Practice Room Warmups?
As musicians (whether you be a flutist or not), we tend to be rather meticulous about our instruments and how we approach our practice time: warming up the smaller muscles of our embochures, warming up our fingers with scales, even warming up our ears with long tones or our minds with imagery and planning the session out. But how much attention do we give to the rest of our bodies?
Very little, so I’m discovering.
Warming up your body is as important, if not MORE important than warming up our instruments, but it’s something we all to easily neglect. When you practice, especially for long amounts of time, you are holding your body in a somewhat rigid, unnatural posture, that, unless corrected, can actually lead to various muscular imbalances. For flutists, holding a flute up in front of you and turning your head to the side can create all kinds of problems, problems I have rarely seen addressed. Your traps and rhomboids can get stretched and weak and your pecs are in a constant state of tension…what to do?
Let me propose some warmups to help you have a better practice session and a better more well-responding, healthier body.
You probably did these as a kid in gym class and guess what? They still work! Stand up with your hands out to the side like a “T”. Rotate your arms forward in little circles moving to big circles. When you get into really big circles, you will feel a nice stretch in your chest. Pay attention to that. Stop and do reverse circles, being careful not to swing to hard. A gentle stretch is good – a hard stretch is not.
Stand up against a wall with your arms raised and hands at a 90 degree angle, almost like you’re surrendering to the police. Retract and depress your shoulder blades (roll your shoulders back and down and bring your blades down) and then, leading the movement with your elbows, push against the wall and bring your arms down, still keeping your hands raised.
Do this 10-12 times.
Those are just a couple of exercises, but hopefully, they will help you be a more productive player with less pain. Pay attention to how your shoulders feel, how your body feels and notice the areas that are moving. Creating that muscle awareness will help you not to injure yourself as you practice.
And take breaks! You are not a hero for playing for 4 hours without a break.