Podcast alert!

It´s definitely not every day that one gets to be on iTunes!!

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This is the podcast of the founder of Timani, Tina Margareta Nilssen, about embodied musicianship and explorations into the vast landscape of music, mind and body.

I was very honored to be interviewed about my experiences with exploring musical expression faced with the experience of growing up with a body that didn´t (and sometimes doesn´t) seem to have quite the same agenda as the ego, and how the need for artistic expression sometimes can seem to overwhelm our own body and challenge the limits of expression we think we can allow ourself.

Episode 4: Resistance and Wisdom. Podcast

Miriam Hlavaty is a composer, pianist, Timani teacher and a listening expert. She went through her studies at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo with chronic tendinitis, yet a deep wish to express music. Now at the age of 40, her journey has left her with tons of wisdom that I would have loved to hear as a student myself. She is now an expert of the body and playing music. She writes a blog, gives workshops and lectures to help musicians all around the world to change their physical coordination to prepare them for playing music in a healthy way.

Proprioception – the physiological reality behind a “natural” technique

It is said that a concert pianist has fine motor-control skills with a degree of coordination which exceeds that of a brain surgeon during operations. To perform of piece of music which demands that each finger, each joint of that finger and each muscle in the hand, arm and body cooperates and contributes to the end result and that this end result is experienced as harmoniously, melodically and rhythmically complete is really somewhat of a physiological and neurological miracle.

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Perhaps the reason why most of us still don’t reflect on this when great art is presented to us is because one of the hallmarks of great art is that it is perceived as “effortless”. We sense the coordination, the seamless conversations within the body of the practitioner, how everything just seems to “flow”, yet a part of our mind is aware of the enormous amount of coordination happening and realises that there is no way we can consciously control all of these minuite operations.

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Photo by Varshesh Joshi on Unsplash

It is like the joke about the centipede who one day suddenly started pondering which leg to move first and from then on were unable to move ever again. Our brain grasps that there must be some sort of overall awareness coordinating everything so that it just happens “naturally”.

“Naturally” is, however, a nice fluffy term for something which we instinctively recognise without really understanding what it is or how it works. Musicians are very often taught to be looking for a “natural technique” although much of this training  tends to focus more on how it is supposed to feel, us supposed to what needs to happen for it to feel like this; to get to the place where everything “clicks”, where the audience as well as we ourselves experience what is happening as “effortless”.

But what is the physiological reality behind the term “natural technique”?

Proprioception – Our unknown sense

Most of us are unaware of how many of our seemingly ordinary daily activities which really are similar miracles, both neurologically and physiologically. Our very ability to move at all is based on a complex cooperation between our brain, our nervous system and our muscles; a cooperation which enables us to do anything from tying our shoelaces to playing a piano concert, and of which most of us are totally oblivious to.

There are, however, some situations in which most people become aware of the degree of magic happening inside their body and it is usually, ironically, when things start to not work as they should.

Proprioception is the name of the sense which makes our brain aware of where each part of our body is located in space at any given time. This enables our brain to send coordinated signals in the form of motor programs to different parts of our body which then enables us to perform everyday movements. Some of these motor programs start to form from the moment we are born, such as when we learn how to crawl, turn over or walk.

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Photo by Hamza El-Falah on Unsplash

These programs are so embedded in us that we don’t pay them any attention, which is, from the brain’s perspective, the whole idea: if we needed to consciously be aware of every detail of a motor program we would spend far too much energy on performing it. Therefore it is almost impossible for us to recognize the amount of coordination happening behind the smallest of our activities.

The best way to understand how our proprioception actually functions is perhaps to show what life is like for someone who has to live without it.

The man who lost his body

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19-year-old Ian Waterman at first thought he had caught merely a common cold or virus infection. The sturdy young man was working as an apprentice in a butcher shop and was used to hard labour and physically demanding work. He had previously gotten a small cut in his finger and most likely the cut had developed into an infection. What started out as a common cold would prove to be something much worse. As the doctors in vain tried to understand what was happening Ian gradually lost control over his limbs and ended up lying in bed without conscious control over any part of his body from his neck down.

What confused his doctors and neurologists was that the condition didn’t read like a normal paralysis: Ian wasn’t paralysed, his muscles still worked and his brain was receiving signals from his body conveying sensations such as pain and differences in temperature. But the brain seemed to have lost the notion of where the different parts that it was supposed to move were located. The medical sentence was harsh: a life in a wheelchair.

Nerve issues

Ian’s condition is an efficient reminder of how complex and specialized our nervous system is. We often think of a nerve in the same way that we think of some sort of electric cable conveying a signal between body and brain. The reality is much more complex.

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If you cut through a nerve and look at the cross-section you will see that the nerve includes several smaller parts, nerve fascicle’s. Inside of these fascicle’s we find individual nerve fibres.

A nerve fibre can be either a sensory fibre or motor fibre. The motor fibres sends signals to our muscle fibres telling them to contract. The sensory fibres starts either in the skin or in the muscle and come in different sizes. The largest ones convey information concerning touch, muscle sensitivity or sense of movement, while the smallest ones convey information concerning muscle fatigue, temperature and certain forms of pain.

In Ian’s case the motor fibres were intact but the large sensory fibres (and with them also the access to very specific functions of the nervous system) were damaged, probably as a result of the infection. These nerve fibres were responsible for receiving all of the sensory information that had to do with the positioning of Ian’s joints and the activity in his muscles. They were also responsible for conveying all of this information onward to his brain.

The condition, which can occur in different degrees, were eventually given the name sensory neuropathy, damaged sensory nerves.

A body completely governed by willpower

Ian had one advantage in his extreme situation: he was still young when he became ill. After the initial shock and despair at the prospect of a life in a wheelchair the young Englishman decided that he would not settle for the doctor’s prognosis. Even though the original neurological connection between brain and body were severed, might it not be possible to build another one? Since the nerves which should have provided Ian’s brain with the information necessary to move his body were destroyed it was necessary to create a new connection between brain and body. The answer, at least half of it, lay in visualisation.Brain

Ian discovered, after a painful period of hard mental work, that if he had a very concrete picture in his mind of which movement to perform and then used his eyes as control and feedback channel to tell his brain where the parts it were supposed to move were located, he was able, after years of gruelling discipline and training, to slowly re-gain control over his body.

What Ian was actually doing is something that all of us has experienced partly each time we learn and train a new motor program. When we learn to move as children we first go through an initial phase of large, unrefined movements which then gradually become more and more refined and coordinated and then eventually transformed into automatic patterns -motor programs. In this way we don’t have to think of every little detail involved in the movement and can have our mind elsewhere while bicycling, walking, skiing or performing any other movement pattern.

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Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

But the fact that we are not aware of the coordination happening when buttoning a button doesn’t mean that our body isn’t executing it. One of the prerequisites for such motor programs to work is that your brain knows where the parts which are supposed to contribute in the coordination are located. It needs to have a point of reference from which to work. Without this knowledge the brain is in the dark so do speak: it’s not easy to move something when you can’t locate it.

In Ian’s case it was as if every motor program that he had ever learned were suddenly cancelled out; and every coordination from that moment on until his death had to be done 100% consciously.

Do you have a personal problem with gravity?

The automatic motor programs which most of us uses every day are also based on a subconscious understanding of certain physical laws, such as gravity and how it affects our bodies. We all make use of this subconscious understanding every day, for instance each time we are lifting something up. A short example: the size of your base, if you’re standing broad legged or with your feet together, decides whether you’re going to tip over or not when extending something heavy out from your body.

Here is a visual example of what happens if you don’t take this fact into account.

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Ian´s body, who is bereft of his automatic motor programs, and therefore also from this subconscious knowledge, needs to be constantly aware of these physical laws: each time he is picking something up he needs to calculate how much the weight of the object will affect the balance in the rest of his body and then consciously adjust the angle of his arms and legs and the degree of tension in the muscles of his arms and legs based on this knowledge. Picking up a mango or lifting a chair demands different degrees of tension.

Most of us are rarely aware of the physical laws surrounding and affecting us each day. It is no accident that “biomechanics” is still a relatively unfamiliar term for most people. The knowledge of how biological material (what your body is made of) is affected by physical laws (gravity for instance) is not something we go around and ponder. Yet we all live under these laws, we just happen to be so lucky as not to need to relate to them except on those occasions where our proprioception is a tad weaker than usual, for instance when we have been drinking or early in the morning when we have just got out of bed and seem to constantly bump into our doorframes.

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Photo by Michael Discenza on Unsplash

For someone like Ian who is cut off from his proprioception the relationship with gravity becomes very close indeed. For one thing his ability to move is completely dependent on his eyes and his visual faculties: as long as he can use his eyes to give his brain feedback on where his body is located Ian is able to control his body in a way that (for now) is unique in all of the world. However, if this feedback channel disappears, for instance if the light is switched off in the room, he immediately loses every control of his body and collapses like a rag doll, – the result of the brain’s lack of ability to adjust the body according to gravity.

Brain in search of body

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Photo by Cengizhan Konuş on Unsplash

When we see small babies moving slowly and seemingly uncoordinated we are actually witnessing a meticulous training of coordination and motor patterns which will later on become the foundation for every movement during a long life. Although we might find such intense concentration when reaching for a toy as “cute” what is actually happening should rather trigger our admiration: brain scans of Ian’s brain when he is performing his conscious coordinated movements shows activity in parts of the brain that are usually used only in activities demanding the most sophisticated form of intense concentration, activities such as juggling with multiple balls.

It goes without saying that this activity demands much more energy than movements which have been transformed into automatic motor programs.

There is also another price Ian is constantly paying which those of us with an active proprioception don’t need to worry about. Our brain is dependent on its contact with the body. When this contact is missing or decreased the brain instinctively senses this as a threat. A consequence of Ian’s condition is therefore that his nervous system is in a constant state of tension, where the feedback that his eyes provide is the only thing staving off the panic.

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Just think about the sensation of missing a step when walking down the stair or stepping off a ledge that you didn’t expect was there, and where your body suddenly flops down. The sudden jolt we experience when the expected contact with the ground disappears for a second is actually your brain shouting for feedback from the body, – feedback which didn’t come as expected and which, in Ian’s case, will never come. Imaging having that shouting as a continuous companion in your life..

Embodied living

Ian’s example shows us how much of our life and our activities which are based on movement patterns. Most of us take these patterns for granted and are even mostly unaware of them happening at all. Only in situations when we are witnessing these patterns at their utmost, might it suddenly dawn on us the immense complexity and possibilities stored in our incredible bodies. For instance in a concert, when a performer makes something incredibly complex appear as effortless.

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Neurologically speaking, for something to be without effort does not mean that there is no effort involved but rather that we are witnessing something functioning at its utmost. And maybe that is exactly what holds our fascination: we are reminded of the endless possibilities and miracles residing inside these amazing structures which we choose to call our “bodies”.

Hopefully this experience might eventually make us treat our bodies with the attention and reverence they deserve, both during living and during playing, but more on that in a later blog.

If you want to know more check out the BBC Horizon documentary “The Man Who Lost His Body” which tells the whole story of Ian Waterman.

 

 

The effortlessness of the expert

It takes a lot of effort to make something look effortless – Steven Sondheim

When we witness an expert performer in music or in sport the word “effortless” often springs to mind. However, most people are (hopefully) aware of the amount of work actually needed to reach this level of mastery. Therefor “effort-less” can necessarily not mean that something is “without effort”.

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A seemingly “effortless” performance is indeed the result of a sophisticated physical and neurological coordination which creates a subtle fluctuation between tension and relaxation in the parts responsible for the movements and to master this coordination is at the true core of every excelling performance.

Excessive and static tension

In a body performing at a high level of function there is very little excessive tension present, each part of the body has just the necessary amount  needed to perform the task.

A lot of us carry an excessive level of tension in certain parts of our bodies, both when we are performing tasks and when we are seemingly relaxed. Changing the tensional pattern of our body takes a long time, primarily because most of us are unaware of much of the tension present in our bodies. In our minds we have a tendency to think that:

TENSION = PAIN

so that when a part of our body is not performing as it should according to its design we may not necessarily attribute the lack of performance to excessive tension as long as it´s not causing us any pain. But the presence of tension is not necessarily visible only through pain but also in restricted movement, non-optimal coordination  and affected performance.

Changing a pattern requires that we first become aware of it. Do a simple exercise: Stand on all fours and allow your stomach to relax and sink down like a hammock.

All the way…

Take some time (think a couple of minutes) to let your stomach completely give in to gravity. You will probably experience that  what you thought were a full relaxation is just a fraction of the potential and that as the seconds pass you will sense more and more micro-releases in the tension in your belly.

Most of us spend an excessive amount of energy constantly sucking in our stomach, so much that when we are in a position where gravity naturally pulls our organs forward we have a problem releasing this tension because it has become a more or less constant and unconscious pattern.

But constant static tension also means restricted circulation and our abdominal region contains things that are dependent on good circulation in order to function properly.

Like your digestive- or reproductive organs.

A constant excess of tension makes it harder to relax but more importantly: it also leads to a limited ability to activate and relax your muscles at different degrees.

A healthier alternative is a constant fluctuating pattern of tension and relaxation where our muscles have the option of not only being in an on/off mode but rather cycling constantly through different degrees of tension/relaxation according to what is needed.

Not this:

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but this:

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Keeping a steady frame with your partner while dancing the tango demands a whole range of different degrees of tension that allows you to respond according to the impulses you are receiving. If the muscles of your upper body are so tense and unresponsive that their only options are either on (rigid) or off (loose) there will be no options to choose from, and to just be told to “relax” your elbow or “keep a steady frame” just isn´t detailed enough information.

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Coordination – using what is needed

When we want to make a movement we have multiple choices  as to how to make our bodies perform that movement. If you intend to pick leafs of the ground in your garden you could use a crane to do the job, it would just not be very practical. Keeping your lower arms extended horizontally in front of you for several hours every day while typing on your computer requires a certain activation in your muscles but the coordination or distribution of workload between those muscles is decisive when it comes to how straining this activity will be for your body. Skjelett

And you can switch the activity of typing with pretty much any other activity, like walking, dancing the tango or playing an instrument.

So why would we use more than we need?

Our muscles are controlled by our neurology. A motor unit consists of a nerve attaching to certain muscle fibres of a muscle. The greater amount of fibres it attaches to the “bigger” the movement the nerve controls. In what we call fine motor skills the motor units attache only to a few fibres and the amount of motor units working at the same time and (hopefully) in coordination is very great, on the opposite side of the scale we have large muscles where a single motor unit controls a great amount of fibres and make them all move at the same time giving a high degree of leverage and force with a lesser degree of coordination needed.

But having the neurological hardware to be able to move the different parts of a muscle independently to one another is not the same as actually being able to do this. Through lack of regular use muscles can become neurologically “lumped together” so that we are not able to differentiate between them any more and differentiation is the key to coordination: if I can’t differentiate between the different muscles in my body I am not able to make them to move independently of one another.

Coordination is the ability to decide  what parts of a muscle  to activate  and how those parts are to move  relative  to each other  and to other muscles of the body.

Some people have a natural tendency for good coordination but for most people the “default” coordination is a result of the sum total of how you have used your body up to this moment which is a highly individual matter for most of us.

Therefor training is sometimes needed.

Both Timani and Nutritious Movement as methods are all about coordination in order to achieve a more sustainable use of the body in order to increase performance and to take a step closer to the realm of the effortlessness we all can benefit from – whether we are experts or no.

 

Passion and Pain

Some time back I had the privilege to be “Artist of the month” in the Timani newsletter and as this was a decidedly new experience I thought I´d share it here, also since the questions of the interview brings up the topic of strain injuries and of having your passion linked to pain, which I think is a big and important topic.

Artist of the month: Miriam Hlavatý

Timani newsletter, March 2017

Did you ever suffer from pain when playing, or think that your body is against you? Then I highly recommend to read about the amazing Timani teacher Miriam Hlavaty in the interview below!

I admire Miriam for the passion she has for musicians’ possibilities to learn about the body and mind. She has already taught Timani at the conservatory in Tromsø and Performance psychology at the conservatory in Trondheim, as well as giving Timani courses in several countries. She is also an amazing composer, a Nutritious Movement instructor, a specialist in listening (hence her website www.thelisteningexperience.com), and she plays the piano with refinement, great sound and musicality. I am just very happy to have met this person and to have her teaching Timani. I highly recommend her teaching if you are considering taking a Timani lesson. Her next weekend course in Timani will be in Oslo on the 5th-7th of May. Don’t miss it:)

T: When did you begin with Timani?

I started practicing Timani in 2013 when I attended my first weekend course and signed up for the certification training.

T: How have you benefited from taking lessons in Timani?

At that time I suffered from several playing-related strain injuries and had all but given up on piano playing after having fought my way through a Bachelor and Masters degree at the Norwegian Conservatory of Music. The various physical obstacles had stopped me from pursuing a traditional career as a pianist but they had also forced me to become creative and find other possibilities, for instance in the world of contemporary music with its extended piano techniques, into experimental music and, as a lecturer,  into the realm of musical perception and listening. This was a result of signing up for a course in Sonology which was taught at NMH by the composer Lasse Thoresen who later became my mentor during my Masters. All of this is today present in my work.

A friend of mine from the conservatory recommended that I try a weekend course in Timani. She had experienced some of the same strain injury difficulties as myself and knew how fed up I was with trying out every new cure that was on the market. Even so she succeeded in convincing me to give it a try. I remember I was very skeptical at first having experienced several disappointments earlier with other types of methods and systems. At the end of the weekend course everything had changed.

For the first time in 20 years I was given clear and understandable information which told me not only what I had been doing which had sustained the strain injuries and kept them returning again and again, but what was more important: I was given tools in the form of concrete  anatomical, neurological and biomechanical knowledge on how to do things differently, along with exercises in order to make it possible for me to do things differently.

At the end of the weekend course I signed up for the certification-training. I very rarely take abrupt or impulsive choices, I’m usually the kind who needs to ponder things a lot but this was one of the few times in my life when I knew I was in the right place and that this was a moment and a chance not to be missed.

T: You are now a Timani Advanced teacher and have completed the three year certification training.  Would you talk a little bit about how this has affected you?

Apart from recovering from the strain injuries I have finally found that which allows me to express what I need to express through my music, not by becoming the traditional pianist I thought I wanted to be, but by giving me access to the versatile and wondrous instrument that my body now is becoming in terms of playing and expressing music. Composing and experimenting with the instrument has also become a very important path for me.

Also, what I have gained through Timani has gone much deeper than mere technique and physical development.

Living with chronic pain and especially with pain which is linked to doing what you love the most affects you, physically and mentally. There is nothing which drains you more than having your greatest joy in life constantly associated with pain and discomfort. Living with constant and chronic pain also affects the endocrine system of the body. For a period of time I was forced to go on medication in order to dampen the excess production of cortisol and stress hormones, an excess production which was the result of living with chronic pain. During experiences like this it really is no wonder that you begin to hate your body and think of it as something working against you, actively thwarting your greatest wish: to be able to play music.

I would therefore say that the greatest benefit for me becoming an advanced teacher is the ability to see the body not as an adversary but as an incredibly logical construction which is constantly adapting to how it’s being used and under which conditions it has to function. And therefore also as adaptable to an almost unlimited degree.

This helps me to relate to other peoples problems in a different way and hopefully makes me a teacher and a lecturer worth trusting.

I have also found great pleasure in becoming more of a body nerd. I’m taking additional education into different systems of physical movement therapy while at the same time having now the confidence and trust in my own intuition which allows me to once more explore the fields of composition and improvisation. This time not as a way to avoid a problem but out of the sheer joy of exploration.

T:  As a musician, do you have any dreams pertaining to physical and mental mastery?

I think being part of and working with something so heavily rooted in tradition as classical music, has some disadvantages. For instance: at a very early point you start to adopt certain concepts and beliefs concerning what being a musician is about and what it entails, especially  in terms of accepting certain things as inevitable, such as physical pain or discomforts, or a certain level of stress.

In some instances these beliefs are so strong that they might keep us from seeking help and convince us that this is an acceptable state of being if we want to live a life of music.

Therefore the realization that this might not be the case gave me a somewhat different perspective on what to accept as limitations in my life. I think that one of my biggest dreams is to be able to look at my musicianship and my life in general with even greater expectation when it comes to creative potential, artistic ability or my health in general.

T: What would you say to inspire musicians around the world?

The most amazing instrument you’ll ever play is the one you’re walking around in so learn to use it in the best way possible. The knowledge is available, don’t be afraid to seek it out.

Nutritious living and playing

This has been a rather inspiring and hectic year with certifications, teaching, lecturing and holding weekend courses in Oslo, Tromsø and Trondheim. This summer i got my level 2 certification in Timani and also my certification as a Restorative Exercise Specialist from The Restorative Exercise Institute™ which now has changed name to Nutritious Movement™.

This is a link to their new webpage : http://nutritiousmovement.com/

But the main part of my teaching still centres around Timani, the amazing program developed by Tina Margareta Nilssen for learning how to use the body with a more natural and beneficial coordination, musicians and non-musicians alike.

For musicians the result is a body that allows you to access all the incredibly finely tuned coordination needed to perform music with the body and mind as an active and conscious helper rather than as an adversary which needs to be disciplined, fought or ignored.

www.timanimusic.com

For non-musicians both Timani and Nutritious Movement™ involves a deeper understanding of the coordination needed to use the body in a way that supports it rather than strains it in a negative way. “Affluent diseases” is a term often given to health problems that are seen as a result of modern western living. This includes a diet which is rich in sugar, acid and processed foods combined with a forced sedentary lifestyle. Just like your body needs certain dietary nutrients (vitamins, minerals and trace elements) it also needs its movement-nutrients, as in varied and differentiated use of the whole body.

If you consider you normal day: how many different positions are you dependent on when doing your everyday routines? The most common ones are standing, sitting and walking.

We humans have a tendency to use our bodies in a habitual way. We sit, stand and walk according to a pattern that is largely unconscious  and  automatized which means that we tend to sit, stand and walk in one specific way. Acctually there are a dozen different positions available just when it comes to sitting and variation is the key: even though this message is being pushed all around:1129-1_FONT_fontp7073_movement2.0_poster_a1_aug28

…the main problem is not sitting – it´s sitting in the same way every time, And when it comes to sitting we accually have rather a lot of options for variety. Here are just a few, collected from around the world by anthropologist Gordon Hewes:

sitting postures

Each of these postures gives the body a different form of load and therefore a different kind of movement-nutrient, just as having this as your default-position for 7 hours each day creates the same kind of repeated load and eventually a movement-nutrient-deficiency:

Skjelett

As long as you have a body you can benefit from Timani and Nutritious Movement.

Have a happy, healthy, varied, conscious and nutritious Christmas and New year!

 

Hemmeligheten bak en “naturlig teknikk” – Historien om mannen som mistet kroppen sin

It takes a lot of effort to make something look effortless – Ben Mitchell

The best art always seem effortless – Steven Sondheim

Det sies at konsertpianister benytter en finmotorikk med en koordineringsgrad som ligger over den en hjernekirurg benytter ved operasjoner. Det å formidle et musikkstykke som krever at hver finger, hvert ledd i den fingeren og hver muskel i hånd, arm og kropp samarbeider og bidrar til at det samlede resultatet fremstår som en helhet harmonisk, melodisk og rytmisk er egentlig et aldri så lite fysiologisk og nevrologisk mirakel.

Hånd på klaviatur

Kanskje grunnen til at det likevel ikke oppfattes slik er at når kunst på et høyt nivå fremføres er gjerne et av kjennetegnene at det virker ”uanstrengt”. Og kan hende er det grunnen til at så mange musikere og kunstnere innen fag som krever en nitid kroppskontroll er på leting etter en “naturlig teknikk”? Men hva ligger egentlig bak begrepet “naturlig teknikk”?

Sansen vi ikke vet vi har

Det ikke så mange tenker over er hvor mange av våre tilsynelatende dagligdagse handlinger som er liknende mirakler, nevrologisk og fysiologisk sett.

Skjelett – Kopi

Grunnlaget for at vi i det hele tatt er i stand til å bevege oss er samarbeidet som eksisterer mellom hjernen vår, nervesystemet vårt og musklene våre, et samarbeid som kan gjøre oss i stand til alt fra å knytte skolissene til å spille en pianokonsert.Brain

Ikke alle har behov for å spille en pianokonsert eller utføre en hjerteoperasjon, men uavhengig av bruksbehovet vårt så vil de fleste av oss gå gjennom livet mer eller mindre uvitende om de tusenvis av detaljerte mirakuløse prosesser som gjør oss i stand til å utføre de fleste dagligdagse gjøremål. Og en ting gjelder oss alle: det er først når ting ikke lenger fungerer som de skal at vi begynner å ane hvor omfattende dette usynlige samarbeidet mellom hjerne, muskler og nerver virkelig er.

Propriosepsjon er navnet på den sansen som gjør hjernen vår i stand til å vite hvor hver del av kroppen vår til enhver tid befinner seg og som dermed gjør det mulig for hjernen å sende koordinerte signaler i form av motor programmer til kroppen vår – en evne vi tar så for gitt at det omtrent er umulig for oss å forstå hva denne sansen egentlig består i. Så den beste måten å gi et godt bilde av denne sansen på er kanskje å vise hvordan livet til en som må leve uten den arter seg.

Mannen som mistet kroppen sin

ian-watermanDa 19 år gamle Ian Waterman først ble dårlig trodde han det bare dreide seg om en vanlig forkjølelse eller virusinfeksjon. Den kraftige unggutten jobbet som lærling hos en slakter og var vant til å kjøre seg hardt i en utfordrende og fysisk krevende jobb. Han hadde tidligere fått et lite kutt i den ene fingeren og kuttet utviklet seg sannsynligvis til en infeksjon. Det som startet som en vanlig forkjølelse skulle vise seg å være noe mye verre. Mens legene forgjeves forsøkte å forstå hva som foregikk mistet Ian gradvis kontrollen over lemmene  sine og endte opp liggende i en seng uten å kunne styre noen del av kroppen sin fra halsen og ned.

Det som forvirret leger og nevrologer var at tilstanden ikke artet seg som noen alminnelig lammelse: Ian var ikke paralysert, musklene og leddene fungerte fortsatt men hjernens tilgang til dem var blokkert: Ian kunne ikke lenger styre dem til å gjøre det han ville fordi hjernen ikke visste hvor delene befant seg.  Samtidig mottok hjernen hans fortsatt visse signaler fra kroppen, bl.a var han i stand til å føle smerte og temperaturforskjeller.

Dommen fra nevrologene var brutal: resten av livet i en rullestol.

Nerver til besvær

Ians tilstand er en effektiv påminnelse om hvor komplekst og spesialisert nervesystemet vårt er. Vi tenker gjerne på en nerve som en slags kabel som formidler signaler mellom kropp og hjerne. Men virkeligheten er litt mer sammensatt.kabler

Hvis du skjærer gjennom en nerve og tar en titt på tverrsnittet så vil du se at denne nerven inneholder flere mindre deler, nervefasicler,  og inne i hver av disse igjen finner vi individuelle nervefibre.

En nervefiber kan være sensorisk eller motorisk. De motoriske fibrene sender signaler til muskelfibrene om at de skal trekke seg sammen.  De Sensoriske fibrene starter enten i huden eller i muskelen og har forskjellig størrelse: de største formidler informasjon om berøring, muskelfølelse og bevegelsesfølelse mens de minste formidler informasjon om muskeltretthet, temperatur og visse former for smerte.

Hos Ian var de motoriske fibrene inntakt men de store sensoriske fibrene (og dermed også tilgangen til helt spesifikke deler av nervesystemets funksjoner) var skadet, nervefibre som var ansvarlige for å ta inn alle de sensoriske nerveimpulsene som fortalte om leddstillinger og muskelaktivitet og for å mate denne informasjonen videre til hjernen.

Tilstanden, som kan forekomme i ulike grader, fikk etter hvert navnet Sensory Neuropathy: Skadede sensoriske nerver.

En totalt viljestyrt kropp

Ian hadde et avgjørende fortrinn i all uflaksen: han var fortsatt ung da han ble syk. Etter det første sjokket og fortvilelsen over rullestol-dommen fant den unge engelskmannen ut at han ikke ville slå seg til ro med legenes prognoser. Siden de nervene som skulle ha sørget for at hjernen fikk informasjon nødvendig for å bevege kroppen var ødelagte var det nødvendig å skape en ny forbindelse mellom hjerne og kropp. Løsningen, i alle fall halvparten av den,  lå i visualisering.

Ian fant ut at hvis han hadde et helt konkret bilde i hodet sitt av hvilken bevegelse han skulle utføre og deretter benyttet øynene sine som kontroll og feedbackkanal for å fortelle hjernen hvor de delene han skulle bevege befant seg var han i stand til, etter beinhard, årelang opptrening og disiplin, å langsomt og omstendelig kunne styre kroppen sin igjen.Veivalg

Når vi lærer å bevege oss som barn er dette først gjennom grove, store bevegelser som deretter gradvis blir mer og mer fin-koordinert og satt sammen i automatiske mønstre – motor programmer. Dette gjør at vi etter hvert slipper å tenke over alle de små detaljer ved bevegelsen og vi kan frigjøre energi til å tenke på noen annet mens vi sykler, går eller utfører andre koordinerte bevegelsesmønstre. Men det at vi ikke lenger bevisst tenker over hvilken koordinasjonen som må til for å kneppe en knapp betyr ikke at kroppen vår ikke utfører den og en av forutsetningene for slike motor programmer er at hjernen vet hvor delene som skal delta i koordinasjonen befinner seg – at den har et utgangspunkt å jobbe fra.

Uten denne kunnskapen vil hjernen famle i mørke så og si. Ian som etter sykdommen levde i en kropp hvor hjernen ikke lenger kunne benytte noen av de tidligere automatiske bevegelsesmønstrene var nå på et vis tvunget til å gjøre alt ut i fra et nullpunkt: alle koordinasjoner måtte nå gjøres 100% bevisst.

Har du eit personleg problem med tyngdekrafta?”∗

De automatiske motor programmene som vi benytter hver dag er også basert på en innebygget underbevisst forståelse for fysiske lover og hvordan de påvirker kroppen vår.  Denne forståelsen benytter vi oss av daglig, feks hver gang vi skal løfte noe. Et enkelt eksempel: Størrelsen på basen din, det vil si om du står bredbent eller med samlede føtter er avgjørende for om du vil vippe over ende eller ikke hvis du holder noe tungt ut fra kroppen. Her er et visuelt eksempel på hva som skjer om man ikke har denne kunnskapen: kran som tipper

Ian, som ikke lenger har tilgang til sine automatiske motor program må dermed hele tiden forholde seg bevisst til disse generelle lovene: hver gang han skal løfte noe må han beregne hvor mye vekten av gjenstanden vil påvirke balansen i resten av kroppen og deretter justere stillingen på armer og ben og spennings-graden i musklene i dem basert på dette.

Vi tenker sjelden over de fysiske lovene som omgir oss og påvirker oss hver dag. Det er ikke tilfeldig at biomekanikk fortsatt er et relativt ukjent begrep for de fleste. Kunnskapen om hvordan biologisk materiale (les: det som kroppen vår er bygget opp av) påvirkes av fysiske krefter (for eksempel tyngdekraften) er ganske enkelt ikke noe de fleste går rundt og tenker på. Likevel lever vi alle under disse lovene, vi er bare så heldige at vi sjelden trenger å forholde oss bevisst til dem, unntatt ved de anledningene hvor propriosepsjonen vår er en anelse mer svekket enn til vanlig, for eksempel ved beruselse.

For en som Ian som er absolutt avskåret fra denne sansen blir dét å forholde seg bevisst til tyngdekraften en meget bevisst handling. Bl.a blir ansvaret som hviler på øynene og synet altomfattende: så lenge han kan bruke synet til å gi hjernen tilbakemelding om hvor kroppen hans befinner seg er Ian i stand til å styre kroppen sin med en kontroll som han (foreløpig) er alene om i verden. Hvis denne feedbackkanalen forsvinner, for eksempel ved at lyset slås av, mister han øyeblikkelig kontroll over kroppen og faller sammen som en filledukke, et resultat av hjernens mangel på feedback fra kroppen og dermed dens evne til å justere kroppen i forhold til tyngdekraften.

Hjerne søker kropp

file6881288615765Når vi ser små babyer bevege seg langsomt, omstendelig og målbevisst er vi vitne til en omhyggelig opptrening av koordinasjon og motor mønstre som senere skal danne grunnlaget for alle bevegelsene som følger gjennom et langt liv. Det fokuset som barn i denne fasen har når de beveger seg er dypt konsentrert og vi kan fortrylles av hvor “søtt” denne konsentrasjonen rundt handlinger som å kneppe en knapp eller gripe rundt en gjenstand er. Men det som foregår i hjernen under en slik opptreninger er i virkeligheten noe som snarere burde påkalle vår beundring: Skanninger av hjernen til Ian når han utfører sine bevisst koordinerte bevegelser påviser en aktivitet i deler av hjernen som vanligvis kun brukes ved den mest sofistikerte form for intens konsentrasjon, områder som reserveres for handlinger som sjonglering.

I tillegg er det en annen pris som Ian hele tiden betaler men som vi med propriosepsjonen vår i behold slipper å forholde oss til: hjernen vår krever og er avhengig av kontakt med kroppen. Når denne kontakten ikke er der opplever hjernen det som en instinktiv trussel. Å ha denne tilstanden vil altså si at du hele tiden går rundt med et nervesystem mer eller mindre i helspenn og at du konstant er nødt til å gi hjernen visuell feedback for å holde panikken stagget.

Tenk selv hvordan du opplever det å bomme på et trappetrinn når du går ned en trapp. Det hugget som går gjennom oss i dét det forventede støtet fra underlaget ikke kommer er hjernen som roper etter feedback fra kroppen, en feedback som i denne anledningen ikke kom som forventet og som i Ians tilfelle aldri vil komme.

Trapper

Bevisst kroppsbruk og ” bevisst kroppsbruk”

De fleste handlinger som krever en spesielt sofistikert form for kroppskoordinasjon som musikkutøving, dans eller toppidrett fordrer at vi trener opp og bevisstgjør deler av kroppen gjennom øvelser og stadige bevisste repetisjoner. Gjennom dette arbeidet får vi en mer detaljert kontroll over kroppen vår. Vi kan si at denne kontrollen ligger latent i de fleste av oss som en mulighet, selvfølgelig også influert av ting som arv og miljø. Men uansett hvor detaljert og rigorøst vi tror vi styrer kroppen vår: vi kontrollerer bevisst likevel bare en brøkdel av alle de signalene som trengs for å utfør den handlingen vi gjør, konsert, dans eller offpist. Resten av signalene er bygget opp av de uhyre komplekse motor mønstrene som hjernen vår har designet over tid og som vi alle er avhengige av (Ian Waterman er et eksempel på nøyaktig hvor avhengige).

L1030139

En vidtflyvende tanke: vår innebygde fascinasjon for ytre mønstre speiles av at vi selv er fysiologisk og nevrologisk mønster-baserte skapninger.

( For flere tanker rundt fenomenet mønster ta en titt på denne artikkelen)

Det at vi tar disse mønstrene for gitt er kanskje det beste beviset på hvor utrolig sømløst og fininnstilt dette systemet er. Bare når vi er vitne til dette mønstret på sitt ypperste  som på en konsert, en ballett forestilling eller et sportsarrangement kan vi bli slått av dets kompleksitet og imponerende muligheter: når en utøver på toppnivå får noe som er så grunnleggende komplekst til å se ”uanstrengt” ut.

En tilsynelatende uanstrengt teknikk betyr altså ikke, nevrologisk sett, at noe er ”uten anstrengelse” men heller at noe er velfungerende, samkjørt, velkoordinert til det ytterste. Og det er dette som ligger til grunn for en såkalt  ”naturlig spilleteknikk”: ikke en kroppskontroll som kommer av seg selv uten innsats bare vi slapper nok av, men en sofistikert kompleks koordinasjon som gjennom sitt uanstrengte uttrykk viser oss hva vi bærer i oss av muligheter.

 

∗  En takk til Brynhild Winther for bruken av en av hennes tekster som en overskrift i denne bloggen. Anbefaler alle å ta en titt på kunsten hennes her!

Vil du vite mer sjekk ut BBC Horizon- dokumentaren “The man who lost his body” som forteller hele historien om Ian waterman. Her er et lite klipp:

Timani – en inngangport til en dypere forståelse av kropp og musisering

stående speilbilde For musikere
– For ikke-musikere
– For tangodansere

  • Timani handler om å oppnå en bedre indre koordinering mellom de ulike delene av bevegelsesapparatet vårt og derved øke evnen til musisering eller ganske enkelt til å være komfortabel i egen kropp. Du oppnår en større sikkerhet og teknisk kontroll, bedre klang og større uttrykksmuligheter på instrumentet ditt. I tillegg får du konkret kunnskap som lar deg forebygge framtidige belastningsskader og endre innøvde belastende spenningsmønstre.

Kroppen vår er et presisjonsverktøy: hver del har sin bestemte funksjon og oppgave og de ulike delene samarbeider i et helhetlig system. Optimalt sett jobber de ulike delene av kroppen vår etter et utfyllende prinsipp: hver del – sin oppgave. Belastningsskader oppstår gjerne som et resultat av at denne arbeidsfordelingen har blitt forskjøvet: deler kompenserer for hverandre og gjør ting de ikke er ment å gjøre.

Kroppen vår er tilpasningsdyktig til en utrolig grad og den er i stand til fysisk å endre form som en følge av vedvarende ytre påkjenninger og ensidige belastninger. Imidlertid har den fra naturens side en default-modus; begrepet “Alignment” henviser til den fysikalske utgangsposisjonen for skjelettet vårt som tillater oss å ha maksimal bevegelighet og sirkulasjon med minimal slitasje. Denne optimale posisjonen påvirkes i svært stor grad av spenningsmønstre i muskel- og bindevevet i kroppen vår. Disse spenningsmønstrene er det mulig å endre.Alignment

Sist men ikke minst: Kroppen vår og dens form, utseende, funksjoner og bevegelsesmuligheter er styrt av de fysiske lovene i den verdenen vi lever i hvorav tyngdekraften er den viktigste. Timani baserer seg i stor grad på faget biomekanikk som dreier seg om hvordan biologisk materiale (tenk: kroppen vår) påvirkes og reagerer på mekaniske krefter (trykk, press og tyngdekraft).

Målet gjennom Timani er å lære å bruke bevegelsesapparatet vår på en differensiert måte og å trene opp en tilgang til de ulike lagene og delene av kroppen vår. Dette involverer nevrologiske og muskulære øvelser og gir samtidig en svært konkret innsikt i eget spilleapparat/egen kropp og hvordan den fungerer.

Timani for musikere:

Musikere har en arbeidssituasjon som på en og samme tid krever stor stabilitet og utholdenhet og samtidig en høy grad av fleksibilitet, finmotorikk og bevegelighet. Ulike deler av bevegelsesapparatet vårt er ansvarlig for å gi oss disse tingene men hvis feil del benyttes til feil bruk ender vi opp med en indre koordinasjon som virker belastende på kroppen og kan føre til spenninger, begrenset luftstrøm, presset klang, manglende rapiditet, smerter og andre problemer vanlige blant musikere.

IMG_0071I en Timani-time jobber du med øvelser som delvis foregår direkte på instrumentet. Belastningsskader er svært ofte et kompensasjonsproblem: de oppstår når vi bruker feil del av bevegelsesapparatet vårt til en oppgave den ikke er ment for. Dermed har det lite for seg å dra på treningsstudio for å bli sterkere eller å få behandlinger av en fysioterapeut/akupunktør/naprapat/lege etc så lenge vi ikke endrer på det som gjør at problemet stadig vender tilbake: måten vi bruker kroppen vår på ved instrumentet.

I løpet av den første timen tar vi en prat om din tidligere og nåværende spillemessige situasjon, vi foretar en analyse av kroppsbruken din når du spiller og vi jobber med øvelser tilpasset det som er mest hensiktsmessig for ditt utgangspunkt. Timani er et helhetlig system, det vil si at det baserer seg på forskning innen bevegelseslære som ser på kroppen som en helhet hvor alle “delene” påvirker hverandre på ulike måter. Smerte er ikke alltid en god indikator på hvor hovedproblemet faktisk sitter: en skade i en fot kan for eksempel føre til smerter i skuldre og nakke som igjen kan påvirker bruk av fingre og armer under spilling. En del av arbeidet med Timani består derfor i å forstå hvor et problem kommer fra og å jobbe aktivt med å endre uheldige bevegelsesmønstre.

Timani for ikke-musikere:

Ikke musiker? Vi har alle en kropp. Her vil du få økt kunnskap om  egen kropp og bevegelsesapparat og om hvordan du gjennom bevisst trening og kroppsbruk kan endre belastende mønstre og stadig tilbakevendende problemer. I tillegg lærer du hvordan du, via kroppen kan jobbe med stress-og spenningsrelaterte problemer. Jeg er sertifisert restorative exercise instruktør innen Nutritious Movement (foreløpig den eneste i Norge) og underviser også dette systemet som en del av min Timanipraksis. Les mer om Nutritious Movement her: Nutritious movementSkjelett

Er du tangodanser og ønsker økt kunnskap om hva som kan bedre akse, balanse, stabilitet og flow på gulvet? Jeg har danset tango i 15 år og bruker aktivt elementer fra min praksis for å hjelpe kroppen til å jobbe mer optimalt på dansegulvet.

tangoskoHvis du vil lese mer om flere av temaene innen Timani så ta en titt på disse postene: om Timani og tango, om belastningsskader hos musikere, om temaer knyttet til nevrologi og kropp

  •  Ønsker du å prøve Timani? Ta kontakt på mirhla@gmail.com eller send en sms til 99 47 90 92 for å bestille time. Første time varer ca 90min, oppfølgingstimer (hvis du ønsker det) varer 1 klokketime. Timene kan tas enten der du er så fremt du har tilgang på instrument, eller hos meg på Holmlia i Oslo. Timani egner seg for alle instrumenter og for sangere men er også til nytte for alle som ønsker økt kunnskap om egen kropp og bevegelsesapparat og som vil ha hjelp til å spille mer på lag med kroppen i hverdagen. Jeg tilbyr Timani som en del av mitt foretak The listening experience og du kan lese mer om det og andre ting jeg jobber med på hjemmesiden min her
  • Ønsker du en presentasjon for elever/lærere/instruktører/medarbeidere? Hva med å starte studieåret med en grundigere kjennskap til de spesielle anatomiske, biologiske og nevrologiske utfordringene en musikkstudent møter og hva som kreves for å få kroppen til å fungere optimalt i en læresituasjon/høyskolestudium? Jeg holder foredrag og presentasjoner om teorien og tanken bak Timani for høyskoler, grupper og lærere.

image002Timani gir:

  • Anatomisk og nevrologisk kunnskap om kroppens koordinasjon og funksjonsmåter
  • Øvelser som bedrer teknikken, fremmer forholdet til instrumentet og øker uttrykksmulighetene og evnen til klangvariasjon
  • Økt mulighet for tilstedeværelse i musikken både fysisk og mentalt
  • Innsikt og kunnskap som gjør deg i stand til å forebygge og forhindre fremtidige belastningslidelser knyttet til musikkutøving eller daglig kroppsbruk
  • Mulighet til å endre mulige belastende spillemønstre og bygge deg opp etter skader.
  • Mulighet til å spille på kroppens premisser
  • Opplæring i differensiert muskelbruk og en mulighet til å utvikle et større musikalsk og teknisk overskudd i spillingen
  • Innsikt i hva som rent fysiologisk ligger bak vanlige metaforer brukt i spilleundervisning (“Spille med tyngde”, “bruke støtte” etc)

Timani er utviklet av den norske pianisten Tina Margareta Nilssen som også driver Timaniakademiet i Oslo. De tilbyr både utdannelse, kurs og privatundervisning. For mer info om Timani sjekk ut hjemmesiden her: www.timani.no