Awake & Engaged! - Cultivating Internal Awareness
The benefits of inclusive awareness as we play include: breathing ease, enhanced breath capacity, standing and sitting comfort, and enhanced technical facility as we enjoy access to subtle movements throughout the body. I hope you have uncovered new possibilities in your own playing as you experimented with awareness since my last post. Let's continue the exploration to increase internal awareness.
Compare your awareness habits when you play to those of daily activity.
Musicians have a lot to pay attention to as they perform; fingers, rhythm, air, dynamics, coordination, tongue, conductor, and more. The good news is that the brain is designed to easily focus while being aware externally and internally.
Equate this to the image of the concentric rings that result when a stone is dropped in water.
The place where the stone hits the water is the focus (in the center.)
The resulting rings represent the scope of awareness.
Rings closer to the center have more clarity while outer rings are less focused but still a part of the awareness.
• List all of the things you could be aware of as you play.
• Now place the items you listed throughout he rings of your awareness.
The wonderful thing about inclusive awareness is that you can bring any area into focus without losing awareness of the others, there is simply a shift.
For instance, as I play, I am broadly aware with focus on my music. As I play I might notice that I am running out of air sooner than I desire. I shift my focus to rib movement to see what is happening. As I do this, the I continue to see the music, playing and adjust breathing movements.
The kinesthetic sense is our connection to monitor internal movement. This includes everything from rib movement to the delicate balance of the head on the spine. We receive kinesthetic feedback from sensory receptors located in joints and muscles of the body. Take a moment and close your eyes to notice all of the physical movement taking place internally. You are not seeing the movement, you are feeling a lot of it internally via the kinesthetic sense.
One way to cultivate kinesthetic awareness is to practice moving and being aware of the movement. Then incorporate your new movement awareness into playing. For example, finger movement.
• Practice moving a finger slowly as if you are playing the flute. Feel the movement in all 4 finger joints.
• Close your eyes and feel the movement internally.
• Next, make the movement smaller then larger.
• Use the movement as you play the flute. Play something easy and be aware of the movement you explored without the flute.
At first the movement may be large and visible externally, but as we develop kinesthetic sensitivity, we learn to move more precisely on a smaller scale so it becomes micro-movement, which may not be visible to the naked eye.
From your awareness list, how many items are internal? The hip joints are two joints that offer many benefits to playing along with rich kinesthetic feedback! Let's learn more....
Hip joints are the middle of the body from top to bottom connecting torso to legs. Located internally from the outside of the legs, this ball and socket joint allows us to move the legs in relation to the torso, and bend the torso forward to bow and back. I refer to the hip joints as the "power joints" because their freedom is essential to fully and efficiently moving air in and out of the body.
3 Benefits of Hip Joints Available as we play:
1. Effortlessly deliver the weight of the torso and head down to the legs and floor
2. Free the pelvic floor (essential for natural breathing)
3. Allow support to effortlessly travel up through legs into the torso
These benefits allow us to take advantage of full breath capacity while enjoying precision and ease in our arm movement.
Find your Hip Joints!
1. Rest your thumbs on the top of your pelvic crest on the side resting your fingers on the side of your leg.
2. Move your legs as if you are marching. You should be able to feel a bone moving under your fingers. If you do not press fingers in more firmly. This is the Greater Trochanter, it will help us locate the hip joints.
3. Place your thumbs on the Greater Trochanters laying your fingers on the front of your pants at about the level of jean pockets.
4. Move your legs as if you are marching. Look for movement of the leg bone and pelvis, approximately 2-3 inches up and in from your thumbs. You may need to press in a little firmer to feel the movement.
Hip Joint Movement & Awareness
The hip joints offer a wide range of leg movements: forward, backward, out to the sides, and rotation. Try them! Now try playing as you move the hip joints through the wide range of movements available: lunge, squat, move through your space! What happens to your sound, breathing, embouchure as you do this? Many people enjoy a new level of freedom that permeates their playing.
Locked, Balanced or Bent
Hip joints can lock, be balanced or bend. Balanced is the most desirable because it allows natural weight delivery and support. Musicians can also take advantage of bending at the hip joints.
If the hip joints are locked, they move forward in space causing the upper torso & head to shift back in space. When this happens, support must come from muscles throughout the body. Try locking your hip joints to see what it feels like. Notice how breathing changes when hip joints are locked, and how your arms move.
Balanced hip joints may give the feeling that your backside has grown wider and looser because leg and torso muscles release. This is not the case! The muscles that release are instrumental in freeing the pelvic floor so that it may respond to breathing movements. To find balance, release the hip joints back just a little from the locked position.
Bent hip joints are another option. The hip joints move back in space when bending and at the same time the torso pivots forward (from the hip joints.) Knees and ankles can move too! This is a movement used when moving from standing to sitting. I like to practice this movement when sitting down. I bend at the hip joints until I feel the chair underneath my backside. Once I have contact, I pivot the whole torso up to the sitting position. Try playing as you move from standing to sitting fully utilizing the hip joints.
As you continue to explore the hip joints practice returning to balance. This is a place to return to over and over as you play.
Hip joints are just one of many places you can learn to be more sensitive to as you play. For more ideas on the places that offer rich kinesthetic feedback, check out any Body Mapping book. I welcome your thoughts, ideas and questions.