The Body as an Instrument

Talk to anyone in an orchestra (or anyone who is a musician, for that matter) and they will tell you that their instrument needs constant proper care. String instruments need to be tuned and bows rosined, woodwind instruments need their reeds properly stored and moistened, and drums need to have their membranes tightened. If these steps were not consistently taken to ensure the instruments' top performance, the entire orchestra would sound disgracefully out of tune.

Often, musicians will even put the welfare of their instruments above that of themselves. I had a violinist friend tell me a story once of how an acquaintance of hers fainted while the strings section was standing on grandstand-style benches. The young lady was in the third or fourth row up and was standing right at the edge. As she fell, her stand partner grabbed the violin and bow from her hands, and she plummeted off the grandstand to the floor below to land on her head and neck. Miraculously, she was unhurt; but her first question, when she regained consciousness, was whether or not her violin was undamaged. I was immensely surprised when I heard this story, and expressed my disbelief that anyone would prefer their instrument to be saved as opposed to themselves. My friend, in turn, said that the instrument was usually quite expensive and that it was their livelihood in some cases. Therefore, it was paramount to protect the instrument, since a musician simply cannot play without one, whereas they may still be able to play even if they are injured in some way. Years later, as I ponder her tale from the perspective of a massage therapist, I think how wonderful it would be if everyone viewed their bodies as the miraculous instruments they are.

Think about it for a moment. Our bodies are some of the most finely tuned creations on this earth. Our nervous system fires and our muscles respond with such precision that we can do everything from gently caressing a baby's downy hair, and feeling its gentle tickle on our hands in turn, to grasping something forcefully enough to cause damage. Our circulatory system and heart ensure that oxygen and other vital nutrients are delivered to every part of our body. Our digestive system breaks down the food we eat into components small enough to be passed into the bloodstream and taken to the places that most need them. If even one element of our bodies does not work properly, the rest of the body is thrown off kilter. Sadly, most people ignore the little things that go wrong with their bodies. They power through a cold or shrug off a sore joint or muscle. It's just something that will go away in a few days, and if it doesn't, then they might pay attention to it. But only if it's seriously inconveniencing them. If this philosophy which we apply so constantly to our bodies was applied to the aforementioned orchestra instruments, the musicians would soon be lacking a fit item to play. Strings would be broken, reeds would refuse to vibrate appropriately, drums would lack their powerful resonance, and the overall sound would be that of chaos.

If, on the other hand, people cared for their bodies as if they were their most priceless instrument – as they truly are – then the utmost care would be taken to not only treat problems as they occur, but also to prevent them from manifesting in the first place. Preventive care would take precedence, and curative care would be used only when a problem hitherto undetected made itself known. How wonderful that would be! Exercise, massage, stress relief, stretching – these and many more would be indispensable parts of everyone's routine because then they would be truly well. With this in mind, then, I urge you to find something that you enjoy that keeps you "in tune." Whether it be massage, yoga, some form of exercise, playing games with friends, reading books, or just sitting outside at night to enjoy the stars and let the cares of the day slip away from you, it is paramount that you keep your instrument in the finest shape you possibly can. After all, violins may be expensive, but ultimately they can be replaced. Your bodily instrument is the only one you will ever have.