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.
- What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body-The Application of Body Mapping to Music by Barbara Conable
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.