Lesson 2: Posture is movement

Explanation: Watch the Explanation film Lesson 2: Posture is movement

In Lesson 1 we learned about proprioception. The orientation function of the brain. Your mind gathers all the sensations of your body, and information from eyes and ears to make a picture of where you are, where your body parts are in relation to each other, and the tension or effort level you use to do things. The short film below explains how your brain makes a “schema”, or mental map of these impressions. You are always making a map by moving and practicing, and you want it to make your coordination and playing technique reliable. The film also talks about postural “tone.” Just like a violin string, which gives a tone when tuned to the right stretch, the postural muscles when lengthened give “tone” to your structure, allowing you to sit or stand easily, to move clearly and efficiently. The decompression that comes from a light expanded posture creates tone that the brain registers in the mental map, the schema.

Because the map is made by movement and postural tone (which activates the stretch receptors and pressure sensors) it is important to take moments to stop, lie down, move or stretch often. In this way you refresh your posture, strengthening the mental picture of where you are what you are doing.
Excessively repetitive movements, sitting or standing still all the time, weakens the total feedback that you give to your mind to do the work of playing or singing. As does over-concentration on one body part excluding the whole. We want our mental map (schema) for playing to include our whole body, not just the parts that touch the instrument or move in playing or singing.

Alexander Technique is a basic part of the curriculum of many conservatories. Watch this short film on the way the Alexander Technique improves postural tone, to fine tune the schema.
Film: How does the Alexander Technique work? Towards a scientific model.
Now that you have watched the film, it is time to try some postural refreshers. Of course, our class warm-ups do the job well. But sometimes, you want something quick to be able to do often in practicing. Here are some things to try to refresh both your postural tone and your awareness of where you are and what you are doing with your whole body.

Read through this checklist, and then apply it in your practice.
Posture Refresh and Checklist:
During practice take frequent breaks to refresh your posture:
A. JUMP Standing, jump gently up and down two or three times to get the springiness back after long sitting or standing.
B. CLAP Clap your hands above your head to check that upper back is still mobile.
During practice:
Eyes and ears:
C. LOOK and LISTEN Notice before and during playing or singing if you can see the room, and hear you sound around you. Maintaining a wide visual and aural field keeps your head up in alert stand, which keeps your body long and wide. We often stare and frown when practicing, which tenses our neck and back and everything else! You can look at keyboard, drums, etc, but not all the time, and when you do look at what you are doing, see if you not stare, but see the object around the point you are looking at. This will not only free the eyes, but neck, back, arms, hands, breathing, etc.
D. SITTING BONES Do you feel you sitting bones on the chair? Are you sitting on them, or are you slouching so that you are sitting on your tailbone, or overarching so that you are sitting tilted forward? Stand up and sit down again, then check if you can rock forward and backward on your sitting bones. This will keep your contact with gravity, and refresh your spine. When you play, are you still able to move on your sitting bones a little? Good check to keep fresh and active. Stillness is never really still.
E. WALKING BACKWARDS Remember that there is no one “good” position for standing. Standing is a dynamic balancing and re-balancing that never stops. Your head is re-balancing constantly on the tops of your spine, re-balancing at least 11 times a second! In the soles of your feet, you can feel gentle shifts a you sing and play. Noticing them helps, as well as not shutting off your vision of the room (see Eyes and ears above). Remember that staring down at our instrument can pull the head forward and tense our neck and shoulders. A refreshing move is to stop, take a small step backwards while looking into the room with a wide visual field. You can even try walking backwards very slowly as you play or sing. This keeps you from stiffening your posture in the direction of our attention.

Practice Tactic:
Refresh your posture at least 3 times a week during your practice. See what it is like to get up and take a short break after about 15-20 minutes of practice to refresh your posture with one aspect of the Posture Refresh and Checklist above. Try different tips to see what works for you.
The lie down we do in class is also a very good postural refresher, as is the spinal spiral, or the simple unpacking the musician. You can use these as well to refresh your posture and energy.
Try the lie down yourself this week, as focus for your warm-up studies. You can use the films below to remind yourself of what we did in class.
Here is a reminder of the class warm-ups:
Lie Down
Spinal Spiral with finger pointing
Unpacking the Musician with tables
Copy this questionnaire into a doc and post it on Project Campus in your folder.
Explanation film:
1. What instructions have you heard from others about how to stand or sit well? What have you experienced in the past when you tried to carry them out? Did they work for you?

2. In the short film on the Alexander Technique, they used the words “schema” and “postural tone.” What do these words mean?

3. What does postural tone have to do with playing and singing well?

4. We usually hear that we have to sit up in certain way, and keep ourselves there in a still position. This lessons states another opinion: What do you think it means: “Posture is movement”?

5. It is sometimes hard to remember to take breaks if you are used to just go on and on in your practice. Were you able to take breaks including doing some of the posture refreshers? What thoughts did you have that got in the way of taking breaks?

6. Which warm-ups do you like from class? Do you have other ones that you use yourself? Did you try the spinal spiral as a warm-up or break in your practice? What happened? Did you repeat the Unpacking the Musician warm-up? What effects did this have?

7. Why do your muscles need a change every now and then? Think about how you practice; do you take enough breaks, or change what you are doing often so that you use different muscles? Do you stand up and move every now and then or do you sit or stand still for hours at a time?

8. Do you do any regular physical activity that keeps you moving and breathing?

Practice tactic:
9. There were 5 tips to refresh and check your posture. Which ones did you try, and what did you notice?

10. Did refreshing our posture or warming-up during breaks have any effects on your practicing: on your stamina, mobility, concentration; what did you notice?