I’ve been reflecting on a couple of ideas recently. Partly the result of working with students and pupils with particular difficulties and partly the result of reading the latest STATnews (January 2017) on Ehlers-Danlos syndrome in particular the articles by Laura Tuthall and Melissa Kelly. Firstly, I’ve been surprised by my change in attitude to the study of anatomy over the years and, secondly, I’ve always been intrigued by the question of when to use my hands in order to loosen the muscles around joints and when to compress the joints in order to provoke an expanding resistance (in the manner of the way FM places his hand on the top of the head of the pupil he is working on in the video clip we have of him.
When I trained the study of anatomy was always a kind of optional extra, only something to be encouraged in order to communicate with the medical profession and related disciplines. The result was that I finished up with a pretty scanty knowledge of musical-skeletal anatomy and I don’t think I was the least well informed AT teacher at the time. Clearly, one can do good work and teach people a lot by teaching the principles of inhibition and direction in a predominantly “thinking” manner without making precise anatomical reference. However, questions such as, “What precisely is this neck which one has to allow to be free?” did arise. Over the years a more precise knowledge came to be needed in relation to fingers, wrists, elbows and shoulders, particularly when working with musicians and others with particular requirements. Now I believe that the more accurately one can locate bones and muscles mentally the more effective one’s thought directions become.
This is where the thinking in versus thinking out issue comes in. Take the shoulder joint (the glenohumeral joint) where the upper arm meets the shoulder girdle. It is surrounded at the deepest level by a set of muscles ( the rotator cuff) whose name partly belies their function. They do in fact individually serve to rotate the head of the humerus in the glenoid fossa or cavity. However, acting in concert, they serve along with various ligaments to keep the head of the upper arm (humerus) snugly seated in the cavity. When this function becomes distorted or slackens the heavy duty movement muscles e.g. the deltoids and trees major, not to mention a number of muscles connecting to the thorax take over this work. The resultant unnecessary tension needs to be “undone” in order to restore proper functioning of the shoulder joint. This is where “thinking in” comes in. In as much as our mental representation of our body needs to match the body itself “thinking in” and connecting bone to bone snugly is a better fit than “thinking out” which in the worst case can lead to dislocation as described in Melissa Kelly’s STATnews article (check)