We often forget a seemingly simple strategy that doesn't break as much of a sweat as working out but still has a profound effect on our bodies: stretching! As musicians, we use our bodies to communicate and create beautiful sounds. Despite this beauty, failing to properly stretch our overworked muscles can lead to a lifetime of ache. How can we avoid this?
Despite the current times only having online yoga classes available, we strongly recommend making use of this wonderful little wellness world. When things open back up, we couldn’t be more pro-hot yoga. We know that it sounds far too trendy and typically one of those things that everyone rolls their eyes at - but it really works. We don’t know about you, but there’s something about the accountability of a group class that really forces us to focus and zero in.
When it comes to stretching, there are a few places that are particularly important. In addition to these main places, you should also focus on the muscles that are used most due to your instrument. So, if you’re a guitarist, harpist or pianist, be sure to stretch those fingers, hands and arms - as full and individual entities. One major point to stretch is that which is attached to your posture - your shoulders. We all underestimate how much tension we really carry here. International Musician suggests to “Do one big shoulder shrug bringing the shoulders toward the ears, while taking a deep breath. Relax, release your shoulders, and breathe out.” When it comes to the spine, another often overlooked space, they suggest to “Take a deep breath in and then empty your lungs. Now, contract your abdomen. Imagine pulling your belly button inward. Release.”
Let’s not forget about the use of the sauna or the good ol’ fashioned ways of working up a sweat - like going for a hike and taking in all of that natural air. Heat is a great accompaniment to stretching and with both, caution must be used. We must emphasize that it’s important to ease into stretching and any use of temperature techniques, as things can be overdone very easily and this could lead to more damage than you came with. Much like anything, take the time to figure out what is correct in your methods.
Once we’ve all got stretching down, we’re going to dive into the world of breath control. Whether you’re a singer or not, some level of control in this department will truly help you in so many ways. Stay tuned.