A HEALTHY POSTURE FOR WORSHIP – Harrison Wood (Hillsong Worship)

Ultimately, our health can either help or hinder what God has for us to do, even if our hearts and minds are willing.

I’ve recently been through a tough season where God was blessing my gift, rewarding my diligence, and opening new doors of opportunity for me, but only to find myself unable to walk through them because of my health and physical condition.

Whatever sphere of life we’re in, we need to be taking care of our bodily temple. Here’s a bit of my story…

Playing drums in church for me began at the age of 10. By the time I turned 15, I was playing every week at youth, Sunday services, etc. As early as I can remember, my drumming teacher took me through the fundamentals like technique, posture, and set-up, before we delved into anything else.
As the years went on and life expanded (as it does for everyone), there were more demands on my time and I couldn’t practice as much as when I was in school. For example, I used to come home every day and practice for 4-6 hours every night, which was no longer feasible.

After about 5 years of serving regularly, I was offered the opportunity to tour overseas with our worship team. This was a brand new experience for me, that came with the responsibility of looking after my fellow team, as well as myself. I had to make sure I was eating healthy, staying energised, and always ready for the high-demand schedule —  diet and exercise were crucial in keeping me from complete exhaustion on the road. Fitness on tour often means finding a gym wherever you are, or creating your own on-the-spot exercises.

Health priorities started off high on my list, but gradually I began to forget, or get distracted  by other things I needed to be doing. Throughout this time there was one other major thing I didn’t factor in – I wasn’t paying close attention to my drum setup.

Over the years, I gradually made these changes to my setup…

  • tilting my snare forward so hitting the rim was easier
  • sitting higher so the toms sat lower
  • hi-hats raised a little higher
  • my SPD-SX (drum sampling pad) changed position
  • All of these adjustments seemed fine to me because I was hitting everything the way I wanted, but the rest of my body eventually began to tell me otherwise. Because exercise was less frequent, and my setup unknowingly changed for the worse, it began to take a toll on my health.
  • Sitting higher, with my toms sitting lower meant I was rolling my shoulders forward to hit them
  • The hi-hats were sitting in a spot that made my hips sit unevenly when I put my feet down
  • Because my SPD-SX was behind the floor toms, I was straining my back whenever I needed to reach and play it with both sticks
  • With my snare being slightly tilted, one shoulder was raised and sitting unevenly with my other shoulder

Eventually, after one of my longest times on the road, friction developed between my shoulder and bicep tendon, as well as the bursa that cushioned the humeral head of my shoulder joint. The resulting inflammation caused chronic pain that inevitably caused me to take time off. There were also back problems that developed because I was playing for 2-3 hours each night.
You could say things were out of place. I had to make a change if I wanted to keep playing.

Being someone with an fairly impatient personality, “rest” was not the solution I wanted to hear. To me it meant doing nothing, with a side of not playing drums! Honestly, I didn’t know how much I needed it until I actually started resting.

I learned the hard way that if one thing goes, the rest of me has to compensate to carry the load. And isn’t that often the same for the other areas of our lives? Work, family, finances, etc.
Over time, it became so bad that I physically couldn’t play without being in excruciating pain. Here’s what had happened:

  • From infrequent exercise, my core strength had decreased which meant I wasn’t supported from the front when I sat up straight, and my shoulders rolled forward
  • My upper back wasn’t strengthened, so my shoulders weren’t being pulled back
  • My glutes weren’t strengthened, so my lower back wasn’t supported properly by the largest muscle in the body
  • I wasn’t consciously taking note of the 3kg weight my head places on the base of my neck if it’s not sitting upright, causing the bone to eventually bulge
  • I wasn’t stretching as much as I should’ve been before AND after each time I play. Better mobility and flexibility means better flow of blood to the right places

Like any physical issue, it took time to heal…no shortcuts. Patience, prayer, and consistency were paramount to my healing. Eventually I was able to start doing more exercises and strengthen the right areas without aggravating my shoulder and causing more inflammation.

From here I started changing my drum setup to compliment my exercises:

  • I remained a little higher on the drum stool so my hips and hip-flexors weren’t compressed, but if I sat higher, the rest had to move up with me
  • My snare was raised higher so it forced me to straighten my back, keeping my forearm at the right angle to hit it
  • My hi-hats moved so I could sit naturally, and my legs weren’t hugging the snare drum or sitting on an uneven level
  • My SPD-SX now only sat either next to the rack tom or on the other side of my hi-hats so it worked naturally like an auxiliary snare or something similar
  • I focused on pushing my glutes out when I sat down to straighten my back

Everything was within my reach comfortably.

What I learnt through the healing process allowed me to come back to play even stronger than I had before. God was able to speak to me, showing me things in the quiet season that not only helped me deal with my injury, but prepared my heart better for the platform.
The apostle Peter tells us that we have each received a gift, and to use our gifts for others as ‘faithful stewards’ of God’s grace (1 Peter 4:10). We need to be preparing in the physical realm to complement the breaking of strongholds in the Spiritual realm.

In 1 Timothy 4, Paul encourages Timothy to train for godliness. He goes on to say “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also the life to come” (1 Tim 4:8 ESV). Paul doesn’t say physical training is of no value – it is still important amongst our earthly disciplines, but tells us that godliness is most valuable in both our earthly and heavenly lives.

For me, it was evident God was still opening doors for me to play and serve Him, but it was up to me to steward my gift well, being diligent to ready myself for battle.
Wherever we serve week-to-week, it’s important to take practical note of where the strength behind our serving comes from. If I’m moving correctly, my setup will serve my posture over the long-term. If you’re a musician, learn to recognize the physical components of your playing, like which muscles support each movement. If you need to get some more information, find a physical therapist or similar expert, and simply ask questions and invite feedback!
Physical awareness is crucial to maintaining longevity in your gifting, and a healthy posture of worship.

Whatever sphere of life you’re in, prioritise taking care of your bodily temple. Our physical and natural boundaries impact the call of God on our lives, regardless of the readiness of our heart and attitude and the opportunities God puts in front of us.

SOURCE – Hillsong.com

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