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Digital Subscriptions > The Strad > May 2019 > And breathe…

And breathe…

There is a close connection between yogic principles and string playing technique, says cellist Ruth Phillips, who illustrates this with postures chosen in collaboration with her colleague Jane Fenton, and reveals how both Pablo Casals and yoga guru Vanda Scaravelli have informed her musical ideas

Reflecting on forty-odd years of making music – whether in the basement of a Cornish fisherman’s cottage or in prestigious concert halls – I realise that my teachers, my teachers’ teachers, the musicians who have touched me and, in turn, their teachers, all spring from one source: Pablo Casals. My yoga practice also returns to a single person, the Italian teacher Vanda Scaravelli. What attracts me to both figures is that they draw constantly on natural principles, such as breath, gravity and the wave. I have often thought how much they would have liked one another had they met.

A well-grounded body can become still, much in the way a bowl of water becomes still if undisturbed. This is quite different from becoming stiff like a brick wall. Both may be unmoving but only the bowl of water has the potential for movement.

Peter Blackaby, Intelligent Yoga (2012)

I had my first experience of yoga in 1995 in Peter Blackaby’s class in Brighton. Blackaby was a student of Mary Stewart, herself a student of Scaravelli. In that very first class I felt the wave of the breath moving my body, and that moment changed the course of my life. In 2010 I began the Breathing Bow project, coaching players suffering from tension and stage fright. While I enjoy collaborating with people from many disciplines, such as the Alexander technique, I always return to Scaravelli’s yoga, finding particular harmony in my work with Jane Fenton. A cellist who also trained as a yoga teacher with Blackaby, Jane continues to enlighten me on the connections I started to make then between yoga, playing an instrument and making music.

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About The Strad

The Shanghai Quartet celebrates its 35th anniversary and we hand on some yoga tips for string players. There’s an in-depth look at Stradivari’s working methods and Shostakovich’s violin works. Plus Maxim Rysanov’s Life Lessons and Rivka golani’s Sentimental Work