In my previous column, “Getting in Shape After Summer” in the September/ October 2014 issue, I mentioned the importance of stretching exercises. Stretching frequently in a practice session increases flexibility, reduces tension and develops focus instead of frustration. Try these simple exercises to make new habits and reduce physical tension in your playing.
Stand straight and tall, focusing the eyes ahead, relaxing shoulders and arms, releasing tension throughout the body. Now stretch your arms high above your head, reaching for the ceiling but grounding the feet firmly on the floor. Count to 10 while you hold the stretch. Repeat up to 10 times.
Try the Lion pose in yoga to increase circulation and flexibility in the face, neck and throat. Open your mouth as wide as possible, saying the word, “Owwwww,” then the word, “Oooooo,” with lips moving forward, together and away from the teeth as if blowing a kiss. Count to 10 while you hold the stretch, then repeat the exercise up to 10 times daily to maintain embouchure flexibility and build strength.
For Hands and Arms
Stretch the hands and arms before, during and after practice sessions.
Small muscle groups in the hands are particularly susceptible to tension and stress on the marching field because of long rehearsals, cold temperatures and the position of the flute to the right of the body and parallel to the ground. Try this simple stretch. Extend both hands, creating space between the fingers and stretching them apart to increase circulation.
For the arms, here is a favorite exercise of my students. Tuck the right arm behind the back to the other side of your body. Then hold your right hand with the left one to extend and maximize the stretch. Now repeat the stretch with the left arm and right hand. Good luck with the new stretches and remember to be creative and develop stretches of your own.
About the Author
Mary Karen Clardy, professor of flute at the University of North Texas in Denton, appears as a soloist, chamber artist and teacher throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia and South America. A renowned author, she has published more than 10 books from European American Music, Leduc, Schott and Universal Edition. Her students are consistent prizewinners in international competitions and occupy prominent orchestral and faculty positions throughout the world. Visit www.mkclardy.com.