Musicians' Health Collective

Musicians' Health Collective: Supporting the health of musicians (and normal people)

Suzuki Turn-Out No More

     I started my humble music career as a Suzuki violinist, beginning at the age of 6.  While there are many useful and important things I learned in my early training, standing position was not one of them (Although that could be a function of my youth at the time).  Let me explain a bit more, for those non-violinist or violists out there.

This is a perfect example of learning "proper" violin stance.  Start with the feet together, then turn the feet out (like a duck) and then step the left foot forward.

This is a perfect example of learning "proper" violin stance.  Start with the feet together, then turn the feet out (like a duck) and then step the left foot forward.

When one learns beginning violin, often one is told to turn the feet out and step the left foot forward.  I learned this way, and stood this way for a long time.  (Over 15 years, at least).  A few years ago, I started noticing that in yoga, we were told to have both feet pointing forward.  I instead wondered, why do I turn my feet out when I play?  I have since started experimenting with this concept. 

This adorable image is from Shirley Givens' violin series, showing that left foot turnout.  In addition, the girl puts much more weight on her left foot, enhancing the asymmetry of the stance.

This adorable image is from Shirley Givens' violin series, showing that left foot turnout.  In addition, the girl puts much more weight on her left foot, enhancing the asymmetry of the stance.

So why the fuss?  Feet are supposed to point forward, and you may already remember that when you walk with your feet turned out, you put yourself at a much higher risk for bunions because the arch-side of the foot is making contact with the shoe/ground, and bone begins to build there.  (In addition, when feet point forward, the musculature of the foot is better able to support the body in standing and walking, and the ankle joint cooperates more fully.)  Fortunately for you, I don't only care about your feet, but I care about your hips too.  When one hip is perpetually externally rotated (left hip), we start to exaggerate the asymmetry that is already present in our left side.  That means that one set of external hip rotators gets tighter/shorter, and that our pelvis may begin to tilt towards one side.  What does that look like? 

See how the right side is higher than the left?  Mine is the opposite-my left side is shorter than my right.  Pelvic tilt Image from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/

See how the right side is higher than the left?  Mine is the opposite-my left side is shorter than my right.  Pelvic tilt Image from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/

So before you start to think that I'm a brilliant person, let me just say that the reason I came to this conclusion is because I started to have this very problem.  Here are my personal symptoms, which may or may not be yours:

1. My left foot consistently turns out more than my right, whether I'm in music mode, standing, cooking, walking, running, etc. 

2.  This in turns causes my left external rotators hip to be unruly.  (Muscles include my gluteus medius, TFL, Quadratus lumborum, and the iliotibial band of fascia.

3.  I also have the beginnings of a baby bunion on my left foot from that turn out.

4.  From a combination of asymmetrical music-making and left foot turn out, my entire left side is loads tighter than my right, which means that I sometimes have back pain and other issues on just the left side.

So what's the solution?  Start to get curious. 

-How do you stand when you're playing? 

-Do your feet turn out when you walk/run/play/sit/etc?  Start experimenting with changing that setup and see if it changes how you feel.  It can have ramifications all around the lower body, specifically feet/knees/hips, but maybe affects other aspects as well.

 

Powered by Squarespace. Home background image by kayleigh miller.