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Teaching Manuals: A Resource for Body Mapping Educators

Section Two: Balance

Please individualize your course regarding your own language, movement activities, and research. You may choose to begin your course with Section Two, as the content is easier to grasp than in Section One.

Throughout the training manuals, text boxes highlight information that may be instrument specific, or may help clarify a concept. The trainee can decide when this information is appropriate for their audience.

Students may see a big difference in their movement from the very beginning if this choice is made. However, students will still need to become aware of their kinesthetic sense, understand the location of the receptors, and have a basic understanding of inclusive awareness.

Refer to Section Two Supplement for Barbara’s comments on the difference between imagining and perceiving our bodies.

 

Why Musicians Need Body Mapping

  • Music serves and enriches our lives socially and personally.

  • Body Mapping makes it easier to create compelling and artistically satisfying musical performances.

  • Body Mapping has the potential to save musical careers.

  • Learning accurate information about the body in movement is the most efficient way to teach any musical skill.

  • Injury is at epidemic levels among student and professional musicians. This may lead to mental health issues that arise from being in chronic pain.

  • Body Mapping offers a framework for integrated movement to improve music making and alleviate pain and injury.

 

Moshe Feldenkrais - “When you know what you are doing, you can do what you want.”

 

What is Dynamic Balance?

The balance we are seeking is a dynamic balance that allows integrated whole body movement. Standing and sitting at balance implies a neutral place where the most possible variety of movement is attainable. From this place weight is both delivered down (weight-delivery) from the top and supported upward from the floor and seat (weight-bearing).

 

Why We Teach Dynamic Balance

  • There is a prevalence of cultural and pedagogical myths regarding posture that cause pain and lack of mobility.

  • Dynamic balance promotes facility, tone quality and ease of breathing.

 

Learning Objectives for Section Two

  • Dynamic balance for sitting and standing will be trained.

  • The weight bearing and weight distributing function of the core of the body will be understood.

  • Location of the Six Places of balance will be understood.

 

Learning Outcomes for Section Two

Teacher Goals

  • Clearly explains the six places of dynamic balance.

  • Defines core.

  • Provides basic information about connective tissue.

  • Explains and demonstrates the laws of the spine.

  • Models excellent sitting and standing balance.

 

Participant Goals

  • Understands the location, structure and function of the six places of dynamic balance.

  • Gains basic understanding of connective tissue and the role it plays in support and weight distribution.

  • Experiences the laws of the spine through movement activities.

  • Experiences sitting and standing at dynamic balance.

  • Identifies personal mismappings.

 

Useful Models for This Section of The Course

  • Full-size spine

  • Full skeleton

  • Skull and Atlas/axis

103 Andover-Proj18_bal masc_DOTS.jpg

Image 2.1 : Balance Mascot

 

Recommendations


1) Have copies of this balance mascot to pass out. Students may use stickers or draw to designate the points of balance as you go through them. Only Holly Fischer images may be photocopied. See ABME image policy. (https://abme.wildapricot.org/resources/Documents/Images/Image%20Use%20Policy%20Updated%206.23.pdf)

2) Have a skeletal model to refer to throughout this section.

This section of the course is designed to answer the questions:

1) How shall I stand? How shall I sit?

The short answer is: according to one’s actual structure, as indicated by this picture, and using the weight distributing and weight bearing capacity of the skeleton and connective tissue.

2) What are the problems with the terms posture and relaxation?

Posture often means shoulders back, straight spine, and bottom tucked in. Sometimes posture creates a different pattern: an over-arched lumbar region and a pelvis that flips up in the back (“duck butt.”) Relaxation is too general to be helpful, and often means collapse.

Definition of Posture: The roots are positura, which means a position, and ponere, which means to place, "to pose, to place; the position or carriage of the body in standing or sitting, the assumed disposition of the parts of the body in standing, sitting, etc."

3) What is the structure of the spine? (this is likely review from Section 1) Where is the weight bearing portion?

Show that the weight bearing/delivering part of the spine is in the front part because the front half of the vertebrae are stacked in their design, unlike the back portion. The cushiony discs are in the front part of the spine. Show that the back half of the spine functions as protection for the spinal cord and has processes and connections for muscles.

Definition of Weight: The gravitational force on an object. This is measured when the object is at rest, and constitutes a measure of its mass.

Definition of Load: Any source of force or mechanical resistance. The load could be a heavy object that one would lift (a mass load), an elastic band (elastic load), etc.

When we are talking about a steady posture, “weight distribution” is used, since the only forces are gravitational. If you are moving around, there are additional forces due to accelerating parts of your body. So, “load distribution” would be more appropriate as it is a more general term (weight is a type of load).

 

4) How is the word “core” defined differently in Body Mapping literature from other somatic approaches?

 

The body is architecturally designed around a skeletal core that, like an apple core, is located in the center throughout the body. The central organizing feature of the body is the vertical spine. The Association for Body Mapping Education teach six balance places that help us better understand and access this central skeletal support system that allows us to move freely as bipeds. In many other somatic methods, “core” is used to refer to the muscles of the torso including the front, back and sides. In Body Mapping, we use the word to refer to the vertical system of support that lives deep within the body. Elements that comprise our “core” are:

  • Bony structure

  • Deep support muscles

  • Fascia that surrounds the bony structure and deep support muscles

Definition of Connective Tissue: “As a diversified, ubiquitous and three-dimensional tissue, connective tissue permeates every corner of your anatomy. It is so pervasive, in fact, that if we could magically extract everything out of you that is not connective tissue —muscle, nerve and epithelial tissue— your shape would remain virtually the same. And it is not without variety in shape and composition. Your bones, fasciae, tendons, ligaments, bursae, joint capsules, cartilage, periosteum, blood and lymph fluids, adipose tissue and mucus are all forms of connective tissue. And they are separate in name only, for each of these connective tissue structures is intertwined with all of the other structures of connective tissue.” (Biel, 2015)

In Body Mapping we focus primarily on the bones, as they are easiest to identify as a component of connective tissue and because they form joints where we can easily feel movement. Many basic anatomy classes follow this model of starting with the skeletal system.

 

5) What are the compression and tensional elements in the body that allow it to move as a biotensegral system?

  • Bones are the compression elements

  • Soft Tissue are the tensional elements, the fascia being the constitutive element of the system tying it all together.

Definition of Biotensegrity: “Different researchers in different parts of the world have demonstrated evidence that the entire fascial network is interconnected so that a continuous tension network is known to exist within the body. We also know that at least some of the body’s structures, like the shoulder girdle, transmit their loads through the tension of the soft tissue and not the compression of the bones.” (Johnson et al., 2018)

Related Video: “What is Tensegrity?” (https://youtu.be/BzgxYpDyO0M)

Definition of Fascia: A band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs.

Related Video: “Views of the Living Fascia” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSXpX4wyoY8)

When we are in dynamic balance, we can rely on the suspension system of bones, fascia, ligaments, tendons, and deep postural muscles to keep us buoyant.

Refer to Section Two Supplement for article “Biotensegrity and Body Mapping,” by Doug Johnson and Melanie Sever.

 

Activity

Stand, sit, move, and sing, trying on the word “posture.” What does the “placing” and “setting” of the “P” word make your body do? Do the same, trying on the idea of “relaxation.”

If in a group class, what do you notice while watching each other?

Reminder: We are talking about movement, we need to teach ourselves and our students how to find the movements that create the best sounds. Many students tend to “set” and “place” the body, inhibiting movement and leading to physical and mental tension.

 

Now try on the words dynamic balance, buoyancy and springy:

 

1) Balance is “a state of equality in amount, weight, value, or importance.”
2) Buoyancy is “the ability or tendency to float or rise in liquid or air; lightness, resilience.”

3) Springy is “to move as a result of resilience.”

The balance we are seeking is a dynamic balance that allows integrated whole body movement.

 

The Four Laws of the Spine

The Four Laws of the Spine as Barbara Conable communicated them in her book How to Learn the Alexander Technique, are essential information when teaching the WEM Course. They may be taught either here at the beginning of Section Two when talking about the weight-bearing spine, or wherever in the Course the BME chooses to discuss the gathering and lengthening of the spine.

The Four Laws of the Spine are:

1. The head must lead spinal movement (as it does in all vertebrates).
2. The vertebrae must follow in sequence.
3. The spine must be free to lengthen and gather in spinal movement, not just bend and twist (the lengthening and gathering is part of the spine’s natural resiliency, and it supports and coordinates the movement of the limbs).
4. The movement should be equally distributed across the whole spine, not concentrated in part of it.

Video: “Running Cheetah

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KheqfpUpr0

This video demonstrates the gathering and lengthening of the spine in movement. For more details on the gathering and lengthening that occurs with breathing, see Section 4 Manual. Please read the detailed explanations of the Laws of the Spine in Barbara’s own words in How to Learn the Alexander Technique, p. 14.

Refer to Section Two Supplement for research articles on spinal movement.

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Image 2.2a : A-O Joint

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Posterior view of A-O and Atlas-Axis joints

Image 2.2b : A-O Joint

Explain that the A-O joint is where the Atlas and Occiput meet. The most important thing to do with this image is to get people to internalize it by palpating their own heads and necks. This image clearly shows that the jaw is a separate appendage.

The maxilla, sometimes referred to as “the upper jaw,” is the front part of the skull that includes the hard palate and the teeth. The maxilla mobilizes with the skull.

Activities

1) Locate the A-O joint by pointing directly behind and below the earlobe, and notice that you are pointing right into the joint.

 

2) Point with your thumbs into your ear canals, and then swing your index fingers forward to your front teeth and backward to the base of the skull to measure those distances and to sense the centrality of the A-O joint. Point out the fact that the jaw is a separate appendage.

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Image 2.3 : Skull-Atlas-Axis

Suggestion: Use skull model and/or atlas model to teach this in conjunction with images. Ask the students to locate this area internally, using their kinesthesia. Remind them what their kinesthesia is.

Remind them that there are more sense receptors in the A-O joint than in any other in the body.

Activities

1) Gently nod the head to experience the sensation of the movement of the condyles at the base of the skull on the facets of the atlas.

 

2) Place hand on back of skull and thumb of the other hand under upper front teeth and gently nod your skull with your two hands. Carefully observe students to confirm that they are truly nodding from the A-O joint.

 

3) Explore range of motion of head and cervical spine. Are you able to sense the A-O joint in movement?

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Image 2.4 : Muscles of the Neck

A major cause of tension in neck muscles is their being mismapped as bearing the weight of the skull, instead of being mapped for movement. People who map these muscles correctly, free them. As students’ necks free, their heads return to a dynamic, poised balance on their spines at the location that our places-of-balance picture indicates. When we speak of “freeing a neck”, we are referring to the neck muscles releasing back into their original length.

Common Mismappings of the A-O Joint

1) That the head meets the spine too low - several vertebrae lower than the actual A-O joint.

2) That the head meets the spine only in the back, instead of being central- because the word “back” is often used interchangeably with the word “spine.”

Image 2.5 : Places of Balance

This image provides context, and if you’re using marks or stickers, it’s time for your students to put their first star on the A/O joint. Here’s the opportunity to point out that you will now skip over the balance of the arm structure and go on to discuss balance on the lumbar core, telling students they will understand the balance of the arm structure over the core of the body much more easily once they have explored the core.

                                                                                                            

 Image 2.6a : Lumbar Core

Lumbar Core.png

Image 2.6b : Lumbar Core

Using a full size model of the spine, grasp the five lumbar vertebrae and notice the thickness and location of structure. Note that the lumbar balance portion of the spine is directly below the A/O joint. Some students need to map the spine's curve in this region of the body as returning to center higher than they thought, in order to find an easy balance of everything above. It is helpful to notice that on our image of the Places of Balance, the lowest 2 thoracic vertebrae are close to our central line. This "place of balance" is a much larger region of balance that includes T11 and T12 as well as the lumbar vertebrae. When sitting or standing at balance the A-O joint is directly over the lumbar core.
 

Activities

1) Palpate the bottom of the ribs. Palpate the top of the pelvis (iliac crests). Palpate the back of the spine in the lumbar area. Then find the side seams of the clothing. Make fists and put them on the side seams between the bottom of the ribs and the top of the pelvis. You are now pointing in the direction of your lumbar area. Then find the side seams of the clothing. You will need to use your kinesthetic sense to feel it.

2) Place one hand over your belly button in front and one over your lumbar spine in back. Alternate gently tightening abdominal muscles and back muscles noticing how this affects your lumbar balance.

3) Walk backwards to help bring the lumbar spine to a neutral place and to find balance at the lumbar core. When finding standing balance, remember it is the front of the whole spine, not just the front of the lumbar region that is weight bearing.

Common mismappings of the Lumbar Region

1) That there is a deep curve or arch here.

2) That the spine only exists in the back and that we hold ourselves up with our lower back muscles.

3) That the top of the iliac crest (area known commonly as the “waist”) is the middle of the body from top to bottom. This mismapping leads musicians to sense the pelvis is part of the legs rather than part of the torso. Singers, brass and wind players may experience a variation in their pitch center when the lumbar balance place is not at neutral.          

Ask students to mark the lumbar balance point on the image,

and highlight the lumbar balance region with your pointer.

 

Image 2.7 : Places of Balance

Image 2.8a : Arches of the Pelvis

Image 2.8b : Arches of the Pelvis

Trace arches with your pointer. When standing or squatting, the weight of your torso is delivered outward through the thickest part of your pelvis to the thigh bones. When sitting, the weight is delivered through a narrower arch downward onto your rockers. Note that weight is not delivered into the tailbone (coccyx.)

Point to the top of the thigh bone and remind the students that weight is being delivered by the pelvic arch all the way out to the center of the shaft, so that it can then be delivered through the angled thigh bone downward to the knee. Notice that the angle of the femurs is inward. Do not in any way give the impression that the arch ends at the hip joint. The arch is shaft of thigh bone to shaft of thigh bone, like a rainbow. This is in standing, of course; in sitting it is more angled, as the illustration makes very clear.

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Image 2.9a : Seated Skeleton

Image 2.9b : Leaning Seated Skeleton

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Image 2.10a : Anterior Male Pelvis

Image 2.10b : Anterior Female Pelvis

Activities

1) Sit on your hands so you can sense (feel) the sitting bones.

2) Gently rock back and forth, as well as side-to-side, noticing the shifting pressure of the sitting bones against your fingers and hands.

 

3) During this exploration, view the gender appropriate pelvis image.                           

Image 2.11a : Hip Joint (Side)

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 Image 2.11b : Pelvis (Seated)

The hip joint and pelvic floor are the middle of the body from top to bottom. The hip joints are higher than the sitting bones so we do not sit on our legs.

Refer to Section Two Supplement for details on Anterior and Posterior Pelvic Tilts.

Image 2.11c : Middle of the Body

Activities

1) Palpate iliac crest: With the heel of your hand on your iliac crest, see if you can find your greater trochanter with your middle finger. March in place and it may be easier to feel.

2) Bow by moving the upper body from the hip joints.

3) Place your middle fingers on the greater trochanter of each leg bone and your thumbs on both your iliac crests. Rotate the pelvis down and forward (anterior rotation) and then rotate it in the opposite direction, up and back (posterior rotation). Notice that your thumbs on the iliac crest are moving around the relatively stationary middle fingers on the greater trochanter. For balanced standing and sitting, the pelvis will be in the middle of these two extreme ranges of movement.

Common Mismappings at the Hip Joints and Sitting Bones

1) That the hip joints are at the front of the body (instead of where they actually are at the sides.)


2) That the backs of the thighs are meant to provide support from a chair in sitting (Good Posture Dis-ease.)

3) That the tailbone is meant to be sat on (Relaxation Dis-ease.)

Ask students to mark the hip joint balance point on the image,

and highlight the hip joint with your pointer.

Image 2.12 : Places of Balance

Image 2.13a : The Knee Joint

To clarify the perspective of the images: Image 2.13a of the right knee without the patella shows the whole leg angled slightly to the left, in other words, rotated medially. Image 2.13b is the right leg viewed from the right side straight on (right lateral view).

The knee consists of two joints: one between the femur and tibia (the weight bearing portion of the joint), and one between the femur and patella. It is the largest joint in the human body. The knee is a modified hinge joint, which permits flexion and extension as well as slight internal and external rotation. The smaller lower leg bone is the fibula which helps to stabilize the ankle joint.

Image 2.13b : The Knee Joint

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Image 2.14a : The Knee Joint with Patella (Posterior View)

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Image 2.14b : The Knee Joint with Patella

The function of the patella is mainly biomechanical. It keeps the patellar tendon from falling in the trough at the end of the femur during knee flexion, providing torque for the articulation (joint).

The patella is a spacer that keeps the tendon at a distance from the fulcrum of the knee articulation, increasing its stability and strength. The patella also serves as protection for the cartilage at the end of the femur when the knee is bent, for example when kneeling.

Activities

1) While seated: Palpate greater trochanter and bottom of femur at knee joint. Perceive the full length of the femur.

2) Put your leg out in front of you and and gently palpate the knee cap. Then spend some time placing both hands around knee joint and kneecap. Knee joint is below and behind knee cap.

lateralrightknee.png

Image 2.15 : Knees Locked, Balances and Bent

There are three conditions for the knee joints: locked, balanced, and bent. How many of us have been warned not to lock the knees? If it’s so bad, why do our knees lock? Because it is a protection for our spine when the upper torso is thrown back of balance.

 

Activities

1) Reminder of A/O joint balance, lumbar balance, and hip joint balance.

2) While standing, explore going off balance, feeling your knees lock back all the way. Then, without going to bent knees, gently release out of locked back to sense where neutral for knees is. If you have difficulty discerning the difference between balanced and bent knees, check in with the thigh muscles. They will be engaged when knees are even slightly bent.

Common Mismappings of the Knee Joint

1) That the kneecap IS the knee
2) That the knee is only in front (rather than being truly 360 degrees around.)

3) That bent knees fix the problem of locked knees.

Here we are at the knee, and we have not left the core of the body yet. This reinforces the teaching point that we are organized centrally all the way down to the floor. Have students place a mark and use your pointer to highlight the place of balance at the knee joint.

Image 2.16 : Places of Balance

Image 2.17a : Ankle Joint and Weight Delivery into the Foot

The ankle joint is the articulation of the bottom portions of the tibia and fibula with the talus bone.

Andover-Proj4 foot(frontal-phal) FA.jpg

Image 2.17b : Ankle Joint and Weight Delivery into the Foot

People tend to mistake the bumps at lower ends of the tibia and fibula for the ankle joint. When we are accurately mapped, weight delivers down the tibia on to the top of the talus.

anklejoint.png

Image 2.17c : Ankle Joint and Weight Delivery into the Foot

When people deliver weight down their backs instead of through the front half of their spine, weight will also deliver down the back of the leg into the heel instead of through the front lower leg bone (tibia) as shown in the image above. This mismapping is called the “L-shaped foot” mismapping and will always cause a standing musician to have sore and tired heels.

Activities

1) Explore your lower leg bones.


2) Palpate the bottom of your femur and top of your tibia and see if you can find where your fibula meets your tibia.
 

3) Palpate up and down the front of your tibia (shin bone).


4) Palpate the lower part of your tibia and fibula.


5) The tibia will be on the inside of your lower leg above your ankle joint and the fibula will be on the outside.

Common Mismappings of the Ankle Joint

1) That the ankle is one or both of the bony bumps at the bottom of the lower leg bone, instead of where two bones meet to provide movement (tibia meets talus/talus meets heel bone.)

2) The “L-shaped foot” - that the ankle is at the back, right above the heel (back-oriented people who deliver weight down the back instead of through the core.)                                                  

 Image 2.18a : The Three Arches of the Foot Image

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Image 2.18b : The Three Arches of the Foot

When weight is delivered through the front of the tibia to the foot, it is then evenly distributed through the foot and ultimately delivered to the floor via the three arches shown in this illustration: transverse, medial longitudinal, and lateral longitudinal. The foot can be said to have multiple arches: the arch as experienced on the inside, at the instep; the arch as experienced at the outside of the foot; all the longitudinal arches in between the inside and the outside; the transverse arches across the ball of the foot and continuing to the heel.

Show how each foot is an arch structure, in which weight delivers from the top of the arch outward to the heel and to the two sides of the transverse arch. The toes are not part of the arch. You can judge how well the arches are being used by how free the toes are. When weight is thrown off the arches, the toes grip in compensation.

Image 2.19 : Posterior Heel (alignment of bones of the foot)

Notice that the heel bone (calcaneus) is not centered directly under the end of the tibia.

Activities

1) While sitting, palpate the bottom of your foot to explore the idea of multiple arches.

2) Stand and feel weight delivery forward and back through ankle joints into feet. Then feel weight delivery through lateral arch, on outside of feet; then through medial arch, on inside of feet; and finally through transverse arch, standing on balls of feet.

 

3) Return to balanced state.

Common Mismappings of the Arches of the Foot and Weight Delivery through the Foot Bones

1) That the toes play an active role in standing instead of just functioning as propellers into the next step when we walk.

 

2) That the arch is only the instep, instead of the complex series of arches described above.

 

3) That the heel bone is centered directly under the end of the tibia leading people to roll their feet inwards, disrupting the integrity of the medial longitudinal arch.

Image 2.20 : Places of Balance

Place a sticker or point to the ankle joint. Locate balance place number 2, the upper limbs over the torso. Place a sticker or draw a mark at the top of the torso here as well.

Image 2.21a : Balance of the Arm Structure

Image 2.21b : Balance of the Arm Structure

Shoulders balance at the sides. Shoulders don’t belong back, except in movement. The entire arm structure is dynamically balanced over the weight bearing spine. For a detailed description of arm balance plus movement explorations, please see Section Three: Arms.

Image 2.21c : Balance of the Arm Structure (Thorax with Arm Structure)

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Image 2.21d : Balance of the Arm Structure

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Image 2.21e : Balance of the Arm Structure

Why did we select six places out of all those possible places? Because five are at major joints and, therefore, loaded with sense receptors and crucially important to the body map. Because if musicians will become accustomed to monitoring dynamic balance at those locations, they will quickly come to monitor the whole body for dynamic balance.

 

 

Common Mismappings: Balance

Common Mismappings of the A-O Joint

1) That the head meets the spine too low - several vertebrae lower than the actual A-O joint.

2) That the head meets the spine only in the back, instead of being central because the word “back” is often used interchangeably with the word “spine.”

Common Mismappings of the Lumbar Region

1) That there is a deep curve or arch here.

2) That the spine only exists in the back and that we hold ourselves up with our lower back muscles.

3) That the top of the iliac crest (area known commonly as the “waist”) is the middle of the body from top to bottom. This mismapping leads musicians to sense the pelvis is part of the legs rather than part of the torso. Singers, brass and wind players may experience a variation in their pitch center when the lumbar balance place is not at neutral.

Common Mismappings at the Hip Joints and Sitting Bones

1) That the hip joints are at the front of the body (instead of where they actually are at the sides.)


2) That the backs of the thighs are meant to provide support from a chair in sitting (Good Posture Disease.)

3) That the tailbone is meant to be sat on (Relaxation Disease.)

Common Mismappings of the Knee Joint

1) That the kneecap IS the knee.


2) That the knee is only in front (rather than being truly 360 degrees around.)

3) That bent knees fix the problem of locked knees

Common Mismappings of the Ankle Joint

1) That the ankle is one or both of the bony bumps at the bottom of the lower leg bone, instead of where two bones meet to provide movement (tibia meets talus/talus meets heel bone.)

2) The “L-shaped foot” - that the ankle is at the back, right above the heel (back-oriented people who deliver weight down the back instead of through the core.)

 

© Association for Body Mapping Education August 2023

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