Motion is Lotion
Deliberate movement helps our joints stay flexible, and transports oxygen and nutrients to muscles and joints. A few gentle stretches can give us the physical "reset" we need to continue practicing with focus.
As you do the movements, pay attention to your overall posture and breathing. Try to keep your spine and the back of your neck long, and your breathing regular, deep and even.
Mukudoku: No Reward, Whatsoever
I taught the martial art of aikido for about 15 years in a university setting. After grad school, one of my students went on a year-long ramble around the world, and spent some time in Japan. He told me this story that happened when he was taking classes in the Way of Tea.
Rotation of the Shoulders
Most of us habitually sit with our shoulders rounded. To change this habit we need to learn to externally rotate the shoulders. When you externally rotate your shoulders, the weight-bearing of a held instrument (flute, violin, accordion) is transferred from the shoulder girdle (weak) to the back (strong).
Result: Our arms do less work. Movement comes from more powerful areas of the body, like the back and the hips. We sit up taller and breathe more naturally. Another benefit: These results happen immediately.
Intense focus, habit and physical fatigue can cause us to stiffen and slouch over the course of a long practice session. why not do a few stretches during a practice break?
Upper Body Stretch
Here's a great refresher to use when your brain is jumbled with notes, ideas and frustration. Put down your instrument. Stand up. Take a deep breath and exhale slowly through your mouth. Press play.
WU - Weight Underside
“Weight underside” is a concept I've been familiar with for a long time through the practice of aikido. Almost accidentally, I stumbled on its benefits for playing music. When I play with this feeling in my arms, I have less fatigue, am more relaxed, and I even have better tone!
Here's an exercise to help you get the feeling of “weight underside.” See if it helps you.
Ikkyo, Nikkyo, Sankyo Undo
(first, second and third exercises)
The hands and wrists contain many small bones, ligaments and muscles. Here are three warmup exercises used in aikido practice. They can be beneficial for releasing tightness in the wrists, and stretching the hands and fingers.
This is a yoga pose that can be therapeutic and relaxing for musicians. It can help you release tension in the shoulders, upper arms and hands. You're supported by the floor during the pose, and using gravity to help you stretch, which makes it easy to let go of tightness. This pose also gently stretches the hips, lower back and thighs, which can get tight and stiff from sitting.
Six Direction Spine Stretch
Many of us stretch our backs when we feel tired or achy, but we seldom make an effort to move the spine in all six of the directions in which it has mobility.
The bones of the back form the core structure supporting the entire body. The nerves in the spinal cord connect all parts of the body to the brain. Stretching our backs in all six directions can bring the muscles of the back and spine back into balance, and can help us feel better overall.
Happy feelings make us smile, but it works the other way, too: When we smile, we feel better. When we feel better, we play better.
This visualization will help you give your smile a little attention and help make it easier to smile as you play.
It sounds easy to say "relax while you play," but deep relaxation takes some focus and attention, and as soon as we start playing, we usually become tense again.
This short video will help you become more aware of what it feels like to relax deeply while sitting, and then help you stay relaxed as you first hold, and then play your instrument.
My blog on Medium offers some not-very-regularly published insights that may give you a lift. Subscribing may help you notice a new post when it happens.
Here are a few articles on Best Practice ideas, written for Acoustic Guitar Magazine: