As one of my trombone students was playing warm-ups recently I saw a tree in my mind but it wasn't rooted, grounded into the soil. It was tipping over, being ripped out in a hurricane or tornado.
My student was trying to depend on his arms, shoulders, chest, and throat for stability. In reality, one of our main centers of support in our body is much lower than this. If we are standing, it's the ground and how our feet contact the ground. If we are sitting, it's how we make contact with the chair and if we allow our body's weight to move through us into the chair, into the ground.
There are other places of structural support in our body but we'll address those at another time.
One of the tell-tale signs that someone is depending on the wrong parts of their body for support is when a student runs out of air quickly and shakes while playing.
I asked this student to do something called an F Exhalation:
Sitting or standing tall without extra tension making sure feet are making full contact with the ground and if sitting your sitz bones/pelvis rests into the chair. ( your pelvis is aligned with your ribcage, your head is gently resting on top of your spine)
Slowly inhale through your mouth and blow the air out while saying a letter F, making sure your lower lip makes contact with your teeth to make an F sound. (If you are a vocalist or woodwind player say a letter S)
Notice: does your chest and shoulders immediately move downward, upward, outward, inward or a combination of those? A sign of what we call "good use" in the Alexander Technique, using your body with ease, poise, and balanced just-enough needed muscle use... the lower abdomen will move upward and inward during this exhalation; shoulders and arms will be suspended during the exhalation
This sounds like a breathing exercise, doesn't it? It is, but it is also a grounding exercise. It grounds one's breath/fascia within the body into the ground for better breathing and performance.
My trombone student was able to breathe deeper, execute his lip slurs with more ease with an uninterrupted airstream, played with a more resonant sound only having done 2-3 F exhalations.
The addition of this etude can be a game-changer with regular practice.
Try it and see what your habits are. Let me know if the F exhalation is helpful and what it illuminates.
I am available for private lessons, workshops, and professional development.