Janet Horvath is Associate Principal Cello of the Minnesota Orchestra and author of Playing (Less) Hurt . The following is an excerpt from Janet Horvath’s book, printed with her permission.
A Few Suggestions for Good Posture
Sometimes musicians are so accustomed to their playing positions that they are the last ones to know their torsos are angled, twisted or tense. Use a mirror. Ask a colleague to assess your posture or videotape yourself.
Don’t stop there. Place your upper back against a wall and bend knees as if you are sitting. Mime playing your instrument. You may discover that this position does not correspond to your accustomed playing stance.
Good posture should be balance and relaxed. You should not have to strain to maintain it. Keep your shoulders down and not pulled upward, backward or forward. Keep your lower back in a natural curve (lordosis): neither exaggerated nor flat. Many body awareness experts use imagery to help with correcting posture. Yoga teachers advocate ìmaking spaceî in your torso. By raising your rib cage and filling your lungs with air (or pretending it’s helium), you allow your internal organs the space they need. Think about draping your shoulders over a raised rib cage and elongating the length of your spine, especially at the back of your neck. Alexander Technique specialists suggest you think of yourself as a "puppet on a string" held from the top of your head, with your arms and shoulders hanging down. For others it helps to "think tall" to counter the effects of gravity pulling us down.
When sitting, avoid twisting or leaning to either side, backward or forward. Your center of gravity should be forward and your body weight should be on your sitting bones and your feet. Do not play with your legs crossed at the knee or ankle or while curling legs around chair legs. To test your sitting posture, put your instrument aside and sit with your feet flat on the floor. Now try to get up. Your weight, if balanced far enough forward, will allow you to get up without any major re-shuffling in your position. Bring the instrument to you rather than compromising your posture to reach for your instrument.
Musicians who are able to practice while standing should alternate between sitting and standing. Make sure while standing that you are maintaining a natural curve or lordosis, by keeping your knees slightly bent instead of locked or hyperextended (actually bent slightly backwards). Your body should feel fluid. This is equally important for conductors, who may bend forward at the waist or lock knees and arch too far back. While sitting, shift leg position frequently. Cellists, one foot slightly in front of the other seems to work well.
Be vigilant about your music stand placement. If you are alone on your stand place it directly in front of you at a height that allows you to keep your head level. If you share a music stand, move your chair and body so that you do not have to turn your head or twist your torso to see your music. Align it in such a way that you can see the music and the conductor without any up and down movements of your head....
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