Accurate Body Knowledge

by Robert Rickover

There is a “law of human movement” which can be stated something like this:

If there exists a discrepancy between the actual structure of your body, and the way your body works, and your conception of that structure and operation, it’s your conception that will determine the way you move.

And because that conception does not match the reality of the situation, you will inevitably move in ways that are less efficient, and which produce harmful, even dangerous, strain in your body. Moreover, it really doesn’t matter if your false conception is a consciously held one or not.

This is an idea that certainly rings true for anyone who has taught or studied the Alexander Technique.  And hints of it can be found in the writings of the Technique’s founder, F. Matthias Alexander.

In the past few decades several Alexander Technique teachers have created bodies of work designed to bring our self-conception in line with the physical reality of ourselves.  These can all be extremely useful complements to the center of gravity work described on this site – work which itself is largely concerned with correcting false, yet commonly held, misconceptions of how our bodies are designed to relate to gravity. They are all well worth investigating as you proceed with the Up With GravitySM lesson series.

Here are brief summaries of three of these bodies of work:

Body Mapping: This is probably the best known of the three.  Developed by Alexander Technique teachers William and Barbara Conable, Body Mapping is a simple and effective way of correcting faulty self-mapping.  It is in essence a course in simple, practical, human anatomy.  Not the “anatomy at a distance” you’ll find in anatomy text books, but rather learning, on yourself, such things as where your joints are and how they function.

Body Mapping is an extremely easy process to use and it’s one that can benefit people of all ages, including small children.  (Sometimes I teach a course I call “Kindergarten Anatomy” – anatomy that any 5-year old can grasp at use right away – if they were taught it!)

One of the best places to learn the basics of Body Mapping is William and Barbara’s classic book, How to Learn the Alexander Technique: A Manual for Students.  It’s a book I recommend to all my students.

Andover Educators runs trainings based on Body Mapping and provides a great deal of information – including some wonderful videos – on their website.

Posture Release Imagery: John Appleton, an Alexander Technique teacher Springfield Missouri, has over the past ten years or so, created a fascinating system based on the correct mapping, and utilization, of our dorsal and ventral surfaces, a unique concept of body “segmentation,” as well as four postural types.

Many people have found it extremely helpful in improving the way they sit, stand and move. John has put his entire system on-line for anyone to access here:  Like Body Mapping, it is an excellent complement to the center of gravity work described on this site.

You can listen to an interview with John here:


You can find additional interviews with John here:

The Art of Breathing: This is a system developed by Jessica Wolf, an Alexander Technique teacher in New York City.  It is designed to bring your ideas about how breathing works into line with the actual structure and functioning of your ribs, lungs, diaphragm etc. Most people – even singers and public speakers – have seriously faulty concepts of how their breathing works and Jessica’s work is an extremely important self-help tool.  You can learn more about it here:

You can also listen to an interview with Jessica here:


Additional interviews about the Art of Breathing can be found here:

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /