Lise Enochsson: Two weeks ago at the Nordic Harp Meeting a group gathered for a workshop on "physiotherapy for harpists", a pretty ambitious workshop title from the arrangers, but which was actually a condensed and hands-on (feet-on!) version of the plan for this article series.
In the previous article (Instrumental technique 1: breathe), we've become aware of our breathing and explored ways in which we can free it up. Next, we can become more aware of our habitual posture and try some small adjustments. If you really get into feeling how you normally carry yourself, you may find some surprising tendencies.
Exercise: Posture Awareness
Take notice of your standing position, from bottom to top. Feet - is your weight evenly distributed over both feet, and on both forefoot and heel? Knees - are they loose? Pelvis - is it tilted in any direction? Back - is it erect following its natural s-curve? Neck - is your head resting on top of the spine and not pushed forward?
Overall, how is your alignment? Can you "give" your weight to the ground below? And how is all this when you play your instrument?
If you play sitting down, you can still do this posture check, but then also add an extra awareness of your sitting bones and the tilt of your pelvis. You may want to imagine your pelvis as a bowl in which the base of your spine rests.
Keep this alignment in mind, although you may not be able to stay in perfect alignment during all activities. Come back to it. Eventually you may find that once you're more stable in this position, surface muscle tensions can relax as they don't have to "carry" you. When the postural muscles are recruited and strengthened, the dynamic muscles are more free to perform actions. And the way to strengthen the postural muscles may be a bit tedious - they respond best to low-intensity activation frequently and for a long time. Plainly speaking, adjust your posture often and keep it for as long as you can. But do move a little: stable posture is not static, or you may start to tense up the surface muscles again as they like to "help"!
From here, we will move on to exploring balance and stimulating symmetry in both standing and sitting. We will also touch on active standing and active sitting. Until next time!