What I would like to share with you in this blog are 4 ways to enjoy playing guitar without pain. You can subscribe to my free 10-part eCourse below below:
If you are currently suffering from pain, or you are just thinking about preventing it in the future – this is a blog post for you.
‘Bad posture’ is one of the main reasons why guitarists have pain. It creates pressure on muscles and joints, and this pressure may result in tension that can become chronic and lead to pain.
‘Sit up straight’ – this is a typical advice for posture improvement. Try to do it now and see how long you can maintain it for. Did you enjoy it? I didn’t.
Let me be brutally honest with you. It’s not only useless to try to sit up straight, it can be harmful. This is not how our posture can be improved. It simply doesn’t work this way.
The way I would recommend you to go about it is by starting to release unnecessary tensions.
One simple and safe exercise I would suggest you start doing is an Alexander Technique procedure sometimes known as semi-supine lay down, or constructive rest. It’s basically about lying on the floor and doing as little as possible! (I’m sure some of you will love it)
Before you can release into more natural poise, you need to let go of what is holding you back, and this exercise is perfect for this.
I created some basic guidelines to help you get started here.
Practice your constructive rest regularly to enjoy more ease and comfort in your body. Your posture should start improving by itself and you will enjoy more ease in playing. Do it regularly to reap its full benefits. It’s worth it, but don’t take my word for it. Test it for yourself.
2. Understand your body design
Your beliefs and ideas about how your body works will affect how you move and feel in your body.
If those ideas are accurate, then good for you. Your mind and body will cooperate. But if your ideas are not accurate – you will most likely feel discomfort and pain.
Let me give you an example. Try this experiment:
- First imagine that your arm has 3 joints: shoulder, elbow and wrist. Imagine that your arm starts at your shoulder joint. Then move your arm around. Explore different movements.
- Now imagine that your arm has an extra joint. It’s between your collar bone and chest bone (just below the throat) Imagine that your arms starts there. Explore moving your arm with this awareness?
What did you notice? Did you notice a difference? I bet you did. And I bet that the second exploration was more easy and free. It is so because what you thought corresponded to anatomical truths about human body.
In order to help your body you need to update your understanding of how it is designed to work. It’s like downloading the software update for your ‘how to use my body’ app!
Fortunately this information doesn’t have to be very detailed. What you need to know is simple. If I can get it, you can get it – trust me.
Here’s another example of what I’m talking about:
3. Focus on the process
There is nothing wrong with having goals and wanting to achieve them. What does matter is how you go about achieve your goals.
It is so easy to forget about what we are doing when we are striving to achieve our goals. And what we usually do is actually straining and putting pressure on our bodies. I already explained how ongoing pressure may result in pain.
In The 7 Habits of Highly Efficient People Stephen Covey advises us to begin with the end goal in mind. That’s a great piece of advice.
But once you know what your goal is, you then focus on the process.
- How am I going to go about achieving my goal?
- What’s my plan/strategy?
You need to have a clear plan of how are you going to get there. And while you’re getting there, you need to stay in touch with yourself, environment and the process.
- Am I present here and now?
- Am I in touch with myself?
- Am I using appropriate effort for achieving this goal?
- Am I using appropriate strategy/tool for achieving this goal?
And so on…
4. Apply guitar ergonomics
What looks cool is not always what is best for your body.
E.g. if your guitar is too low, you may have to strain your wrist and twist your shoulder in order to be able to reach the fretboard. If this is your default guitar position, then doing it regularly will put constant pressure on your muscles and joints. Ouch!
The secret is to bring the instrument to you, not the other way round.
Start with finding a comfortable posture without the guitar, and then bring your instrument to your body. Put it in such a place that you can easily and comfortably reach the strings and the fretboard.
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I wrote more tips for this article, but I didn’t want it to be overwhelming, so I just shared 4 of them. You can get them all for FREE by subscribing to my list:
Here’s the list of all parts in the series.
10 ways to enjoy playing guitar without pain
- Use less effort
- Relax your body
- Improve your posture
- Practise body awareness
- Understand your body design
- Improve your head-spine coordination
- Focus on the process
- Introduce positive practice habits
- Apply guitar ergonomics
- Practice wide attention