By Rena Urso
I’ve been swimming a lot these past few months. Swimming is awesome for many reasons: it improves our breathing, and the natural resistance of the water is excellent for refining muscle tone and developing strength. I use a snorkel for lap swimming, and find that it makes it easier to get into a groove with my breathing, plus it’s relaxing and somewhat meditative. A couple of weeks ago I noticed I was biting the mouthpiece of my snorkel. Interesting. Once I noticed this, I let go and directed my attention to my jaw joints, specifically reminding myself to be free and allow for space. Almost like magic, my air flow became much easier and the freedom it created in my neck and shoulders allowed for more fluidity in my arms. There was an immediate ease to my stroke and my time and lap count improved significantly, not in a competitive way, rather a more efficient way.
My favorite yoga teacher says “how you do anything is how you do everything.” Her words resonated with me particularly with this latest discovery in the pool. It also inspired this month’s column because, having been here before, I knew it would be a thought-provoking topic for all of you.
Take a moment and consider how you use your body when you do the following everyday activities:
Brush your teeth
Work at your computer
Drive your car
Engage in a conversation – in person or on the phone
Listen to a student in their lesson
Take a strenuous, fast paced walk
Climb a large flight of stairs
Are you clenching your teeth; pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth; dragging your head forward and/or down; carrying tension in your shoulders; holding your breath; locking your knees; squeezing your glutes? Instead can you unclench your teeth; allow your tongue to naturally float down to the lower part of your mouth; find balance with your head on top of your spine; become aware of the space between your ears and tops of shoulders/arms; allow your shoulder blades to glide along your backside; remind yourself to breathe (exhale!); find soft, balanced knees and notice how that simple adjustment affects freedom in your hip joints and musculature that runs along your backside.
This process may help you to notice that your use of self with your instrument may not be the issue. Instead, how you use your use your body away from your instrument is where you need to place your awareness. And, as I have said before: awareness brings clarity.
How does your anything and everything align with one another?
Rena Urso is a member of the faculties at California State University Long Beach and California State University Stanislaus and a Course Coordinator for California State University Summer Arts. As a licensed Andover Educator, she presents Body Mapping workshops all over the world. An active California based freelance musician, Rena is also a member of the Oakland Symphony and Oregon Coast Music Festival Orchestra. She enjoys balancing her time between her homes in the Chicago area and California’s Central Valley with her fiancé John and their beagle Lillie. For more information and Body Mapping tips, please visit www.renaurso.com.