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HomeAlexander TechniqueFor This “Profession Ending Situation”, There Is Hope

For This “Profession Ending Situation”, There Is Hope

Round 25 years in the past, I began noticing a deeply troubling change in my saxophone taking part in expertise. Merely put, I’d have days the place I simply couldn’t appear to get the fingers of my left hand to do what they might so simply and naturally all the time do earlier than in an effort to specific myself musically.

At first this was a phenomenon that appeared to return and go, however after about 5 years of this “come and go”, I fell reasonably instantly right into a interval of full lack of management of the fingers of my left hand.

The unusual factor was that my left hand labored simply tremendous in another exercise…writing, utilizing hand instruments, cooking…actions that require an excellent quantity of tremendous motor ability.

But the second I even touched the keys on any of my saxophones, my fingers would curl up uncontrollably.

I acquired to the purpose the place I couldn’t even maintain the fingers of my left hand down onto the keys of the saxophone, a lot much less play something resembling music. I needed to cease accepting any sort of work taking part in saxophone, in addition to even simply having fun with a rehearsal or jam session. I may now not play. Easy as that.

To say that I fell right into a deep despair can be an understatement.

It was after seeing a doctor (an excellent inner drugs physician, whose specialty was in prognosis), that I discovered that I almost certainly had a type of focal dystonia. I went on to get a prognosis from a neurologist to verify this.

The time period “focal dystonia” was one thing I’d by no means heard earlier than. However the signs, the sort of unexplained lack of ability particular to the act of taking part in music, was not unfamiliar to me.

I had encountered a number of different musicians through the years previous to the emergence of my situation who had comparable experiences. The truth is, certainly one of my closest mates and musical colleagues, a extremely expert and extremely achieved trombonist, was experiencing this identical phenomenon along with his facial muscle mass and tongue.

So what’s focal dystonia?

I believe this definition by the Dystonia Analysis Basis sums it up greatest:

“Dystonia is a neurological dysfunction that causes extreme, involuntary muscle contractions. These muscle contractions end in irregular muscle actions and physique postures, making it troublesome for people to regulate their actions. The actions and postures could also be painful. Dystonic actions are usually patterned and repetitive.”

Inside the realm of focal dystonia, there are a number of sub-categories. For these whose dystonic signs solely seem whereas participating in a discovered, expert exercise, the situation is known as activity particular focal dystonia.

This contains issues as frequent as “author’s cramp” (although I think that numerous types of author’s cramp aren’t focal dystonia, however merely overuse, or misuse), to surgeons shedding their “hand expertise” solely whereas performing surgical procedure, to a situation within the sport of golf generally known as the “yips”, the place the golfer shakes uncontrollably earlier than a shot that’s usually “simple” to make.

And inside the of class of activity particular focal dystonia, there may be activity particular musician’s dystonia, extra generally generally known as musician’s dystonia, or just by its acronym, MD.

And to subdivide even additional, there are usually two kinds of musician’s dystonia: hand dystonia and embouchure dystonia (“embouchure dystonia” contains the facial muscle mass, tongue, jaw, taste bud, typically neck muscle mass, and even respiratory buildings).

The very first thing you might be advised if you’re recognized as having musician’s dystonia, is that there isn’t any remedy. There are just a few medical modalities that may be utilized (drugs, botox injections, and many others.), that may reduce the signs. However I’ve but to come across a musician who grew to become completely “symptom free” from these interventions.

That is partly, as a result of the “mechanism” of the situation remains to be largely a thriller to medical science, and therefore any sort of “remedy” is to not be discovered.

For many musicians who get medically recognized as having musician’s dystonia, the recommendation is usually the identical: Change careers.

Effectively that’s simply one thing that’s not simply accepted by many musicians. It definitely wasn’t simple for me. The truth is, I refused settle for it.

For “severe”, life-dedicated musicians (whether or not skilled or newbie), the concept of not with the ability to specific ourselves freely, authentically and elegantly by means of music is tantamount to shedding a vital a part of what defines us, and what offers deep which means to our lives.

So I used to be confronted with my solely possibility: work at making my situation higher in order that I may restore this important a part of my life.

My path was (and continues to be) lengthy, and the educational (and extra essential, the “unlearning”) course of was not a straight line. At first I attempted to enhance my signs by training extra. Far more.

However the extra I practiced, the worst my situation grew to become.

Then I went within the different route, deciding to take a break from taking part in saxophone fully in an effort to see if I’d “neglect” the outdated dystonic patterns.

After not touching the instrument for a lot of months (and being on the level the place I simply couldn’t stand being away from it any longer), I painfully found that nothing had modified. If something I felt much more “dystonic” and disconnected to the saxophone than ever earlier than.

I attempted therapeutic massage, stretching, train, change of food plan…absolutely anything I may to attempt, to alleviate my situation. Nothing appeared to work even within the slightest.

It wasn’t till I found the Alexander Approach that issues start to alter. It was in my Alexander Approach classes that I discovered three essential issues:

First, musician’s dystonia (like every focal dystonia) is a “entire physique/entire particular person” response. It’s one thing that impacts the coordination of my whole bodily (or extra exactly, “psycho-physical) organism. As my common “use” started to enhance (my high quality of motion, stability, posture, consideration, and many others.), my dystonia signs grew to become noticeably fewer and fewer intense.

Second, an enormous a part of studying to enhance my general “use” was in growing the ability of aware inhibition, i.e., the flexibility to maintain an undesirable response in verify. I discovered that by merely “giving myself permission to cease” at any time when I felt the rise of a dystonic response whereas taking part in my instrument made a direct and noteworthy enchancment in my signs.

Third, I discovered the significance of accepting my signs simply as they have been within the second. Briefly, I developed the flexibility to cease “reacting to how I used to be reacting”. I found that I may observe myself extra discerningly, extra objectively and dispassionately. This was an empowering realization, and have become emblematic of my rising expertise with aware inhibition.

(I used to be so impressed with the efficacy of the Alexander Approach, that I went on to coach to change into an authorized Trainer, and have been instructing since 2006.)

As I utilized this work, I additionally began doing numerous learning, from neuroscience, to kinesiology, to anatomy/physiology, and extra. I formulated numerous workout routines, explorations and actions primarily based upon my research, and spent a great deal of time working issues out.

My progress typically appeared “two steps ahead, one step again”, however that was okay. I’ll settle for that ratio. My every day follow classes reworked from frustration, despair and discouragement, to curiosity, exploration, discovery and delight. The method of enchancment itself grew to become deeply passable.

Since then I’ve continued to enhance my situation to the purpose the place I can play saxophone now with the ability, confidence, connection and authenticity that provides me pleasure and satisfaction.

I’ve additionally had the chance to assist another musicians with dystonia to enhance their situation, and it is because of this that I’ve created a web page on my weblog devoted to providing this assist.

So if in case you have musician’s dystonia (or suspect that you just do), please get in contact with me. I all the time proceed from a spot of affection, understanding and security in addressing this situation.

And if a musicians that’s fighting musician’s dystonia (whether or not with the embouchure or arms), please direct them my method.

There may be hope…


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