Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Stretching & loosening exercises for the flutist

Dear Flutists,
Howie Cohen posted these exercises today on one of the discussion groups, and gave me permission to reprint here, and I think they're excellent descriptions and VERY useful for all. Please try them out and send feedback (comment button below). Thanks.

From Howie Cohen:
 As in all other athletic activity, the body, I feel, should first be prepared for playing the flute. The blood and body and 'oil' should be flowing, although when we play we are holding many of the bodily parts needing these oils and juices motionlessly still and they suffer for this. 

So I have six, easy warm-up exercises for the neck and shoulders: two to get the juices flowing, two to start the muscles working and two to lightly stretch these muscles.

They are to be done in this order:

   1. Skiing the wrong way - With knees bent slightly, crouching a bit and with the arms behind you swing everything up as if you wanted to fly (up, minus about 10%), keeping the arms straight (don't bend the elbows). This should feel good. If not, desist immediately and consult a doctor.

   2. Criss-cross - With your feet apart lean first to the left and then to the right. When going to the left, the right arm crosses in front of the left (which is going the other way). When going to the right, it's the left arm which crosses in front. Be sure not to bend the arms at the elbow. Your head may want to cock in the direction of the movement. This is fine.

   3. A sigh of relief - While breathing in through your nose pull your shoulders up to your ears (what every flute-teacher tells you not to do, while playing). Hold there and collect your tension for a few seconds before releasing20all in an audible "Ahhh". Do this more than just once.

   4.Shake hands - With your arms extended downward, shake your arms as if they were made of rubber and make your hands wobble. You might want to include the shoulders in this rubbery feeling and even your hips (why not?).

   5. With your left elbow in your belly-button take your right elbow with your hand (your left hand, of course). Pull the arm gently from 11 o'clock to 10 o'clock keeping the right arm straight at all times, but relaxed, so that the right hand droops. Breathe into the pain (should there be any) and be kind to yourself (that means not masochistic). You may lean over to the stretching side and let gravity help in this way. Do this for three breaths and then switch arms (between 1 and 2 o'clock).

   6. Washing-machine (top-loader) - turning to the left with your weight on your left foot send your right thumb across your body (the left arm behind you). Your head then turns in the direction, too, and can see directly behind you. Swing then to the other side (on the other leg - the legs look as if your dirving a golf-ball). Remember to keep your arms straight. Do this slowly at first until you're sure how this goes and that the body wants to do this. Do this for about a minute.

   Tip #1: Breathe - in AND out (and then in, again) all throughout the exercises as if you were a real, live person.
   Tip #2: If your bones crack while doing this, sing a s
ong so that nobody hears this. Put on some appropriate music while stretching.
   Tip #3: Please enjoy using your body; it's probably the only one you've got. 
   Tip #4: Do the exercises, before and after practising and in-between, too.

   These exercises take about 5 - 10 minutes.

   I also like to pretend I'm a gorilla (OK, cut the wise cracks) putting a lot of my upper body-weight on my knuckles in front of me with my thumbs pointed in. Breathing in, moving about and grunting like an ape. I call this "back to the roots" and it is wonderful for my back, even when nothing especially is bothering me.
   Tip #1: before you jump from the tree, make certain that the vine is strong enough to hold you.
   Tip #2: Leave enough bananas for the rest of us primates.
   Tip #3: Quit monkeying around and get to work.

   I hope you enjoy these exercises. Flutistically yours, Howie Cohen

I think Mr. Cohen is truly hilarious, but even more, I think these exercises are exactly the same ones that I've discovered through Yoga, Tai Chi and misc. stretch routines and years of flute teaching. Very smart stuff for a feeling like a flexy monkey. :>) Jen
Comments (2)
Blogger Unknown said...

Could you make a video for these?
It's difficult for me to understand without a visual cue. thanks!

Thursday, November 19, 2015 2:50:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Jesse,
You'd have to ask Mr. Cohen who wrote the exercises.
Best, Jen

Thursday, November 19, 2015 4:07:00 PM


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