Why stretch? Just like with larger muscles, stretching increases flexibility, it is elongating a muscle - squeezing the muscle and then completely relaxing it. It is the relaxing which is the most important (sometimes our muscles don't want to, for example like in our calf...instead of relaxing it might turn into a muscle cramp instead). It helps prevent overuse injury, and allows you to get blood circulation going. However, too much stretching can be dangerous if you start to feel pain or numbness or no blood circulation; you don't want to overdo it...so if it hurts, take it easy. It's like trying to do the splits....that type of flexibility doesn't come easily and takes time to build...not always going to happen the first day! Stretching in a sense is also a workout in itself, so this why it is important to not overdo it. I think it is the most important thing for me to do though before playing horn. Low-warmups are not always enough to get all the tension out of my face.
The most important part of stretching is what the muscles do between point A and point B. The first exercise I do works on this concept. Let's say you want to flex the muscles in your arm (as if you were showing off); your arm is at rest, and then when you flex it it jumps right into position...you don't have to think about it, or the motion of the muscle movement getting there from point A (at rest) to point B (flexed).
With Embouchure Dystonia it IS very important to be aware of the motion between the movements; from point A and B; it is usually the between motions where you will see spasms and quivers occur, so this is the area you wan to be aware and take notice what happens. So here we have the first exercise I do to test to see how my symptoms are for the day. Usually I do this when I wake up. Some dystonic people find that your symptoms are not as strong right when you wake up, and this is usually because sleeping helps as it increases dophamine levels. For some dystonic people it doesn't effect them...for me not so much...but I like to stretch in the morning anyways just to get circulation going.
The most important thing about stretching is (1) The motion between point A and B, and (2) Holding the stretch once you arrive to point B. Just like when you stretch you're legs, you hold the stretch in position for a couple of seconds or a minute and then release.
STRETCH NO. 0 AIR OR WATER STRETCHES (whoops, forgot to add this one first...so labeled it 0).
So this first exercise below I call the "GOLDFISH LIP STRETCH." I start at point A which is at rest (meaning relaxed and still/no executing movement yet), and then slowly (I mean unbelievably slow) starting to move my muscles into formation...moving towards my destination of point B (the goldfish lips):
STRETCH NO. 1 GOLDFISH LIPS
|I start to slowly form an opening...|
|I slowly start to stretch my lower and upper lip outwards, and it is usually this first motion which has the most spasms or shakes since it requires me to keep my muscles relaxed yet while flexing them.|
|Pretty much explains itself. However, I feel like when I frown my corners go so extreme that they feel like they are along the sides of my chin and I can definitely feel the stretch! Good stretch! ahhh...:)|
STRETCH NO. 4 THE CORNER STRETCH OR SMILE STRETCH