sway back exercises?

Deanna said: Sep 18, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
90 posts

I have a few students that stand with a sway back and I’m looking for some exercises or ways to help correct it. All three of them lock their knees, their hips swing forward and then their necks reach forward to try to hold the violin. One of them I didn’t make a big deal about it when she started and it’s turned into a huge problem for her posture now. The other two are beginners and I don’t want them to have the same problem.

Any ideas of what to do? I think basically all of them just need to tilt their pelvis so their tailbones point toward the floor, but how do you explain that to a 5 year old? I’ve got them all doing knee bends and side lunges to get them to unlock their knees but I can’t seem to get the idea of a straight/neutral spine across or how to tilt their pelvises. I suggested to the one mom to have her daughter practice on an exercise ball and to roll back and forth to feel the pelvis tilting.
I just feel so stuck and badly for these kids who are really trying hard to do what I ask but I’m just not explaining it in a way that makes sense to them. That and they don’t have the body awareness yet to know how to move that way.
Any ideas please! I’m getting desperate!

Brenda Lee Villard said: Sep 18, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
Edina, MN
27 posts

Sorry, I’m just a cellist….but for what it’s worth, I have the kids do “soccer butt”. I put a soccer ball on the chair behind them and then have them sit further back on the chair. Their feet must be able to stay flat on the floor, but they have to scoot their butt back far enough that it touches the ball. They then have to lean the “cello chest” into the cello and it pretty much straightens up their back—no sway back and no slouching backwards(for those with that problem—and it helps the feet to feel grounded. Not sure how that would work with violinists, but it could be a place to start…?? Good Luck!!

Barb said: Sep 18, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

I have a plastic skeleton which I use to show posture. I use it to show “sit bones” vs. tailbone for sitting with the cello, but it might be helpful for you to show the tilt of the pelvis. Those with less body awareness usually benefit from looking at themselves in a mirror.

Interesting idea with the soccer ball, Brenda, but almost all my students sit on stools!

I have wondered about something. Toddlers sit on the floor with amazing balance and straight backs, but they run around with very swayed backs. When and why do these things change?

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Diane said: Sep 19, 2011
Diane AllenViolin
245 posts

When Paula Bird did a masterclass for my students she grabbed a couple books about an inch high each. With the student in playing position she put the books under their feet up to the ball of each foot. The student can’t help but unlock the knees because they would fall over backwards. I don’t remember what happened to the sway back with the books.

I also have a balance board. It’s plywood 18 inches square. Underneath in the middle there is a 4×4. When students stand on it they naturally assume great posture.

I think sitting on an exercise ball does the same thing too.

Smiles! Diane

Diane
http://www.myviolinvideos.com
Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Brenda Lee Villard said: Sep 19, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
Edina, MN
27 posts

All great ideas! Other than the smallest kids who use the adjustable stools, I can’t imagine having a stool for every size kid in my studio! I use the adjustable piano chair, so I guess that’s why the soccer ball idea works for me. Another idea for helping kids to understand the tallness of the back and squareness of shoulders is to have them lie down on the floor and play. My teacher, Tanya Carey, does this technique all the time and used to have me play that way, as well as have groups of students and teacher trainee classes do it. It’s amazing and I’ve seen violinists and violists do it as well.

Allison Sargent said: Sep 19, 2011
Allison SargentViolin, Viola
Pflugerville, TX
13 posts

I love the balance board idea. That seems like it’d be fun for the kids. Something different! Did you make your own? or do you have one of those exercise ones?

I have a few kids with this problem as well. I ask them to pretend they are a puppet and relax their whole body, then I tug on their hair on top their head to try to have them straighten up. They immediately stand taller! (doing this near a mirror helps!)

Also, if you tell them to squeeze their butt together it fixes that pelvic problem. Kind of funny too. ;) Or tell them to think of their belly button and button it in to their back. Or have them point their belly button in different directions to get the point across of how to move their pelvic bone in the right direction.

I struggled with this posture when I was a kid and locked my knees while I played. Once in a lesson I literally fainted mid Vivaldi concerto! Fell back, collapsed and hit my head on the piano. My teacher saved my violin while I fell. I can’t imagine how she felt. Scared I’m sure! I woke up with some frozen peas on my head. :)(She even had me finish my lesson sitting in a chair.) I tell this story to all my students and they get a good picture of why they shouldn’t lock their knees.

If you have the kids walk around while playing something easy or sway back and forth it will help with the idea of bending the knee.

I use the laying down idea every once in a while and the kids have a lot of fun with it! Just make sure you explain that they need to button their belly button to the floor so that arched back relaxes and they lie flat.

Allison K. Sargent
http://sargentstrings.com

Barb said: Sep 19, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Brenda—I have my smaller students bring their own stools/chairs so that everything is consistent at home and lessons (and I can tell them when they need to move up as they grow). If they are using a standard height I have a folding studio stool, which most liked enough to buy their own for home since it is nice and flat and most chairs slope. I have one student who prefers the (also flat) chair I have over the stool, and one who brings his own folding adjustable cello chair. I like to sit a bit higher and use a piano bench myself most of the time.

I have seen the violins lying down—was thinking of trying this for cello—good to hear it can be done—now I will definitely try it!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Deanna said: Sep 19, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
90 posts

Thank you all for the ideas!
I will defnitely try the idea with the books—you put the book under their toes right, not under their heels?
The balance board sounds really good too. I’m also interested—did you make it yourself or buy one?
With the soccer ball maybe I could get the girls to try it without their violins first and then try sitting and playing.
I have tried swaying while playing but they mostly sway with their hips rather than bend their knees—I actually physically had to bend their knee for them and it was super hard for them to do. It took so much focus for them to bend their knees and not their hips they couldn’t play at the same time.
I haven’t tried lying down yet—this week I’ll try it. And I love the language of “button your bellybutton to your back” that’s exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!

I’ll let you know how it goes. Their lesson are all later this week.

Paula Bird said: Sep 19, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Yes books under the balls of the feet. No more than 1″ thick. Playing and swaying or walking is a great way to do it. They’ll get better at it with practice. This is a fun group activity as is the yoga Mountain Pose. I did a series of posture posts on my blog. Just search “posture” to pull them up.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Diane said: Sep 19, 2011
Diane AllenViolin
245 posts

The Balance Board -
Here’s a headless video so you can see it!

http://www.myviolinvideos.com/allendianevideomakingabalanceboard.html

While you’re there—check out the Blog posts about Kerstin Wartberg. Her stories are fascinating. I expect to have enough material for another 2—3 blog posts. Since she was so generous in sharing I wanted to reciprocate by letting as many people as possible know so they can read her amazing stories.

Smiles! Diane

Diane
http://www.myviolinvideos.com
Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Sue Hunt said: Sep 20, 2011
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
390 posts

Have you tried doing gentle knee bends:
a, while holding the instrument and/or bow in playing position to Twinkle variation A “Everybody DOWN UP”
b, at the ends of phrases in pieces in the first half of book 1. Get used to doing this while listening, then while playing.

Of course, moving and dancing while playing are great for loosening things up.

Music in Practice

Jennifer Visick said: Sep 20, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

I use a not-all-the-way-inflated 14″ dynadisc, and ask the students to see if they can stand on it with both feet under their hips (viola/violin “playing position” stance) without touching the floor, then I “spot” them by lightly placing my hands on their hips while standing behind them when they feel up to trying it with instrument in hand.

But after looking at Diane’s video, I think that may be a better idea—or at least a faster and/or safer one, since the 4×4 seems easier to balance on.

Also, regarding imagery for tilting the pelvis: I was at the New Mexico Suzuki Institute in Albuquerque where I heard Robyn Avalon (an Alexander Teacher) talk to kids about imagining they had tails. She had them pretend they had a duck tail (sticks up), a dog tail (a dog with it’s tail between it’s legs—over-arching down), and a dinosaur tail (or a kangaroo tail) that was just lightly brushing the floor about 1 to 2 feet behind their heels. She had them walk, move their arms up and down, and play with all three kinds of “tails”—then asked them which “tail” made things easier. This works, and it’s an easy image for the kids to recall.

Plus, it usually makes their tone quality sound more resonant and free and “fluent” :-)

Deanna said: Sep 20, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
90 posts

Thanks, Diane, for the video -I’m definitely going to make one of those balance boards.

Sue—I have tried doing the knee bends—I think I will try with just listening—as you suggested since bending while playing is really hard for them.

RaineJen—I love the tails idea!

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