Trying to stand up straight when playing, or telling students to hold their flutes up doesn’t last for very long; people forget and revert to their usual habits. Instead try lining up these six points of balance (see previous blogs) while holding the flute down in front of your body. Now turn the head slightly to the left and bring the flute up with minimal alteration to the body’s position. Now with a long neck and chin tucked in you’ll be in an optimal playing posting, angling the air slightly downwards over the left forearm.
Having explored the previous blogs you’ll have an understanding of the six points in the body to line up vertically for good posture.
The weight of the head travels down the spine, spreads across the pelvis and down each leg to the feet where the weight spreads evenly across the feet.
Your head needs to sit up on top of your spine so that its considerable weight can travel down your spine through your body to your feet.
Hold your ear lobes and imagine a line running between your ears.
Go to the mid point of this line and down slightly.
Now gently nodding your head try to gain a sense of where your head meets your spine at the atlanto occipital joint (AO joint).
Turn your head gently left and right and feel how your head swivels on this point.
Gently move your head in all directions and try to sense the central point around which it swivels.
Aim to keep this point (the AO joint) up on top of your spine. Aim to release the neck so it is nice and long which in turn will cause your chin to drop slightly. Long in the back of the neck, chin tucked in a little.
You’ll feel a gentle energy up through your jaw and imagine your head floating up on top of your spine.
Having lined up your feet, knees, hips and lumbar spine you’ll be beginning to get a sense of being nice and upright. Now simply let you shoulders sit above your rib cage, gently rolled backed.
Your spine naturally curves in at your lower back. At this point the spine is quite wide and thick. The front edge of your lumbar spine is a few centimetres in from where you feel it externally on your back. It is the front, internal edge of the lumbar spine, so within your abdominal cavity, that you want to place above your hips. Think of placing the point half way between your belly button and your back above your hips. (which are above your knees, which are above your feet)
Many people don’t actually know where their hips are. Feel the outside of your upper leg bone (femur) and work out where the top of that bone is. With your hand on your hip area, lift your knee and you can sense which bit is moving and which isn’t. Find the point at the top of the leg bone.
Your hip joint is slightly in and up from this point. For many people this is lower and further in than they might have imagined their hip to be.
Once you’ve worked out where your hips joints actually are, place them directly above your knees (which in turn are above your feet).
Your knees are capable of three positions; bent, locked or balanced.
Pushing them back creates the locked position and creates tension up through the body.
Having them constantly bent creates a lot of work for your leg muscles and is tiring.
Balance is that lovely middle ground where the weight of the body travels easily down through the legs and spreads out through the feet.
Experiment with all three positions and remember your knees should be directly above your feet.
While standing move your attention to the soles of your feet and notice the contact they make with the floor.
Lean forward and feel the weight on the balls of your feet.
Lean back and the weight shifts to the heels.
Move from side to side and notice the change in pressure from side to side.
Try moving in small circles and sense the weight through the soles.
Ideally we want to weight of the body to be spread evenly through the arch and over the entire foot.
Roll a tennis ball between your foot and the floor to gently massage the soles of your feet and increase your awareness of your feet.
As you practice this week try to notice how the weight is spreading through your feet
Playing the flute is a very physical activity so having a good awareness of how we use our bodies is crucial and beneficial. There are six points in our body that we should aim to line up vertically to create a lovely sense of balance and to promote optimal use of the body when playing; the feet, the knees, the hips, the lumbar spine, the shoulder region and the head floating up on top. The next series of blogs will look at each of these points in turn.