Autumn 2012, when we were studying in Helsinki with the NoFo-programme, we spent a week with the Kandiakatemia in the Sibelius Academy’s fantastic countryside facilities in Kallio-Kuninkala (commonly referred to as Kunkkula). Kandiakatemia is best described as a one week course in free improvisation for the bachelor students at the folk department.
One of the main things I experienced during that week, is how physical preparation and warm up, can affect mental abilities and create artistic (mental) freedom. Every day that week started with a good long warm up of the entire body, often with yoga-influenced exercises that put a strong focus on breathing. And this really did something to me. At the end of the week my whole being was affected. I don’t know which is the chicken and which is the egg but my breathing was deep, slow and strong and I felt calm and at peace with myself. And that particular physical state of being had a strong impact on my ability to play the violin.
At the opposite end: I was sitting in Voss, practicing. I had slipped on the ice the day before and landed on my left wrist so I had a bad ache and couldn’t move my hand or fingers as freely as normal. However I was trying to use that as an advantage, practicing to play without pushing the string all the way down on the fingerboard. After a while I felt my breathing was really strained and my whole body felt tense and uneasy. And that made it impossible to play well. I tried to relax and focus on the bow and the sound I was making, putting my whole attention at the sound and just trying to get my body and movements to adjust intuitively to aid a good tone from the fiddle. However it didn’t work.
I don’t know why I felt like I did at that point, something was stressing me and that made my body tense. The main point is just to describe two different physical states and how strongly they affect the fiddle-playing. And how strongly the general state of the body, and how free both body and mind is, is connected to breathing. This has led me to the idea that I should start practicing yoga, to be able to control that better, and easier find a good physical-mental state of being whenever I need it.