MKMMA Week 21 — Heart Stance
I’ve played piano since I was seven years old. When I was in high school, my keyboard agility was easy, natural, and quite accomplished. I don’t know why, but sometime in my late 20’s or early 30’s that changed. There was no physical injury, but the ease went away, especially from my right hand. The Hand Doctors affirmed I have no physical problem.
When I related my experience to a piano coach a few years ago, she exclaimed, “Well, your right hand had a nervous breakdown!” That is definitely the best assessment of my experience.
Nevertheless, for decades I’ve been continuing to practice, and perform, and make steady progress back to ease. It’s been fascinating how my intention to improve, and my commitment to consistent practicing, have brought me inspirations for change from many different places. The latest inspiration was Mark’s suggestion of the Power Stance.
In my interpretation of Mark’s suggestion, I stand in the shape of a Big X, arms uplifted and legs in a wide stance. My shoulders had plenty to say about that position!! I felt a lot of stretch in the muscles. I also felt very exposed and vulnerable, especially around my heart, and I’ve had to learn how to hold the stance and find a way to breathe. It caused a lot of “good discomfort”.
I have continued to work with my shoulders especially, when I’m standing or seated, walking or playing piano. It generates a completely different sense of self and much improved upper body posture. At first it felt completely foreign, requiring constant conscious effort. It caused pain in my shoulders that are LONG used to being slumped forward.
The pain is pretty well gone now. My body is starting to remind me that it prefers the new alignment. Repeatedly throughout the day I find opportunities to open my posture while doing simple tasks.
And BONUS — I’m enjoying added dexterity on the piano. My back and shoulders are self-supporting, freeing up my hands and fingers to move.
And quite significantly, I’m now often breathing while I play piano. For years I’ve been aware of holding my breath while playing. Conscious awareness of that never changed my breathing at all. This better alignment is starting to free up my breathing, too.
This all makes me recall George, a native elder whom I heard comment at a meeting in Toronto recently. He said Westerners tend to think with their brain and their intellect. Native Americans, on the other hand, strive to think from their heart, the seat of intuition and wisdom.
The more I adopt this open position, the more I feel able to lead from my heart. My mind is learning to simply observe, instead of trying to run the show.
I’m gaining deep learning from this postural transformation. It will be a while before it becomes my automatic posture, but that’s fine.
I appreciate this nudge away from my lifelong habit into a more wholesome way of being, and I LOVE finding new ease in my music making!