I believe we become musicians because of a vision we have of what we could do – of the music we could make. We might have fallen in love with the sound of the instrument as played by a teacher or on a recording, or we might have been drawn to the simple idea of being a musician. This vision, whatever it is, sustains us through those difficult first steps of learning to make a sound – any sound at all at first, and then a (let’s face it) tolerable sound, and eventually, we hope, a sound which we find satisfying. As we master our art, our sense of what’s possible evolves, the vision evolves, and we can always see a ‘next step’ for our skill.
What’s preventing you right now from realizing your vision? What’s preventing you from reaching your next step?
Injury? Tension? Posture? Anxiety? A lack of flow and ease? Lack of inspiration, of connection to the vision, to the music itself?
All of these impediments to your art are bound up in your most basic habitual movement patterns: from the habits you use to hold yourself up and move around, to those you use to interact with other people, to the very patterns you use to make music….
Spirals are embedded in every level of our being, from our DNA to the structure of our bones, ligaments and muscles. Learning to feel these spirals and take advantage of them is a major theme in the Feldenkrais work. Realizing the flow and ease that come from moving with spirals has been one of the most enduring lessons I have learned in my own movement – one of those things that doesn’t go away even when I’m stressed and fall into all my old habits.
This is why my spirals workshops and classes are among my favorites, and why it’s one of the three of four themes I like to teach in my summer retreats at the World Fellowship Center. One of the things I don’t get to do all that much in my workshops, though, is to explicitly examine the anatomy which we so clearly learn to feel in our Awareness Through Movement lessons. So here’s an attempt to take a look a these spirals in writing. (Or scroll on down to the bottom of this post, if you just want a quick way to feel these spirals for yourself.)
Many students say to me at their first private Functional Integration lesson something like “I know I need to strengthen my core.” (This is almost as common as “I know I have bad posture”). Sometimes they refer to their own experience, telling me that they feel weak, or that they tire easily, but more often their personal experience is simply that their back or neck hurts, and they heard from someone (often a skilled Physical Therapist or yoga teacher) that the pain in their back is due to weak “core” muscles.
When I help them feel what they’re actually doing, it usually turns out that they’re tightening those “core” abdominal muscles all the time. No wonder they feel weak! If a muscle is always engaged, it has less strength to engage further – its potential is already in use.