Over the holidays I had the privilege of being in a private audience of a clarinet player.
She played beautifully, however all I could see was her breathing and how she struggled. Her scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, and levator scapulae were working very hard. I was fortunate enough to be able to help her.
Releasing the diaphragm was the first thing that was needed, I did this using a Bowen technique that was shown to me by another practitioner.
The next thing was to release those neck muscles, both the front and back of the neck.
I first used the Tung method of acupuncture and for those of you that have been seen by me you know I had started to learn this style last year. The points that I used where on the legs low down near the ankle and some points in the hand. Afterwards I massaged her neck shoulders, subscapularis, lats and pectoral muscles.
Now this clarinet player was used to practising up to five hours a day then performing at night. That had created her shoulders to roll forward and form a line of tension across her shoulders (you know the one that you rub at the end of the day) her core although was ok was starting to collapse. I only had the opportunity to have one session with her, however she said the difference that it creating was fantastic she was able to take a deeper breath between playing and felt more relaxed while playing. I will look forward to seeing her again when she finishes her touring.
Now we all are not playing the clarinet in an orchestra however sitting at a desk all day creates the same line of tension in the shoulders and neck, also sitting all day restricts the diaphragm which does not help with deep breathing.
What you can do
Apart from having some amazing acupuncture and massage with me you can also help your diaphragm relax by following the steps below (with thanks Sanford Health Systems). I have also added photos of the points when I needled myself.
Apart from delivering nutrients and oxygen to your body (and getting ride of waste) practicing deep breathing also tricks the body into thinking it is in a calm state a reversal of the fight or flight (who wouldn’t want that).
Place one hand on your belly, just below your ribs. Place the other hand on your chest.
Take a regular breath.
Now take a slow, deep breath. Breathe in slowly through your nose. Pay attention as your belly swells up under your hand.
Holding your breath, pause for a second or two.
Slowly breathe out through your mouth. Pay attention as the hand on your belly goes in with the breath.
Do this several times until you have a calming rhythm.
Try to deep breathe for 10 minutes or until you feel relaxed and less stressed. Gradually work your way up to 15-20 minutes.