Most musicians not only position their bodies to and around the instruments they play to create the best sound possible, but they also move with the music they are playing. ...this repetitive imbalance…can create unnatural, poor posture in musicians when not playing or performing, which increases the risk for imbalance, chronic pain, and injury.
- Dina Voigt
Musicians Need Pilates
It is a well-known fact that Pilates is beneficial to EVERYONE, including athletes. Most people would not think of musicians as athletes, however playing an instrument and performing with that instrument, puts constant stress on the muscles and tendons of the musician. Overuse injuries are not exclusive to athletes. Performing with and playing an instrument requires endurance, strength, stabilization and efficient breathing, as well as mindfulness and mental acuity. Musicians experience overuse injuries more commonly in the upper body and its extremities. Some muscles are in constant motion while others are stuck in a static state during practice and performance.
Picture in your mind a violinist, a drummer, a standup bass player, a guitar player, a piano player. See these in your mind and picture them making music on their instrument. A true musician portrays emotion through their instrument, to make beautiful music; for this, there must be a complete mind/body connection.
Playing Puts Your Body In Abnormal Positions
The musician is constantly adjusting their body to work with the physical dimensions and positioning of their instrument to get the best sound. This almost always means placing the body in abnormal, asymmetrical positions, accompanied by prolonged sitting or standing. It is common for one or both shoulders to be lifted and protracted which can cause nerve and circulation impingement, as well as restricted breathing. It is also very common for the upper back to be hunched forward and the head to be hanging and reaching forward of the neck or rotated and flexed forward (as in a violin player) for prolonged periods. It is common for one leg to be higher than the other to prop up an instrument such as a guitar. As we know, most musicians don’t just “strike a pose” and stay there as they play. Most musicians not only position their bodies to and around the instruments they play to create the best sound possible, but they also move with the music they are playing.
All of this and more can cause affected muscles to reset their natural length. Some muscles will reset to be overstretched, others shortened. Obviously, with all this repetitive imbalance, this all can create unnatural, poor posture in musicians when not playing or performing, which increases the risk for imbalance, chronic pain, and injury.
That is where Pilates comes in! As we know, Pilates can rebalance the entire body by bringing muscles back to their original state. Many, if not all of these imbalances can be treated or prevented by practicing Pilates regularly. While Pilates, in general, focuses on overall physical fitness, programs can be designed specifically to the individual musician. In a customized program, movements will be given to counteract the shortening or lengthening of the muscles to restore the body to optimal balance. The dynamic stretching properties of pilates improve trunk and shoulder stabilization; elongating, retracting, strengthening and stretching exactly where needed. As mentioned earlier, the mind/body connection of Pilates is an added benefit to musicians, as it is proven that musicians perform best when they are not only physically comfortable but truly, fully present in the given moment. Pilates can help one easily achieve this balance between physical and mental comfort that results in confidence and comfortable playing.
What are you waiting for? Try a Pilates class today and contact me for a complimentary evaluation: [email protected]
**”Pilates engages in the strengthening, stretching, and movement that has traditionally worked to help heal musicians.”
– Chong J, Lynden M, Harvey D, Peebles M. Occupational Health Problems of Musicians. Can. Fam. Physician. 1989; 35: 2341-2348.
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