Saturday, January 21, 2012
Of Course it's the Neck
This morning when I woke, I felt as if I had been run over. A long stressful week professionally, ending with an 11 hour day Friday. The sonic assault of my professional environment seems to take a great toll on me these days. After rising I wrote briefly and read a few pages from Thich Nhat Hanh's Breathe, You Are Alive: The Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing, which I've been studying since October. Grateful for the day off, I was in a place where I just did not want to decide what to do today. Fortunately I have my morning routine, and my loving wife with whom I practice.
She reviewed the Blue Heron Walking form from the Qi Gong class which I could not attend this week. Becoming confused with the form, I wanted to let go of Qi Gong altogether. Fortunately, she continued and I followed. Taking us through forms which I am familiar, slowly my body let go of the stress and found release. Towards the end of the session, we were standing and pausing, allowing the Qi to consolidate. I found myself in a slightly unfamiliar stance, that had a sense of rightness. I savored this moment for a bit as she began moving through the word for the day. Smiling I began to move again, knowing that I can not hold onto anything, and just must continue to arrive in each moment. An extremely pleasant contrast to the last couple hours of work yesterday.
Later in the day I was unclear with what to do next, so I rested. After waking from my nap, I stayed in bed and meditated on the body. Finding again the area of discomfort on my right forearm, I noticed a tightness below the right shoulder that appeared to be working to "hold" the shoulder in position. As I just now tried to locate this area, I noticed the relationship between this "muscle" below the shoulder and movement I found myself doing while playing tonight.
Revisiting an exercise from Pedro de Alcanatara's excellent book Indirect Procedures: A Musician's Guide to the Alexander Technique (Clarendon Paperbacks) I was putting a rest in during the second beat of a measure. This brief inhibition of my regular playing, has proved illuminating when I worked with this previously. I was also playing the piece slower than usual, focusing on observing the use of my right hand. As I approached a section that I generally play with great intensity, I found my head slightly scrunching down and to the right. Certainly not a surprise that a poor use of the neck would impact my playing from an Alexander viewpoint, but I was fascinated with finding this particular quirk on my own. As I continued working in this manner, I noticed this again in relationship to a "mistake." Subtle and as I write this I sense a dropping in my shoulder for some reason. Pausing to inhibit my typing and thinking through the AT directions. As I scrunch the neck and slightly lift the shoulder, I sense the "muscular holding" previously referred to. Playing with this again there appears to be a habit of this "scrunch of neck and lift of shoulder " in my use. No idea how this habit developed or why. Now at least I have a sense of what I am working with.
Photo by Luca Biada.