Musicians' Health Collective

Musicians' Health Collective: Supporting the health of musicians

Ditch the Spanx, Keep Your Viscera Where They Belong

"Live the Dream," pssh...I'd rather breathe better.

"Live the Dream," pssh...I'd rather breathe better.

I realize that the topic of Spanx may seem outside the scope of the blog (now I'm telling people about undergarments?), but I promise there's a logical explanation.  When most women prepare for a recital or fancy engagement, there are usually a few concerns: the fancy dress, the fancy shoes (usually heels, much to my chagrin), and what to wear under the dress (often spanx).  Now I've ranted at length about the perils of performing standing in heels, but did you know that those spanx aren't helping anything either?  The combination is actually a bit of a biological nightmare, especially when coupled with performing and needing to breathe.  So what's the problem?

1.  Spanx and other minimalizing garments push your viscera into your diaphraghm and belly.  Basically, your squishing your wobbly bits inside of you, or pushing in and up. 

2.  This pressure can make breathing more difficult, and depending on the undergarment, prevent diaphragmatic breathing and fully belly expansion.  In addition, the pressure compromises digestion (hello, acid reflex!) and puts extra strain on the pelvic floor.

Sara Blakely, owner of Spanx, rocking the garments and the heels.  I feel pity for her innards. 

Sara Blakely, owner of Spanx, rocking the garments and the heels.  I feel pity for her innards. 

3.  Compressing garments are like orthotics for your belly, encouraging your core muscles to just check out completely instead of supporting you in a normal engagement pattern.

4. Shapewear is entirely cosmetic and not therapeutic.  Did you know that spanx now makes garments for men?  This conversation is not just for the ladies...

5.  When women wear heels, their spine and pelvis are out of alignment as well as causing mayhem for the pelvic floor muscles.  (Neutral pelvis is best for pelvic floor strength!)  Then remember that heels also compromise your ability to use your respiratory diaphragm...which you definitely need when performing, no matter your instrument.  Couple that with an elastic corset cinching your bits, and you've got a respiratory disaster! 

My big picture takeaway is that heels alone do lots of damage, as do spanx (as well as making life less pleasant), but combining them, especially for concerts, hinders performance.  Factor in your personal response to the stress of performance, and your body just needs more air and the capacity to breathe fully, without constriction.  Most wind players know this, but for some reason, vanity reigns supreme for many other musicians.  Breathing is so important, especially when under performance stress, so consider ditching the heels and spanx to play better, breathe, and keep your food where it belongs...

*On a side note, celebrities wear spanx all the time to hide their "flaws."  This perpetuates the idea that a flawless body is the norm, not the exception, and that to wear an evening gown with visible cellulite is a grave offence.  Unfortunately, that's just not a healthy or helpful notion to be sharing with the world, especially with women.*



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