’s expensive. A cheaper option I keep recommending on this site is Feldenkreis with Alfons on you tube. The beginner course is mind blowing (for me at least)
I starting practicing yoga on a whim about five months ago. I use Yoga with Adrienne on youtube which seems to be the go-to site. One of the first things I learnt form this was that I was beginning to slump slightly (lots of deskwork , sitting in front of a computer) among other things. Every morning without fail I do the ‘wake up yoag’ routine form the site. The half warrior pose among other things releases all the fascia between the rib bones (another highly dangerous area for old people-rib cage freedom is vital) and renovating the shoulders. The routine also includes things like a small amount of time spent in the plank position so I have gradually built up arm and shoulder strength. I also do her six minute an routine everyday which protects posture and for cardio I do one of her more athletic routines . As a result of this work I noticed a significant improvement in my violin playing. Sometimes when I don’t like the sound of a passage I resort to remembering the vidoes I use to immediately correct my posture and , lo and behold, it all becomes hunky dory
light weight training with dumbbells for the shoulders especially is also highly recommended.
Cheers,
buri
November 20, 2021, 6:27 PM · Hi Andrew,
getting up from a chair should be one of the easiest actions we do in life. FM Alexander taught this simple use of the body repeatedly in his lessons until the student grasped how we misuse ourselves and how the body really wants to function.
The basic problem is that our quasi pornoraphich modern society teaches us we have three body measurements including the waist. This is nonsense. there’s -no such joint= called the waist. The upper body extends all the way down to the hip joints which is where we are supposed to move from but habitually fail to do. Watching a pro tennis player waiting to receive a serve clearly shows correct use of the hips for mobility. So, how does one actually get up? After following the Alexander basic procedure of consciously releasing the neck so the head goes forward and up (this has to be relearn through a teacher stouch) we simply lean forward from the hip joints (not the waist.)At a certain point natural body mechanics make sour bodies spring up to a standing position with virtually zero effort. It is the archetypal body movement we are designed to do naturally.
Unfortunately, we are trained to have a waist and everybody tries to stand using their waist which requires an abnormal twisting and abuse of completely the wrong muscles. This is, indeed, exceptionally difficult and exceptionally wrong. I once asked one of my Alexander teachers how many people he observed sitting down and getting up on the train actually knew how to do both actions with complete ease irrespective of their age. His answer was a completely serious ‘zero.’
ISuch is the deterioration of our natural physical state induced by modern lifestyles.
Sadly,
Buri
Edited: November 20, 2021, 7:24 PM · What adult learners (and even returners) struggle with the most is the basic posture of holding the violin, especially the left elbow swinging under the instrument. To someone who did not learn this as a child, this setup will seem extremely awkward and stressful. Ask your teacher to help you get set up correctly with chin rest and shoulder rest (if you will be using an SR) and your basic posture and hand positions. After practicing with that setup for a couple of weeks, get a physical therapy appointment and ask them for a complete set of stretches and strengthening exercises for someone who has "frozen shoulder" or "computer shoulder" even though you don't have that. Those are the kinds of exercises you will need, I believe. You can also take your violin to your physical therapist and show them where you feel stiffness or strain, and let them prescribe exercises for you.
November 21, 2021, 6:27 AM · Between remote work and violin in the early months of the pandemic my back was hurting (not the first time just more so) so i invested in a 'kneeling chair' for Zoom and I had immediate and lasting improvement.If you have to sit at the computer for long periods in add'n to violin playing, and have back pain, this may help.
November 21, 2021, 12:05 PM · Wonderful and sage advice from everyone for us older folks. Don't forget keeping the finger joints flexible. This is a very gentle process, just a few minutes a day to flex them, especially the first joint next to the fingernail on the fingers of the left hand.
And take care of your weight. I myself am on the Cardiologist's Diet, which is as follows: "If it tastes good, spit it out."
November 21, 2021, 2:30 PM · Hi Sander,
I’ve lost 25kg in the last year following the Eat toLive Guidelines. Watching my wife eat cheesecake is. still a mild form of torture but I get through by focusing on her ‘happiness’ which I -know= is empty, hollow , gratification . Probably….
Anyway, keeping the weight right down definitely helps with the playing.
Cheers,
Burp
November 21, 2021, 4:13 PM · Sander, love the Cardiologist's Diet guiding philosophy :)
November 22, 2021, 11:03 AM · Thank you all, this is so much useful advice.


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