Niall O'Riordan

Flute Soloist  


Posture: Building a Complete Perspective part 1

Posted on September 4, 2012 at 12:30 PM

"Faulty posture always expresses the emotional stress that has been responsible for its formation." --Moshe Feldenkrais


The word posture conjures very mixed images, ideas and theories for flute players. As I have been browsing through the internet reading what other people have to say and also seeing what classes other people are giving on the subject I thought I'd share some of my ideas and views from where I am right now. Of course, this is very much influenced by my Feldenkrais training.


Firstly, I have abandoned using the word posture in my own teaching. Instead I use the word organisation. Rather than discussing with a student their posture we discuss how they are organised. I've done this because I feel that ‘posture’ is such a loaded word. For most people the word posture has an implicit meaning of something static & some sort of ideal way of being. It gives a ‘right or wrong’ attitude which I really don't like. Much like the 'search for the holy grail' we have looking for the ideal flute we can do the same chasing a posture or position. A static posture is useless, life is movement and with playing the flute you should have options available to you to shift your weight in any direction if you wish. Feldenkrais humorously once said “A static posture is of no use only the dead people”. But sometimes in our teaching we impose these ideal positions on to our students. Most of the time, these instructions only add more tension on top of the already existing tension in order for it to look aesthetically pleasing from the outside. This can just leave a person in a very awkward and unbalanced position which isn't at all functional.


Secondly, this whole subject is directly connected to the mental and emotional side of things. This is something as teachers we could pay closer attention to. For example: Have you ever seen somebody with depression walking around with their heads held high and shoulders back? No? Me neither. Feldenkrais said "Faulty posture always expresses the emotional stress that has been responsible for its formation." Whatever position you or your student finds himself in there is also an emotional factor behind it all. Just like telling somebody suffering from depression stand up straight, telling a self-conscious student stand-up straight without considering the emotional factors will have very little benefit.


Feldenkrais was always interested in Function over Form. Whatever position we find ourselves playing the flute, a primary focus should be function, not how aesthetically it looks from the outside. This is the downfall of some of the teaching we have all engaged in, or experienced. The reason why I like the Feldenkrais method is when you attend a class you discover something about yourself that when you approach the flute, you can apply some of this learning. You can shift your attention to searching for the most functional way of playing the flute rather than standing in a position that somebody told you, you ‘should’ be in. With the Feldenkrais method discovering the most functional way of playing the flute becomes an organic part of your development.


In the video below observe Jascha Heifetz as he performs. There is no one fixed position. Around two minutes into the video you get a very clear full body shot of him and you can observe how he gently shifts his weight as from left to right. Overall, noticed the sense of freedom of movement he has available to him.


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