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Elan Vitae


  • Shena Driscoll Salvato


I fondly remember the the distinct difference it made in my yoga practice the moment it was suggested that I feel the four outer points of the soles of my feet in contact with my mat. While this sounds like such a simple concept in retrospect, it’s something that had never before been brought to my attention, and I listened. Once I heard it, I couldn’t forget it. It took visualizing, sensing, and repeated practice for this simple shift to become habitual, and what a difference it has made. After all, it’s not really about doing anything, but about being more aware of where I am and how I am in contact with what is around me. Not only did it help me feel more connected and balanced, but it lengthened my stance, inviting me to also connect with the space above me, rising taller and breathing more fully. This seemingly simple practice has led to a cascade of other connections and explorations. What else am I doing in unawareness? What simple shift in perspective can enhance my experience? As a result, I’ve begun walking barefoot as often as I can, which consistently heightens my sense of connection to the earth and naturally invites me to stand taller, as if a string attached to my crown chakra is connected the infinite sky above. There’s something about rising tall that creates a sense of resonance throughout my body, heightening my other senses and raising my awareness, as if I’m a conduit for the energy of the earth itself.

This feeling was enhanced when I fell in love with flat water standup paddleboarding. Gliding across the pond or the lake while standing strong and balanced on the board clears my mind, allows inspiration to flow through me, and heightens my awareness of what is within me and around me. Having already established the practice of feeling the four points of my feet in contact with what I’m standing on certainly facilitated my journey to paddleboarding. While I standup paddleboard as often as I can when the season beckons it, my relationship with my violin, whose use is not dictated by the seasons, comes in waves. Months can pass without me even taking it out of its case, then one day I feel inspired to play. Why, I’m not sure, but the realization that I’ve been away from it for so long certainly creates a sense of longing and urgency. I unzip the case, unfasten the velcro strap around the neck of the violin, unwrap it from the delicate, tattered silk scarf that once adorned my grandmother’s neck, and find that the bridge has fallen, leaving the strings loose and limp. I gently lift it from its cushiony blue velvet home to reposition the bridge and tighten the strings only to hear the tell-tale sound of wood rolling on wood—the sound post has fallen. My months of inattention and neglect have contributed to this, and are now delaying my sudden desire to play. The irony. In that moment, I feel a disparate yet clear connection between standup paddleboarding and my violin. Usually unseen, the soundpost, when in its proper position, stands tall between the front and back plates of the violin, slightly below the bridge and near the E string, the highest and thinnest string on the instrument. The soundpost not only gives the instrument its full-bodied sound, but provides critical structural support for it. As Termeer aptly titled her 2021 post, “Violin Soundpost: The Soul of the Instrument”, the soundpost really is that, the soul. Without that simple post rising and standing on its own, even the most well-crafted violin can’t ring out and express itself the way it was designed to.

The rising of the soundpost creates the resonance in the instrument. When on the paddleboard, my own body creates the resonance; the effect isn’t the same when I’m sitting or kneeling. Although I’m not in direct contact with the water, it’s as if my body, perpendicular to the surface, is acting as that soundpost acts, connecting water to sky, my physical self resonating with the potential of the energy surrounding me, within me. I’ve come to recognize that what these things have in common are awareness and position. In order to get the most out of the yoga pose, I need to be aware of my feet on the mat and adjust my position accordingly. In order for me to be as balanced and efficient on the board as possible, I need to be keenly aware of my positioning on the board and adjust it until it feels just right. A fallen or missing soundpost is readily evident to the musician, who knows the instrument is not resonating to its fullest potential; it needs to be positioned just right in order for it to play its role in maximizing the sound of its surrounding home.

When our position on the paddleboard is off, we can fall in the water. When a soundpost is off, the violin sounds hollow and lifeless. By intentionally rising, we can bring ourselves and other things in our lives to their fullest potential. What in your life is not resonating as you know it can? Consider its position. Does it need to be adjusted or righted in some way? Does it need some attention? Can a little bit of intention bring about the resonance that’s always been there, waiting? If a correlation can be made between paddleboarding and a violin, what other seemingly unrelated aspects of our lives are just waiting for a bit of awareness and repositioning in order to fully resonate? Let’s rise and discover them. Why not now?

Termeer, J. (2021, October 7). Violin Soundpost: The soul of the instrument. Violinspiration.,the%20instrument%20to%20the%20backplate.

Photo credit: Image by StockSnap from Pixabay


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