This past week, I decided to pull out Fiona Wilkinson's book, The Physical Flute: Creative Techniques for the Development of Tone, Vibrato, and Pitch Control for some fresh perspectives during my warm-up.
Reading through the first page, I was committed to approaching my physical self before making any sounds.
Finding Spring-Like Poise from the Ground Up
The first part is called, The Body - Alive and Well.
She provides thoughtful descriptions for taking a look at the body from the ground up to find areas that can be un-stuck and better aligned for a rich sound:
Here are the specific words that jumped out while I slowly processed:
"Elastic Knee Joints" - Not Locked
"Feel the life in your legs."
"Lift your weight off your pelvis, elongate the sides of the torso."
"Draw your weight up from the floor creating a feeling of length and width in the back."
"Imagine as much space between the shoulder blades as you can while remaining relaxed."
Freeing the Torso for Effortless breathing
Whenever I digest thoughts like these on physical ease and balance, there's always a reminder in there that helps me re-discover ease in a new way each time. (And it never gets old!)
This time, it was the thought about lifting weight off the pelvis and life in the legs.
Freeing the hip joints:
Following the instructions from the ground up, I took a moment to balance at the knees, finding that place where the thigh muscles release their grip and the legs feel both free and stable, with the weight moving straight into the floor via the feet.
I moved up towards the hips as she instructed, tilting the pelvis on top of the legs and observing.
I noticed just how connected the movements of my knees, hips, and back are:
- When I tilt the pelvis to lift weight off of it, there's a resultant effort felt in my lower back and the core muscles - they begin to grip.
- If I bend the knees first, I can find freedom in the lower back and abdomen. If I then bring the knees into balance while remaining free in the back and abs, I can then find movement at the hip joints without adding back/core tension.
As I began to play, I noticed that this felt different than normal:
From here, the torso was finally balanced on top of the pelvis and delivering weight through the legs effectively.
I normally have more effort and holding in my torso when I'm not balancing the pelvis on the legs like this!
Enjoying the ease of the back, I could effectively let the shoulder blades remain wide and free, and I felt a wonderful ease and length for the arms as I continued to play.
Breathing became easy and not forced, and I could feel that my abdominal muscles weren't engaging with the breath as they often do!
Free, wide back. soft front.
Connecting the Back to the Whole
he latissimus dorsi connects at:
- Spinous processes of T7 – L5 vertebrae.
- Iliac crest of sacrum.
- Inferior angle of the scapula.
- Lower three or four ribs.
The first 60 seconds of this video demonstrate an important connection between the back and the arms. He points out how large the latissimus dorsi is, and part of its functioning in moving the arms. Its connections to the spine and lower ribs mean it's involved in our breathing movements, too!
The latissimus dorsi:
- Adducts the arm at the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint.
- Medially rotates the arm at the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint.
- Extends the arm at the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint.
Life in the Legs
Finding Power via the Legs: Soft Front, Strong Back (of the legs)
After all of this, I was playing with more awareness on my back than on the front of my body. I normally direct a lot of focus on the front of the body, always watching the abdominal muscles to see if they're gripping, because I know I want them to stay free to breathe and resonate well.
With my awareness on the back, the front just remained natural without having to tell it to. (!!)
I went back to the idea about "Life in the Legs."
I know that effortless projection comes from ease and coordination of the whole self, depending on the ability to feel supported by space and the floor below.
Having the knees and pelvis aligned well, I noticed a different presence for the back of my legs while playing. (Normally, I don't notice the back of my legs at all, especially if my knees aren't in balance - they're just not a part of my awareness while playing!)
I imagined a sense of power and projection stemming from the support of my legs while playing.
This instruction led me to a full, embodied sound that was projecting from below and behind me into space. I felt free and effortlessly powerful. No forcing anywhere. Front remained soft. (!!!)
Awareness of the back led me to the feeling of being supported by the space behind me - I was no longer forcing or squeezing in the abdomen or shrinking into a smaller space. I was projecting with easy via soft front, wide back, supported legs.
We don't project with ease by becoming smaller, we soften into space: Occupy all of your space!
"Weight off of pelvis"
"Arms lighten and lengthen from the lower back"
"Elastic knees, supported by the back of the legs"