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Connecting with your body map

One of the first "thing" I realized, years ago, when laying on a physical therapist table, with my eyes close, was how different my right arm and hand felt from my left. At the worse point of my dystonia, my right arm brain image felt longer than my whole body and my right hand four time as big as my left!

Also, my body was not aligned, completely crooked.

The way to connect with your body map, is laying down (you can also do it standing later on) and starting at your toes, exploring the inside of your body, to see if you can feel everywhere within yourself. You slowly move up, when up to the chest, also do the arms and hands and as last move up to the face and head. It can also be a great way to relax your whole body and put yourself to sleep.

Play feeling the inside of your feet, the pressure of the soles on the floor, see if you thoughts switch to a finger when you get to the bad one.

As you play a scale or a musical passage, do you feel your thoughts switching to your bad finger?

Like meditating, feel the inside of your body, relaxed and listen to the sound of the notes. Do you hear every note, or when moving your bad finger your focus switch to it and you perceive the sound distant? Always play each note hearing the sound in your head matching the one coming out of your instrument, without shifting your thoughts/focus to the movement.

The feeling of the size of your hand compared to the other, is a good gauge to measure your level of focal dystonia, and if you are practicing too much and overstimulating it again.

All in the shoulder

Feel the axis of symmetry, feel your shoulders, where they hang, heights, forward or back, tightness. It seems all sufferers of musician's focal dystonia have a shoulder issue in common. Every time I have an OMT appointment, I ask the therapist to set my shoulder to where it should naturally be, so I can reset my brain map. It really helps.

Play up and down the scales and exercices while rotating your shoulder, forward and back, one side at a time, then both together.

Axis of symmetry

One way to remember how a hand should naturally feel, is to compare it (with your eyes closed, sensing brain map) to the non focal dystonic one.

You can also look at your good hand in a mirror and it will appear as you have a good opposite hand.

There are many ways to re-establish your axis of symmetry.

My method of choice is swimming, using a modified breaststroke, two with head under water, one above.  It enables me to concentrate on my breathing, slowly blowing out under water, being symmetrical in my arm and shoulder movements, stretching each stroke forward, always comparing my sides, relaxing, gliding in the water, reducing all movements to the essentials, clearing the mind. The goal is to achieve a state in which you connect with your entire body map, without using words or sentences, just comparing sensations and the ensuing feelings.

Also doing exercises to develop your sense of balance, matching your left and right foot, can be very beneficial.

Play very slowly while walking. Then later walk to a metronome and play slowly in time.

Play while tapping rhythm in right foot, then after a while switch to left foot. Then tap like walking right-left-right… putting one on right foot. Do same with putting one one left foot. Notice if there is any difference in the focal dystonic movements.

Play hand drums, learn a pattern and play it the opposite way.

Same with rhythm exercises, left hand right hand, left hand right foot, right hand left foot... practice all the combinations,  putting the main beat in any limb and the subdivision in any other... It helps rebalance the brain.

Eat with your fork and knife reversed, brush your teeth with the other hand.

Hold your instrument in reverse and feel how fresh and new it feels, how your body is not shaping up to the instrument.

Overstimulated side of the brain

Your focal dystonic hand is often opposite to your overstimulated side of the brain.

If you are overly logical, over analyzing with an overly active thought patterns, your left brain will be over activated and your right hand dystonic. Putting an eye patch over your right eye will quiet the left brain while you practice.

Focus on a point

(Brain focus exercises)

Feel your left foot while you play an exercise, then feel your right the next time. Do it with other body parts, avoiding your arms, hands and shoulders (as they are overstimulated).

Then do the same thing while looking at a point, for example look up to the right while you feel your left foot. Work on all the variations. You'll notice, some eye focusing spots might trigger more focal dystonia.

You may also notice your eyes shifting to a specific position when encountering a dystonic movement.

A good way to work on this aspect, is to practice behind a window, looking at the view, playing without thinking as you enjoy the sights. It also will, at the same time, keep your thoughts on another focus point than yourself. You may notice, when looking outside, the ability to play a musical passage which otherwise causes a dystonic movement.

The whole concept of where you look or gaze and how it affects how you feel is call brain spotting. It is a relatively new type of therapy to help process trauma. They are specialists working in that field.

Good posture

It is critical to re examine the way you hold the instrument, hand positions, posture.

It can take a lot of time to change bad habits, even feel uncomfortable. Never less in the long run you will stay much healthier, with less physical damage.


(Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine)

I strongly believe in the great help, proper OMM session can bring by healing/re-aligning the body while overcoming focal dystonia, and maintaining it after. If you are in California I highly recommend Dr. Katya Adachi Serrano who also works with herbs and other natural methods to help restore your health.

Connecting with your body map

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