Friday, November 27, 2015

More Alternative Medicine/Therapies (Part 2): Body Movement Awareness Methods (Somatics), Modifications, and Musical Exercises for Focal Embouchure Dystonia

PART 2: Body Movement Awareness Methods (Somatics).

In my last post I spoke a little about being mindfully aware during physical rehabilitation. This is a huge part of recovery for me; making adjustments and modifications to help improve or redirect my tension into a less tense state of contraction based on both mindful awareness, and understanding of anatomy/functional muscle movement.

There are quite a few body methods out there that you may have heard of. Why these methods are important is because most of them focus on reprogramming a more efficient body map. Your body map is the brains general perception and understanding of ones body/movement/function based on the sensory input it's been receiving. This carries over to how we use our bodies with our instruments.

Body Movement Methods are technically referred to as somatics. Somatics refers to practices in the field of movement studies which emphasize internal physical perception. The term is used in movement therapy to signify an approach based on the soma or "the body as perceived from within."

I'm listing them here as a resource because knowing a little about them or even taking the time to take a course in one of these methods may be helpful to you, as they can help with the rehabilitation doesn't mean that one method or any of the methods are the answer to overcoming dystonia, but can be used in aiding the physical rehabilitation process to an extent.  

I've noticed universities recently incorporating classes on some of these methods which is awesome to see!

Types of Body Movement Methods or Somatics
  • Alexander Technique - Most musicians know of this method, and it is not uncommon these days to see it being taught as a course or summer course within music programs at universities or institutes. Alexander practitioners are certified and teach the course between 10-40 sessions. Alexander's approach focuses on mindful action. The instructor uses guided modelling with light hand contact for detecting and guiding the student past chronic pain and effort. It should be noted that A.T. is also used to help with stage-freight and anxiety too. Suggestions for improvements are student-specific/individual-specific, and the instructors analyze the student's responses, as well as using mirrors, video feedback, or classmate observations. The practitioner is well-trained in guiding free-movement.
  • Feldenkrais - Feldenkrais was highly influenced by Judo. He taught that increasing a person's kinesthetic and proprioceptive self-awareness of functional movement could lead to increased function, reduced pain, and greater ease and pleasure of movement. The Feldenkrais Method is therefore a movement pedagogy, similar to the Alexander Technique in being educational and not a form of manipulative therapy. The method is experiential, providing tools for self-observation through movement enquiry. The practitioner directs attention to habitual movement patterns using gentle, slow, repeated movements. Slow repetition is believed to be necessary to impart a new habit and allow it to being to feel normal. These movements may be passive (performed by the practitioner on the recipient's body) or active (performed by the recipient). Feldenkrais is used to improve movement patterns rather than to treat specific injuries or illnesses. This holistic focus means that the primary intention is not to treat injuries. However, it can be used as a type of integrative medicine because correcting habitual movement patterns can help heal injury, pain, and physical dysfunction.
  • Mitzvah Technique - is focused on dealing iwth body mechanics in a state of motion. It is a development of the Alexander Technique, the Feldenkrais Method and health-oriented work on musculoskeletal problems and stress diseases. Each of these techniques are based on correcting common postural faults by addressing  the neuromuscular system through postural re-education. Yet the Mitzvah Technique encompasses both a unique philosophy and a set of procedures. This includes the discipline, exercises, the work that Mitzvah Technique practitioners do with their hands. The Mechanism consists of a sequence of natural body movements that magnify the ripping motion in the body. There are four components to the Mechanism; (1) The interplay of physical forces acting between the pelvis and spine, (2) the rippling spinal motion, (3) the dynamic relationship involving the pelvis, spine and head in a synchronized motion, and (4) the freedom of the head to balance on its spinal support. All of these together promote the operation of the Mitzvah Mechanism. It is designed to improve posture and release tension and stress through exercises and therapeutic table work. It claims to realign, re-balance, and exercise the entire body during sitting, standing and waling. It's aim is to replace long-term work by practitioners, to have people learn how to use the technique itself. Musicians, actors, and singers have been extensive users.

    *These next two listed are not so much a body movement method (except Rolfing is kind of), but more of a alternative physical therapy that integrates somatic education into it's foundation.
  • *Oral Myofascial Release (MFR) - This is what I currently have experience with. Myofascial release deals with built up/rigid connective tissue or fascia in the jaw-joint and muscles surrounding the face. My acupuncturist was a specialist in John F. Barnes technique of MFR, which is a much gentler approach to releasing the tissue tension than the traditional way. Typically they will wear a glove and push their fingers against pressure points inside of your mouth (in the cheek or back of jaw) and they hold it for 2-6 minutes until the tissue releases; this is highly painful but extremely relieving afterwards.When I think of the jaw-joint, I compare it to the wrist-joint. A lot of woodwind players or typist get carpel tunnel, which is connective tissue built up in the wrist. The same thing can happen to our too can build connective tissue and cause our jaw to be unaligned, in pain, cause TMJ, or build more tension.
  • *Rolfing - It is very similar to myofascial release to an extent. It is a holistic system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that organizes the whole body in gravity. It is essentially identical to structural integration. The difference between myofascial release is the cumulative process over ten session. Although myofascial release techniques derived form the work of Ida Rolf, it does not have the same strategic planning as rolfing. The various parts of the human body relate synergistically to each other, therefore rolfing integrates the whole body or various parts of the body, rather than focusing on one central area.
  • Andover Educators - This is actually not a method, but a service. I wanted to list this here as a resource. is the home of Andover Educators, a non-profit organization of music educators committed to saving, securing, and enhancing musical careers by providing accurate information about the body in movement.