Monday, September 12, 2016

Music for Wellness, Part II: Physical Benefits

Here is Part II of an article I initially wrote as a guest blogger for my friend's fitness blog. For the full article, see www.LoriKing.us.

Music’s healing properties have been applied in recent decades to the field of medicine under the umbrella of Music Therapy. According to the American Music Therapy Association, “Music therapy interventions can be designed to promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, express feelings, enhance memory, improve communication and promote physical rehabilitation.” (www.musictherapy.org). If music can have such a powerful healing effect upon those in need of medical attention, imagine the ways we all could benefit from its healing properties and positive health benefits each and every day!

One key area of physical benefit from musical performance is the cultivation of a deep breath. Deep breathing is a necessary element of correct technique for singers, woodwind players, brass players, conductors and pianists. Many string players and percussionists also benefit from the study of deep breathing techniques that coordinate with the rhythms of the music they play. The study, practice and performance of music for these breath-conscious musicians often results in greater lung capacity, relief from (or better management of) breathing maladies including asthma, decreased stress and anxiety, slower heart rate, stronger intercostal and abdominal muscles, and better oxygenation of blood cells. Deep, full breathing can slow a rapid heartbeat, calm a panic attack and provide a nearly instant supply of fresh oxygen to a stressed brain. By means of improving breath management, musical study comes out on top as a wellness-promoting activity!

Improved posture is another physical benefit of musical study. Trained musicians are taught to align their bodies properly in order to promote maximum efficiency of the muscles, breathing mechanism and resonance chambers necessary for optimal performance results. Our postures change as we age, so continued attention to posture through an ongoing pursuit of musical engagement results in potentially huge health benefits. Choral singing, band or orchestra performance, solo practicing/performing or private lessons can provide these benefits. The coordination of deep breathing techniques within the framework of excellent posture during active engagement of the body for a musical performance delivers a surprisingly empowering, positive result upon one’s health. The aerobic activity of coordinating a performance with good breath management and proper spinal and physical alignment explains why so many professional musicians are in outstanding physical condition.

For those who are not inclined to pursue musical study or performance in their adult years, enjoying recorded or live music can also create a positive atmosphere for wellness. Dancing is an excellent form of exercise and stress relief. Soft, soothing music can aid meditation or help a person wind down and relax after a long workday. Listening to jazz or classical music may help organize brain pathways. Music can improve a mood, facilitate mindfulness (staying in the present moment) and provide a lovely background to otherwise mundane activities. Being creative about implementing a musical accompaniment to parts of one’s day can be fun and joy-giving.

Music and the arts contribute immeasurably to the core of our culture, and to the beauty and creativity within our daily lives. The mental, emotional and physical benefits of incorporating music for wellness are significant and measurable. How can you immerse yourself in a health-giving musical activity today?