Taking a one week break from the 7 Intelligences series, I present this week’s post: How to Be Grounded...In a Positive Way!
Musicians are not only called upon to control a vast array of colors and dynamics but also say something to create a meaningful musical experience for listeners.
In order to do this, a performer must be completely in tune with his body at all times or “grounded”. The easiest way to improve awareness in this area is through the breath.
Grounded depth is found in the breath. Depth + Breath = Breadth and grounded awareness.
If we are conscious of how a healthy state feels, then any imbalance or lack of coordination will become instantly discernible.
The key to mastering grounded depth is found in the breath. After finding freedom in the breath, we are better able to discern patterns across the entire nervous system — from thought to body.
You may think this is obvious advice, but I can assure you from my own experience that you are probably not practicing or performing from a well grounded state. Years of habitual tension, stress, fear and impatience render most people "knotted" in many parts of their bodies, even when they think they are relaxed.
The depth of our practice is equal to the depth from which we begin it each day.
I recommend that you start with a few minutes of Flow Breathing prior to any playing session.
This is not another "meditation" exercise. Not another breathing exercise. It is a simple and practical approach to attaining higher goals.
You are welcome to contact me with any questions. I believe that Flow Breathing is an efficient (least time consuming) way to find your groundedness.
Consider the breath as the “GPS” of the body’s level of “groundedness” or stage of arousal.
Think about the physical changes that take place when you’re angry, upset or nervous. Your muscles tense, joints lock and breathing speeds up. In the worst scenario, hyperventilation results. With a few minutes of Flow Breathing, your breath will deepen and your whole body and mind will be more grounded.
When you are grounded you have the ability to play with your whole body.
So what does it mean to “play with your whole body”?
The concept begins with an acute awareness of what your body is doing. With that consciousness as your base, you can play one note or lots of notes while remaining alert to what is happening throughout your physique.
The process of maintaining a discernment of your whole body in conjunction with playing a note may feel odd at first - as if you are doing two things at once. This is only because you are not used to “tuning in” to the physical as you play.
Despite sounding nonsensical or obvious, it is of course possible to carry out activity without proper body awareness. But the resulting learning is often hampered by unresolved physical misuse, creating a snowball effect over time.
In order to play an instrument in a constantly relaxed state, a player may need to “practice” paying attention to keeping your body relaxed while playing - at least at first.
Once a basic grounding has been achieved, as you learn to ground deeper, you’ll find yourself being able to remember more and more subtle details of motion and dispense with anything that interrupts or interferes with the whole.
Musician's learn primarily with their bodies. Awareness of the body while playing enables easier “body learning” - a deep memory stored in the oldest (and most primal) part of the brain, the Amygdala. Flow Breathing is one of the best ways to monitor and track your body awareness and to calm the emotional Amygala. (article on the Emotional Brain)
You will be able to accomplish complete physical balance while you play if you focus on breathing flow, keeping it smooth and never holding or forcing.
Using the breath as a guide, being grounded will enable you to be in the room, be aware of the flow of breathing and still be able to speak and learn to play clarinet.
Flow breathing enables you to begin from a much softer and more poised basis than before. You may need to be patient, but laying a broad and stable foundation is vitally important.
All ideas mentioned here will be developed in detail in the next few months, and the whys and hows will be further developed.
We can apply awareness of the breath’s flow to almost any physical problem or technical challenge - in fact, all aspects of playing.
Would you like to share practice ideas with other musicians? You could do so at the Practice Café.