I have always known that playing the piano involved the entire body and that good health is imperative to performing at one's best. When I'm not feeling well, any sense of rhythm is out the window. Most of the time I have associated this central truth with respiratory infections and injuries/aches in the hands, arms, and shoulders. Over the holidays, I was reminded of just how important a healthy body is to my playing.
On Christmas Eve, I broke the smallest toe on my left foot. I'll spare you the details of how it happened because I've shared it in other posts and it is rather embarrassing to admit that I am such a klutz! Initially I didn't think anything about it; I assumed it would be a minor inconvenience at the most. Imagine my surprise when my first practice session after the holidays was a disaster that accomplished very little. What was the problem? I could only play at one tempo -- the one that was being pounded into my body by the throbbing in my toe. I tried rehearsing with my foot elevated in a chair. That completely threw off my balance and resulted in tension in my shoulders.
The swelling began to subside in a few days and I tried to go back to the practice routine. I still couldn't put any pressure on the outside of my left foot. Sounds were unbalanced because my body was unbalanced. I noticed that I was making awkward movements with my arms and wrists to compensate for what was going on in my feet. (Thank God for the mirror next to my piano!) I am in the process of learning music for a Britten Centennial festival next month and didn't want to ingrain any bad form into my playing while learning the repertoire. So I spent a week working on the music away from the piano.
Now that I've been away from the piano for a couple of weeks, I am finally beginning to get my feet back under me. I'm still unable to work for long stretches of time, but I'm finding enough balance in my body again to get back on the bench and work through some of the more challenging passages. By the time my schedule returns to the normal level of craziness at the end of the month, I'm sure I'll be physically ready to take on the musical challenges. Until that time, I just have to let my body mend and trust that things will get better with each passing day.