Definition: Body Mapping

Body Mapping is a term that is strictly an on off-shoot from the Alexander Technique but it is one that is gradually being used and understood as being an extremely useful concept, within the larger Alexander community.

A person's body map is their perception, understanding and experience of their own body-shape and size, plus how and where their own joints move and how their body functions. Sometimes we have an accurate sense of our body map and generally move with poise and an easy co-ordination.

However, when a person's body map is incorrect, there is an incongruence between their perceptions and their actual body, resulting in awkward, tense movements, mis-use and injury. For example, many people tend to 'fix' their hip joints, so that they do not hinge efficiently during actions such as sitting down. When asked by their Alexander Teacher, these people are generally unaware of this restriction and are unable to locate the position of their hip joints, pointing to the solid bones of the pelvis instead, which do not form a joint and therefore cannot fold and bend as the person sits down or stands up.

Once pupils become aware of this joint, gain the kinaesthetic experience of exactly where and how it moves, perhaps also observing their actions in a mirror, they can begin to allow the joint and therefore their sitting movement, to be more free. In this way they can begin to correct their body map and consciously change the way they move, letting go patterns of mis-use. Gradually this learning can be transferred to more and more actions such as walking, or the complicated activity of using pedals whilst playing the piano or drums.

The term and theory of Body Mapping was originally developed by Alexander Teachers Barbara and William Conable, who have had a particular focus in working with musicians. William Conable is also cello professor at the Ohio State University School of Music. Body Mapping has been described in detail by Barbara Conable, in her books 'How to Learn the Alexander Technique' and 'What Every Musician Needs to Know about the Body' and it has formed the basis for courses that are taught around the world.

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