Yoga for violinists: a pictorial guide with Yehudi Menuhin

25 February 2016, 10:36

Yehudi Menuhin

Yehudi Menuhin said his yoga instructor was his best violin teacher. The legendary violinist took up yoga when he was 36 and practised it until his death almost 50 years later. Here's his handy guide...

1. Find the right teacher

Menuhin was suffering severe muscular trouble when he had his first yoga lesson with Indian master BKS Iyengar. Iyengar made a seven-hour journey for what was supposed to be a five-minute session. The class stretched to three-and-a-half hours. Soon after following Iyengar's programme, the violinist’s pains disappeared completely. But Menuhin's beginner's expression says it all.

Yehudi Menuhin  

2. Twist and shout

When Menuhin told Iyengar that he was almost constantly tired, never able to relax, and unable to sleep, Iyengar had him asleep and snoring in less than one minute. Clearly there were more difficult challenges ahead...

Yehudi Menuhin

3. Making headlines

When Menuhin met India's first Prime Minister, Nehru dared the violinist to stand on his head. Following Menuhin's example. Nehru then did his own headstand. The incident made the newspapers all over India. But it took a while to get the position right...

Yehudi Menuhin

4. Take your teacher around the world

Menuhin became a serious yoga student, making it a regular feature of his life. Because it was not practical for Menuhin to return constantly to India to have lessons, he took Iyengar with him to Britain, France and Switzerland. Iyengar met and taught some of the most famous artists and musicians in the world including cellist Jacqueline du Pre. They, like Menuhin, discovered that yoga releases everything...

Yehudi Menuhin

5. How to win friends...

There's no end to the ways yoga can help you impress people. In 1982 Menuhin conducted the Berlin Phil in the first bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony while standing on his head and directing the orchestra with his feet.

Yehudi Menuhin

6. Stop wagging tongues

Developing muscle tone in the tongue is especially useful for wind and brass players. Maybe not so good for violinists. But Menuhin called Iyengar “my best violin teacher”.

Yehudi Menuhin

Hear the final episode of Humphrey Burton's Yehudi Menuhin: Master Musician, this Saturday at 9pm >

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