Riva Capellari

[email protected]

Located in Brookside in the heart of Kansas City

Efficiency in Movement

News of Note
Our Bodies, Ourselves
In last month’s issue I wrote about the fundamental importance of good posture for good vocal production. I would like to continue that discussion by offering a brief overview of some body works methods and practices that may help guide us to better body alignment.

Our sensory-motor system responds to life’s challenges with specific muscular reactions that become habitual. Habituation is the simplest form of learning, i.e. through repetition. On a subconscious level, these muscular reflexes become so ingrained into our central nervous system that eventually, according to the theory of Somatics, we develop sensory-motor amnesia, a state in which we no longer remember how our bodies feel when they are moving freely. Our CNS controls our body through incoming sensor data to the brain that is then delivered via the spinal cord to the muscles so they can act upon the information received. Sensory awareness is necessary to have control over our muscles and therefore, our movement. Stress can cause our muscles to contract without our knowledge and this contraction can continue uninterrupted even during sleep. No wonder so many people suffer from back pain! Muscles are designed to contract and then rest. With too much contraction and little or no rest, muscles produce too much lactid acid which irritates the sensory cells, causing pain. It also prevents blood from circulating properly in the muscle.
How our body functions helps to maintain its structure and when we lose awareness of how our bodies should be moving, the messages the brain and muscles receive are faulty. Since movement is a large part of living it is essential that we learn to move efficiently and economically. We can make lasting changes to our movement patterns by teaching our brain through self-awareness. The following is a brief overview of methods and practices that strive to lead us to this self-awareness.
Frederick M. Alexander was an actor who suffered from severe vocal problems, and launched his own investigation into their cause when traditional medicine could not help him. The Alexander Technique emphasizes conscious control over not just the “do”, but the “not do”, integrating habitual and voluntary reactions to create a healthier response. By delaying a reflexive response, we have time to think through our movements, changing our habitual patterns. This idea if inhibition, stopping ourselves from using muscles or body parts superfluously, is a major premise of his philosophy. He also places great emphasis on “primary control”, the special relationship between the head, neck and spine, suggesting that this connection influences the functional coordination of the rest of the body. His teachings work toward connecting anatomical knowledge to our awareness of how our bodies are moving to guide us back to proper movement responses.
Israeli scientist, Moshe Feldenkrais, developed a method based on similar ideas. He also emphasizes functional integration, a re-education of movement achieved by sending better messages of conscious sensations to the CNS to improve the function of the motor system. Again, to move according to what we know about how the body should works vs. habituation and to focus on a well-performed execution of an action. Like Alexander, Feldenkrais felt that understanding and being attentive to the spine and its relationship to the head was an important factor in accomplishing this task.
The goal of both of the above is to re-connect with our bodies and re-learn how to move in a manner that parallels the anatomical structural purpose of the body. This results in easy, efficient movement and less pain from compensatory and over use of muscles in movement.
T’ai Chi and Yoga are very old Eastern practices that have become increasing popular in the West. T’ai Chi or “supreme ultimate”, has its roots in ancient Chinese culture and philosophy. Balance and harmony within ourselves and nature are important elements in T’ai Chi. Its sequence of movements creates an inner peace. Patience and self-discipline are necessary for achieving success in T’ai Chi. Daily practice can help prevent illness by strengthening the body’s internal healing energy, its life force, while reducing stress through slow relaxing movements.
Yoga in Sanskrit means “union”. Like T’ai Chi, yoga is not just a physical practice, but one in which there is also an inner focus on unity, a oneness of body and mind, integrating all aspects of ourselves. In Hatha Yoga which is the form often practiced in the West, this body-mind connection develops through the breath and postures that re-align and strengthen our spines and cleanse and tone the body inside and out.
Both the slow gentle flowing movements of T’ai Chi and the postures of Yoga work the muscles, increasing blood circulation, developing a balance between strength and flexibility, improving coordination and mobility. In addition, they allow us time and space to slow down, reducing stress.
So to bring this full circle, healthy, functional body alignment and movement is of great importance to good singing and speaking. It provides a better structure for deep, full breaths, the fuel for our vocal production. And whether you are moving around on stage in a musical or standing still singing a solo in church, your body needs to be in a dynamic state of being so that it can move and flow with the music and bring about a true harmonic experience!
Awareness Through Movement. M. Feldendrais. Harpers Collins, NY. 1990.
Secrets of the Alexander Technique. R. MacDonald & C. Ness. Dorling Kindersley, NY. 2000.
The Alexander Technique: Body Awareness in Action. F. P. Jones. Schocken Books, NY. 1976.
Somatics. T. Hanna. Perseus Books, Cambridge, MA. 1988.
T’ai Chi. R. Perry. McGraw-Hill. Blakclick,Ohio. 2007.
The Everything T’ai Chi and Qigong Book. E. Elinwood. Adams Media Corp., Avon, MA. 2002.
Yoga for Life. L. Lark. Carlton Books, London. 2001.
Spring Classes and Workshops
Just a reminder that classes and Sunday workshops will start up again in the spring. I will be doing an introductory voice class through Communiversity, Saturday March 24 from 10-11am. Contact Communiversity at 816-235-1407 to enroll. Beginning voice classes are tentatively scheduled to start on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 3rd and 4th. More details will be in the March newsletter. The fee for these classes is $75. The dates for the Sunday afternoon sessions are March 18, April 15, and May 20 from 2-4 pm. The fee for all 3 sessions is $55. New attendees are always welcome. If you would like to know more about these opportunities, please visit my website at for more detailed descriptions under the services link or contact me at [email protected]. All classes and workshops are held at my Brookside studio.
Happy Valentines Day
reVoice is again offering special gift packages for Valentines Day. They range in price from $25 to $80 and can be used for private sessions or classes. Consider giving the gift of song to that special someone this year! Please contact [email protected] to purchase.
Monthly Vocab and Sound Bite
Sensory-motor amnesia (SMA) – memory loss of how muscle groups feel and how to control them – a habitual state of forgetfulness.
Somatics. T. Hanna. Perseus Books, Cambridge, MA. 1988.
The spinal cord, located in the back half of the spine, sends information to and from the brain. Body Mapping. B. Conable. Andover Press, Portland, Oregon. 2000.

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