What I’m Learning From Bodymapping Lessons

I’ve recently begun taking bodymapping lessons and after only a few  sessions, I’ve learned that I didn’t understand nearly as much about how the body works as I thought I did.

I’ve struggled with physical limitations that affected my playing since my early twenties. Pain, numbness, tension, impaired function, etc. led me to work hard at avoiding injury. I thought my awareness of how I used my body was pretty good. I could usually manage the amount of physical effort and tension I put into playing and if I overdid it in a practice session or performance, I could undo the damage with careful, mindful practice.

I’d never previously never taken any real instruction in bodymapping, only read about it and attended some workshops, but I thought I had a good handle on it. I was so wrong!

Bodymapping is based on the idea that the image you have in your mind of how the body works, specifically how your skeleton, muscles, and nerves interact to as you do anything. This is something that I understood intellectually, however my body map was way off.

I discovered that I didn’t really know where my hip and shoulder joints were, how my back should have curves, how my shoulders/collarbone are supported by my neck, and most surprising, how my head sits on my spine.

I’ve spent years, decades thinking that I knew how my head should be positioned in relation to my spine, and that I had good posture, especially when playing, yet I’ve had terrible neck problems. My chiropractor told me that stretches would help, but that it would only get worse. Stretches did help, and yoga helped more.

However,  just a few minutes with my bodymapping coach correcting my misconception about how the skull and spine interact, and I can turn my head from side with almost no discomfort or limitation. Wow! And when I play, my tone has opened up tremendously, with my air flowing much more freely.

In my case, because I thought the point where my skull rests on my spine (the Atlanto-Occipital Joint) was further back than it is. This caused me to misuse the muscles in my neck and upper back. Besides the obvious discomfort, this  limited my ability to move my head and put unnecessary stress on the nerves and muscles in the right side of my body. Definitely not good for flute playing!

I had been wrong all these years and after just a few days after correcting this part of my ‘map’,  I feel so much better. It’s amazing how much impact a small change can make. Of course, making this change permanent will take some sustained effort, but it is definitely worth it if it improves my life and playing this much.

Are you experiencing pain when you play? Want to learn more about bodymapping? Here are some resources to get you started.

Body Mapping for Flutists: What Every Flute Teacher Should Know About the Body by Dr. Lea Pearson

If you think you might be interested in Body Mapping lessons or just want to find out more about it, take a look at Dr. Lea Pearson’s website, Music Minus Pain, for more information.


 

Flutist or Flautist? Which is It?

Are you a flutist or a flautist? This has to be the question I am asked most when I meet someone and I tell them that I play flute. It’s funny how much of a controversy the simple issue of what someone who plays flute should be called.

Granted, ‘flautist’ may sound more sophisticated than ‘flutist’, and maybe that’s the effect people are going for when they use it. I’ve noticed that the people who say “flautist” are most often non-musicians.

When I was in high school, I thought being called a flautist was really cool. At a summer orchestral camp I attended, the flute section even had Tshirts made up that said “If you’ve got it, flaut it.” I treasured that shirt!

Later, one of my teachers insisted on flutist. Her reasoning was, “I speak English and I live in the 20th century.” (Guess I’m dating myself here!) And like many students who idolize their teachers, I decided that I also wanted to be called a ‘flutist,’ quoting her reasoning to anyone who dared refer to me as a ‘flautist.’

Nancy Toff’s discussion of the terms in her book, “The Flute Book,” finally cleared this  issue up for me. It turns out that the term “flutist” predates “flautist” in the English language by over 200 years! Flautist is the term for flute player in Italian and Spanish. Perhaps it was popularized during the 18th century, when Italian was the language used most often for musical terms.

Nowadays, I’m a little more tolerant than I used to be when someone refers to me as a flautist. If they ask which I prefer, I explain and don’t make a big deal of it. If someone cares enough to show interest, I’m thrilled!


 

What If It All Started With the Flute?

Imagine if the invention of the flute was the first step to the invention of computers? Musicians know that musical activities can inspire great ideas in other fields.

Steven Johnson, writer and researcher on the history of innovation, presents an entertaining and informative video describing how the invention of the flute 40,000 years ago can be connected to the invention of computers. Another prime example of how important music is to the human race (and should be in homes and schools, hint, hint!)

Click on the link to see Johnson’s TedTalk video, it’s surprisingly fun as well as informative!

How Play Leads to Great Inventions

 

Coming Soon: PracticingFlutist Podcast

Coming soon, the PracticingFlutist Podcast! I love finding new and better ways to practice and I love talking about that, so producing a podcast about practicing seems like a natural fit!

I plan to publish every Monday and Thursday, with each episode focusing on a very specific practice issue. I’m aiming for each episode to be between 10 and 15 minutes long. The relatively short time is meant to make the individual episodes easy to get through and keep me from getting too longwinded!  I’ve also got some fun music facts and trivia to add variety and keep things from getting too serious. Practicing should be enjoyable, after all! 

I’m slowly getting the technical issues worked out which were daunting at first, but not that bad overall. Now I’m practicing my delivery and making myself listen to the painful results. Just reinforces that if you want to know how you are coming across, as a musician or a speaker, you have to make recordings and listen to them. Thank goodness for mute buttons and editing programs!

So, if you’ve got questions you want to hear suggestions for or topics you want to hear about, please do send them to me at deanna@practicingflutist.com.  Of course I’m doing this for my own self, but my goal is to help as many musicians as I can to play better, easier and more enjoyably, so it really helps when people let me know what they want. Hope to see you on the podcast airwaves soon!

 

Flute Tip of the Week – Spring Cleaning

It’s Spring Cleaning time! I’m sure you take care to swab out your flute, wipe off the tenons, maybe gently wipe the lip plate and keys, but have you looked at the inside of your case lately? Might be time for a good de-linting! You can gently vacuum the inside of your case to remove lint, dust, and loose fibers that otherwise could get into your flute’s mechanism. Just make sure you take your flute out of the case first!