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Teaching Manuals: A Resource for Body Mapping Educators 
Section Five: The Legs

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.”

Why We Teach Legs

  • Upper body and lower back injuries are prevalent among musicians

  • The upper body is often at the mercy of the lower body

  • When lower spine, pelvis and legs are not functioning well, it is challenging for the arms and breath to function well

Learning Objectives for Section Five

  • Integration of legs as a foundation for movement from the floor up.

  • Interdependency and global connections between arms, legs, breathing and whole body movement.

  • All the relevant senses will be trained, not just hearing. Vision will be trained. The tactile sense will be trained. Kinesthesia will be trained.

  • Attention will be systematically trained rather than left to chance or mis-trained, as it so often now is. Students will be directly taught how to form the effective gestalt we call inclusive awareness: both inner and outer experience in a single, fluid gestalt.

Learning Outcomes for Section Five


Teacher Goals

  • Demonstrates sensory awareness and inclusive awareness

  • Clearly articulates the concepts of movement, senses, awareness

  • Communicates what the body map of the legs are for movement and integrated whole body movement

  • Models whole body integrated movement and inclusive awareness

  • Integrating and reviewing balance, arms and breathing alongside leg movement

  • Is able to observe students for the integration of leg movement for a coordinated whole body


Participant Goals

  • Understands movement as the foundation of all music making

  • Understands the use of legs in music making

  • Understands how to properly map the pelvis and leg joints in terms of structure, function and size

  • Understands how to correct and refine the use of their leg structure and its integration to an embodied whole

  • Understands where their own mapping issues may be interfering with the free use of the legs

  • Understands a somatic approach to music making can help musicians overcome physical limitations

  • Understands basic concepts of sensory awareness

  • Understands the concept of inclusive awareness

  • Understands how inclusive awareness will coordinate movement and sensory awareness to organize around a musical intention


Additional information can be found in the S​ection Five Supplement​.

Please individualize your course regarding your own language, movement activities, and research.



  1. Have skeletal model of pelvis and full leg.

  2. Have a lacrosse ball, yoga tune up balls, practice golf ball (firm but soft), or tennis ball for people to use

  3. If you are teaching a class where you have extra time, you’ll want students to have a mat or a towel to lie down on.


Videos Showing Whole Body Integration and use of The Legs in Music Making


Video: Fred Astaire


Video: Cheetah

Video: Esparanza Spalding Link


Video: Lawrence Brownlee


Video: Adam Rupp, vocal percussionist from a cappella group Home Free


Video: Frederica von Stade, opera


Video: Rick Elliott, organ


Video: Carlos Kleiber conducting Concertgebouw Orchestra

(You mostly see arms in the video but occasionally. like in this screen shot, you see how over his legs he is.)


Video: Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders

(The intro is long, you may want to fast forward.)

Image 5.1 : Balance Mascot

This is the part of the course where everything gets put together, to focus more on wholeness and how everything is interdependent throughout the body. It’s also a good time to remind students about inclusive awareness and that we are continually working on developing the awareness of how we use our whole bodies to make music.

This section reviews the leg joints. As part of this review, because this part of the course has the rest of the body riding on it, it is helpful to ask questions of your students about mapping covered in other sections or to remind them.

In section one, students learned about weight delivery and balance. This section is all about leg movement and its integration for whole body movement.



As Licensed Body Mapping Educators one of our jobs is to teach musicians how to translate what they are hearing in the studio into language that works for their bodies based on accurate body maps. Musicians have an immediate neurophysiological response to language and often natural musicians don’t have the vocabulary to accurately describe what they do. When a teacher or conductor asks for something specific, pause and inquire of yourself “WHY” they are asking for what they are asking for, rather than to just launch into “trying” it. Ask: “What is the intended result?” Self inquiry is necessary for the translation process.


Reminders: the new information will be about the integration of the bones, muscles and other connective tissue of the legs with the rest of the body.


  • Some of you may decide you want to start at the feet and move to the hip joints, which is perfectly fine. In this manual the information starts at the hip joint and works down to the feet, as in the Balance section.

  • This may be a good time to introduce or reintroduce the concepts of biotensegrity, and how they relate to integrated movement.

  • Head imbalance will distort weight bearing and weight distribution through the legs. This will also happen with arm and thorax imbalance. So whatever is happening with the legs, is often a reflection of what is happening above.

  • What is commonly called “waist” is actually the lumbar region of the spine. If this “waist” is mapped as middle, the pelvis will be experienced as forming a unit with the legs which can produce holding in the hip joints. This may prevent a coordinated response from the pelvic muscles in breathing.

  • You will want to carefully watch your students for how the mobility of their legs is integrating with their whole body. Many issues with arms and head balance come about because of confusion between lumbar spine, pelvis and hip joints. Take the time you need to review this with your classes.

Image 5.2 : The Leg


  • Leg movement involves a coordination of hip joints, knee joints and ankle joints in movement and needs to be mapped that way.

  • If your arms are in motion, you have to have reciprocal movement in your hip joints, knee joints and ankle joints.

  • Examine each joint in turn to map for highest functioning, but keep in mind they always work in coordination together.

  • Many students will have mapped one of the three leg joints as more important than another in, for instance, walking. Use either questioning or keep your eyes on students to see if this is the case in the class you are teaching. This needs to be corrected.



What joint in the legs is at the mercy of the other two joints?


Hint: it’s the joint that has the least amount of motion compared to the other two and you will learn that as you go through this section.

Image 5.3 : Hip Joint

  • The hip joint is a ball and socket joint that is side facing.

  • The hip joint is where the torso moves in relation to the legs and the legs move in relation to the torso.

  • It is the articulation of the head of the femur with the socket that is on the side of the pelvis. This articulation is 360 degrees around.

  • In order to guide students in finding their hip joints, ask them to stand and begin by palpating their greater trochanters. The hip joints are slightly interior to and higher than the greater trochanters. Observe where they are gesturing with their hands, and reinforce that the hip sockets are side facing.

  • Always use the term hip joint. Take the time to explain that the word “hip”, like “shoulder” is a territory or region of the body. Some will think their hips are the iliac crest, others will think it’s their pelvic area. Some will rest their hands on the greater trochanter.

  • Observe that students are attending to their whole body dynamic balance at #1 A/O Joint, #2 Arm structure, and #3 lumbar spine while looking for ease of motion at the hip joints.



1. Have students put their hands where they think their hip joints are.


Notice if the students are varied in hand placement

2. Have students put their hands in the creases or their jeans/pants and then trace the crease out to the side. You will be close to the greater trochanter. This is the widest part of this region of your body (pelvis and thigh bone).

Observe students carefully to see this is where they are gesturing. You may have to walk around and

correct people. Even people who are carrying excess weight can find this bony landmark.


3. March in place and have students feel this movement. If that isn’t working you can use a chair to balance and then do hip joint openers.


Observe to see that students are actually moving at their hip joints not aiming to do this movement

from higher or lower than where their hip joints are.

Image 5.4 : Hip Joints in Context with Pelvis and Sacrum

Mapping the Distance Between the Hip Joints


  • Mapping the distance between the two hip joints is important. Some will map them too far apart, and others will map them too close together.

  • Often musicians have had dance training. Many dancers, from years of misunderstanding turn-out, will point just to either side of the pubis as the location of their hip joints. As a result of the mismapping, they tighten their gluteal muscles and experience a loss of turn-in.

  • Singers, wind and brass players with this mapping error will never experience rebound or recoil in the pelvic floor in breathing until the error is corrected. In addition, another consequence of this mismapping is a tightening of the gluteal muscles. Upon freeing of the gluteals, some students are reluctant to feel “broad bottomed.” You can reassure them that the feeling of breadth will fade as they map the area in keeping with the reality.


Video: Amy Mapping Hip Joints

Image 5.5a : Female Pelvis

Image 5.5b : Male Pelvis

Image 5.6 : Pelvis and Hips


  • The hip joint is where the femur (thigh bone) meets the pelvis.

  • Thigh bones form joints with pelvic bones.

  • There is flexibility of the pelvis at the pubic symphysis and also the sacroiliac joints (joint of sacrum and pelvic bones).

  • Differences between male and female pelvises

  • Female pelvis is larger and broader

  • Male pelvis is taller (higher iliac crest), narrower and more compact

  • The distance between the sitting bones is smaller in males than in females


Often when that flexibility is not mapped, spinal movement, breathing, arm mobility suffer along with whole body ease of movement.


Those who have mapped the pelvis as a bony bowl, one fixed piece, will have no expectation of play between those bones and will impose a muscular rigidity.


Movement Exploration

Find the bony protrusions that most people can easily find on the front and back edges of their iliac crests. Notice if your iliac crest is relatively “neutral” or if the front or back is higher or lower and how that shifts your perception of your lumbar spine and then the rest of your spine.


The Feldenkrais™ Pelvic Clock ATM is very useful for exploring the range of motion of your pelvis in relation to your hip joints and your whole spine.


Video: Pelvic Clock


Video: How to put the pelvis through its range of motion in 3 different planes (front to back, side to side and rotation).

Image 5.7 : Sitting Skeleton


Use the repetition of this slide to demonstrate that the hip joints are exterior to the pelvis, not interior, and at our sides, not our fronts, as many people have mistakenly conceived. Make sure you are taking time to notice where your students are gesturing when you are going through all of these mappings.


Point out that, though the socket of the hip joint cannot be palpated at the front, it can easily be palpated from the back.


Movement Exploration: Flexibility of Pelvis and Hip Joints.


1. Sit on the front edge of the chair and reach your hands under to feel your sitting bones on he chair, perhaps one hand at a time if you are on a hard chair- this is just so you know where your sitting bones are in relation to the chair. As you sit there, map your hip sockets at your sides, and invite release across your bottom.



Take note of how you are mapping the whole of your pelvis in relation to your hip joints and spine.

2. Slide to the side of the chair where you have one sitting bone off the chair and one sitting bone on the chair. Raise and lower the sitting bone that is off the chair and notice the movement in your whole leg, spine, arms, in relation to the raising and lowering of your sit bone.

3. Return to the middle of the chair and check in and see how the perception of your sitting bones on the chair has changed. Take a few easy breaths. Again invite awareness of your whole body with a focus on your pelvis, spine and hip joints.

4. Now to the opposite side and repeat the experience.


Video: Roberta Gary at the Organ

Image 5.8 : Side Facing Socket

Use this slide to emphasize the fact of the side-facing socket. Very few students have the socket mapped as facing backward, but many people have it mapped as facing forward, like their eyes; rather than to the side, like their ears, and some others have mapped the sockets as facing downward.

From Barbara Conable on this Mismapping


“In standing, some people imagine they are balancing their pelvises over a joint-like pedestal,

more like a knee joint than a hip joint. This mismapping creates the most tension of all. Dancers wobble going up on toe and fail to win their auditions. These people tend to have only the sketchiest maps of sides and backs. They are mere fronts in their own maps and therefore vulnerable. They feel far more stable when they map the depths, dimensions, and facades of themselves.”

Movement Exploration

If you are teaching a class that has floor space and mats:


  1. Lie on your back. By moving at your hip joints, move your knees and legs into your chest. You may use your arms to assist if you like, and take a moment to allow ease through your whole torso while doing this. Take the time to move your legs around. Give yourself time to experience the movement of the femur in the hip joint.

  2. Lie on your side. Bend your upper leg forward over the lower leg from the hip joint, and gently touch your foot to the floor.

  3. Most people, of all different sizes, when lying on their side, can feel the bony structures of the pelvis: the rockers, hip joints, and the greater trochanters of the femurs.

  4. You can use your hand to trace the sitting bone until you reach the hip joint from behind. It is possible to trace the posterior rim of the hip socket from behind. While moving the upper leg, you can also palpate the greater trochanter from the top and feel where the femur meets the edge of the hip socket.

Image 5.9 : Pelvis and Hip Joints


Use this slide to review the information you gave about the weight distribution from spine into sacrum and pelvis in the Balance Section, or when talking about Sitting.

In sitting, we emphasized the distribution of weight from the lowest vertebra sideways into the thickened part of the sacrum, downward and sideways into the thickened part of the pelvic bones, and downward into the sitting bones to the chair.

When standing​, ​we change the emphasis to the distribution of weight into the legs. Weight is distributed from the lowest vertebra sideways into the thickened part of the sacrum, downward and sideways into the thickened part of the pelvic bones, sideways through the hip joint into the shaft of the thigh bone, outward to the greater trochanter and downward through the thigh bones.


At this point, you might consider showing the video segment from ​Move Well Avoid Injury which illustrates this weight delivery.

Images 5.10a, 5.10b & 5.10c : Hip Joint Movement

Here is your chance to explore the range of motion at the hip joint. Here are the types of movement you have at your hip joints


  1. Flexion - bringing thigh up toward the pelvis

  2. Extension - bringing the thigh back toward the glute

  3. Adduction - moving the thighs together

  4. Abduction- moving the thighs apart

  5. External rotation -turning the whole leg away from the midline the body

  6. Internal rotation - turning the whole leg in toward the midline of the body


Video: Hip Joint Movements


Many people are in constant external rotation at the hip joint with their feet pointing outwards. This movement may put the pelvis automatically into a posterior tilt (buttocks tuck).


Note that while your students are exploring the range of motion at the hip joints, you will need to be observing how they are using their pelvis and spine and reminding them of three dimensional space and a free A/O joint.

Things to Look for as Teachers


  1. Are the students allowing rotation at the hip joints?

  2. Are students getting stuck at the pelvis and hip joints and then hiking their pelvis rather than moving at their hip joints.

  3. Is the balance at the torso and lumbar spine off, making it impossible for them to allow rotation mobility at the hip joints?

  4. Are the students tilting the pelvis forward (anterior pelvic tilt) or buttocks tucking (posterior pelvic tilt)?

Once you see your students’ movement patterns, then start asking the questions and help the student remap where the hip joint is and where they should be looking for movement.

Many musicians have been taught or encouraged not to move their legs when playing. Obviously for orchestral musicians and musicians who have to play sitting down, there needs to be some tasteful parameters. AND you want to find a way to give musicians permission to move their legs and find the potential for movement in the legs that can aid the freedom of the rest of the body, particularly the torso and legs. (if arms are in motion, hip joints, knee joints and ankle joints have to have the potential for mobility).

Use film clips of great musicians using expressive movement of their legs in playing and taking their legs wherever they want to help with balance and stability. We listed several of these at the beginning of this manual.

Contrary to what they may have been told, organists can put their resting feet on any available solid surface the console offers. Not doing this means losing an important source of both support and kinesthetic information.

Image 5.11 : Sitting Skeleton



Let’s start by sitting to explore the independence of the legs and the torso.

  1. Sit on your hands for a moment to feel the weight delivery of the torso, including the pelvis through the sitting bones. You may choose to do this one hand at a time if the chair is a particularly firm one. This activity can cause some discomfort to some students.

  2. Palpate the top of the greater trochanter and move your legs from side to side and in rotation to get a feel for the location of the joint of the thigh bone and pelvis just up and in on either side of the trochanter.

  3. Explore moving forward on your sitting bones and notice how that changes the freedom of your hip joint.

  4. Explore moving back on your sitting bones and notice if that shifts your weight delivery and balance through the front of your spine and then notice the change in the mobility of your legs at your hip joints.

  5. Experiment with tightening and releasing adductors (thighs together) and abductors (thighs apart) and notice how it affects the pelvis/torso, arms and breathing.

Now standing

  1. Walk around. Allow the upper half of the body to ride up and over the legs.

  2. Experiment around with the shifting weight forward and shifting weight back over the legs and notice how it changes the walking

  3. Notice how many steps you take before your usual habit kicks in.

Image 5.12 : Bowing


Common mismapping

Many of your students will have mapped this movement as happening at their waists. They will bow in an awkward way from the waist at the end of their performances instead of gracefully at the hip joints.


Otherwise the movement choices are as follows:

  • Pelvis is stable and femurs move: that is a marching band high step.

  • Otherwise, femurs are stable and pelvis moves, and that is bowing.


Movement Activity

  1. Bow with a waist in your body map (this would be the mismapping)

  2. Bow allowing your pelvis to move at your femurs.

  3. Explore the movement of a marching band high step. This movement may help open up the possibility for bowing at the hip joints rather than at the waist and really correct the body map.


This is a good time to remind students that hip joints are where the torso moves in relationship to the legs and the legs move in relationship to the torso.

Note: Bowing at the hip joints will not feel graceful when knees are locked

Image 5.13 : Dynamic Balance Mascot

This is a reminder to come back to the whole body.

You can use this image as transitional to the knee.

Image 5.14 : Knee in Context

The knee joins the upper leg with the lower leg and consists of two joints: one between the femur and tibia (tibiofemoral joint), and one between the femur and patella (patellofemoral joint). 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.


  • Please point out that many people, when they say knee, point to their kneecaps, because that is the part of them they have mapped as knee.

  • The knee joint includes the kneecap but is not solely the kneecap; it is a joint that exists in the front, sides and back.

  • The weight bearing/distributing portion of the knee joint is below and behind the kneecap where the femur and tibia meet.

  • The patella aids in flexion and propulsion.

  • The patella also anchors tendons which connect muscles from the upper leg to the lower leg. See Supplement for more detail.

  • The mismapping that your kneecap is your knee causes pressure and pain from problems in both balance and movement.

    • The problem in balance can be that people try to drive weight to the kneecap instead of delivering to the tibia.

    • The problem in movement is that they try to move from the kneecap, which you can show from this picture is higher than the articulation of the femur and tibia.


1. Knees will often be well mapped if the ankle and hip joints are functioning well. 

       If there are knee issues, look at what hip joints and ankle joints and feet are doing.

2. Use the knees as a tool to monitor what else is going on.

If knees are habitually locked, look at hip joints, pelvis and spine to monitor themovement.

3. One should be able to raise and lower knee caps when standing.

4. Bent knees aren’t a problem as long as they are not bent all the time. No movement is illegal.

5. Map that your fibula makes a joint with the tibia, both at the top and bottom of the tibia.

While the tibia is the primary bone that bears weight from knees to ankles, the effort is also distributed to the fibula and connective tissues in the lower leg.



  • Have students trace femur from greater trochanter to end of femur at the knee.

  • With leg out in front of them while sitting, have the students palpate their knee cap - hopefully it is movable.

  • Also, have them wrap their hands around the knee and get a sense of the size of these bones there.

  • Use models to show femur/tibia relationship.

Image 5.15 : Knee Joint Relationships


The bones at the knee joint have three basic relationships: locked, balanced and bent.


  • Locked knees stabilize or brace the body to keep us from falling over. When the body is out of balance, we need this function of the knee joint.


Many musicians have the habit of locking their knees. However, if they are dynamically balancing over the front of their spine and their pelvis and hip joints, then they won’t feel the need to lock their knees. Unfortunately, the instruction to unlock the knees doesn’t help students unless they revisit how dynamic balance works.


  • Balanced knees feel springy and buoyant. They are the natural state of knees when the body is ready to move in any direction.

  • Bending at the knees is a healthy and necessary movement. From dynamic balance you can bend your knees as far as you need to and then return to balance. When standing, movement at the knee joints inevitably means movement at the hip joints and ankle joints.


More on Locked Knees

Excerpt from ​What Every Violinist Needs to Know about the Body​, (WEV) by Jennifer Johnson, p. 77:


“Thinking the knee is the kneecap and trying to deliver weight through it muscularly “locks the knees” and jams the kneecap backward, closer in than it should be to the front of the lower leg bone (tibia). The sensation from this jamming reinforces the notion that this is the location of the knee.

This backward jamming also pushes the end of the thigh bone too far back on the tibia, and the weight of everything above travels down the back half of the tibia instead of squarely through its core, frequently leading players to mismap the rear lower leg bone (fibula) as being the weight-bearing one.

Because of the jamming described above, a chronic knee-locker nearly always maps the bottom surface of the thigh bone as resting too far back on the top surface of the tibia. Even when moving the knees out of a locked-back position to bend them, these two bones often continue meeting in an imbalanced relationship to one another until remapping is done (see Fig. 46b in WEV p. 79 or image 17 below #2 - Rolling on a constant point of contact with the tibia).

Also a reminder that as people come out of chronic knee locking, their balance at their lumbar spine, pelvis and hip joints will have to shift as well.”


See supplement for more on knees


Students will not experience the weight of their upper body being fully delivered into the ground nor the easy buoyancy that comes with this balanced weight delivery if the working relationship of the thigh bone and tibia is mismapped. If the neck is already free before going into this balanced kind of knee-bending (and assuming that there is also freedom at the hip joints and ankle joints), there will be a lovely and automatic lengthening through the spine and freeing through the back and arm muscles. This is the feeling of being supported by the floor or the ground, which gives musicians the freedom to make great music.



  • Why is it problematic to tell students who habitually lock their knees to just “bend their knees”? What are the mappings that need to change to help someone get out of habitual knee locking?

  • What are the joints that need to move freely and easily to move from standing to sitting?

Image 5.16 : Balance Mascot


Use a return to this picture to mention again a coordination of hip joint, knee, and ankle. Here’s another video from ​Move Well, Avoid Injury​ on the coordination of walking. You can turn the sound off and supply the commentary yourself, if you like.


Image 5.17 : Lower Leg Lateral View


This image of the lower leg will help you understand a common mismapping.


  1. In the lateral view image, note that weight delivery/weight distribution goes through the tibia which is at the front of the lower leg.

  2. It is a mismapping to think that weight delivers down the back of the lower leg, an error that has a chicken and egg quality to it. If you are off balance, the calf is gripped in a way that makes it feel like weight is back there; and if you map weight as going down the back of your leg, you will stand that way, making the calf grip. It’s a vicious cycle. Take your time to explore shifting weight to the front of the lower leg. It will permit more ease in your torso, hip joints and knees.

  3. Ease and change can happen quickly when mapping weight delivery and distribution in the lower leg correctly​.



  • Have them palpate the shin bone, noticing that they can palpate one whole side of the triangle of the bone in cross section. The students will have to feel in front, right under the skin, in order to confirm that weight delivers primarily through the front bone of the lower leg.

  • While sitting, have students palpate the calf muscles as well. They can do this one leg at a time by bringing one leg up onto the other and palpating the calf muscles of that let. Then point out the contrast between the muscle and the bone at the front of the leg.

Image 5.18 : Leg Anterior View

This image addresses another common mismapping in the legs, that the femurs are parallel. This anterior view shows that the angle of weight distribution through the femurs runs diagonally inward from the hip joint to knee joint.

544 Lateral view of left leg cropped and

Image 5.19 : Lower Leg and Foot


The Ankle Joint is where the two leg bones (the tibia and the fibula) meet the top of the foot (talus bone). Movement here allows the pointing of the toes down as well as pulling the toes up.

Image 5.20 : Subtalar Joint


The subtalar joint is where the talus bone meets the calcaneus (heel bone). This joint allows for the side to side motion of the foot.

Movement at the ​subtalar joint ​includes inversion (turning the sole of the foot towards the midline)--the movement that allows you to walk on the outside of your foot; and eversion (turning the sole away from midline)--the movement that allows you to walk on the inside of your foot.


Video: Inversion/Eversion/Plantarflexion and Dorsiflexion


Video: Ankle Circles and Point and Flex


Image 5.21 : Posterior Heel ABC, (right foot)


At the subtalar joint, the talus distributes weight into the calcaneus. The calcaneus is not centered directly below the talus as some people would expect; rather it is below and to the outside of the talus. People who expect the calcaneus to be located centrally in relation to the talus rather than to the outside of the talus may develop painful conditions in the foot.

Image 5.22 : Movement at the Ankle Joint


  • Musicians who pedal must have a clear map of the ankle joint. Mismapping the movement of pedaling as initiating at the heel will inhibit the free and coordinated movement of the whole leg. When you pedal easily with an accurate map of the ankle joint, you will also notice movement at the knee and hip joint. This applies to piano and organ playing, timpani tuning and trap set playing, as well as driving a car. ​The heel’s contact on the ground will be the pivot point for the foot with the sequence of the movement at the ankle joint, knee joint and hip joint. Musicians who do not allow this sequencing through all three leg joints often experience calf pain, knee pain and/or thigh tightness and pain.

  • Point out that anyone who has mismapped weight distribution down the back of the leg will inevitably have also mapped an L-shaped delivery of weight into the foot.

  • These people map the weight as distributing from the back of the lower leg through something, not always a joint, to the back of the heel and then forward through the rest of the foot.

  • Balanced weight is distributed through the tibia, through the ankle to the front of the heel, and then through the rest of the foot, both backward through the heel and forward to the ball of the foot.

  • For people with the L-shaped fantasy, the Achilles tendon is often mapped as bone. In many, the tendon is dangerously hardened and ankle mobility greatly restricted. Usually this is just one aspect of a severe back orientation throughout the whole body.

Image 5.23 : Weight Delivery Ankle/Foot


So review from section two, about weight delivery, This is a good time to remind students about weight delivery and distribution. From the top of the arch, weight delivers in both directions, backward through the heel and forward across the ball of the foot. What is important in the use of this picture is that students who have mapped an L-shaped foot learn how to exchange their mistake for the truth of an arch-shaped foot and experience how this affects movement.

Image 5.24a : Arches of the Foot,

Subtalar Joint

Image 5.24b : Arches of the Foot,

Subtalar Joint

Image 5.24c : Arches of the Foot, Subtalar Joint


  • The foot has three main arches that outline the weight delivery region.

  • The foot has two “longitudinal” arches (one on each side) that run from front to back

  • The foot has multiple “transverse” arches that run across the foot from inside to outside.

           Image 5.24a labels only the distal transverse arch.

  • The ball of the foot is where the toes join with the rest of the foot; it comprises the heads of the metatarsals together as a unit.


Some describe the multiple arch structure of the foot as the “plantar vault,” reminiscent of the vaulted ceilings found in some Gothic cathedrals. The complexity of the arches resolves into the fairly simple kinesthetic experience in standing of weight distribution throughout the foot, minus the toes.


“The bony architecture of the foot includes a number of arches (domes and pillars) that are reinforced and maintained by ligaments and influenced by muscles during transfers of weight.”

-L​awrence Elson, ​Anatomy Coloring Book​ 4th edition



  • While sitting, palpate the bottom of your foot with your hand to explore the idea of multiple arches.

  • Another option, ​place a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, or Yoga Tune Up ball under the ball of your left foot.

  1. Find a sore spot and stay there for 20 seconds or so. Let your skin and muscles welcome the ball. Your foot should feel like melted chocolate draping over a strawberry.

  2. Work all over the sole of the foot ... toes, ball of foot, inner arch and outer arch.

  3. Goal is to find a sore spot and stay there until there is release, NOT randomly rolling around.

  4. Repeat with the other foot.

  5. Two minutes per foot twice a day.

  • Stand and feel weight delivery forward and back through ankle joints into the feet. Think of the size of your big toe bone (include both metatarsals and phalanges) and also then the spread across the foot to the other toe bones. (metatarsals and phalanges). Map both your lateral and medial arches as well as your distal and proximal transverse arches.

  • Explore rising up on your toes to the ball of your foot and then back down again.


With both explorations, keep renewing the relationship of your whole body from the ground up


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

  • That the toes (phalanges) play an active role in standing. They shouldn’t. The function of toes is to propel us into the next step when we walk.

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

  • 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.


Walking Activity

This, too, is well covered and well demonstrated in the Move Well, Avoid Injury Video. Work to have students feel a complex motion through the stride from the place where the heel touches the ground. Initial contact should be on the BOTTOM of the heel not on the BACK of the heel. The motion distributes evenly through the arched part of the foot forward onto the ball of the foot. The ball of the foot spreads as it takes weight through to the toes which engage with the ground to propel us into the next step.


This motion will be mismapped in some of your students, especially three groups:

  1. Those with an L shaped foot in the body map

  2. Those for whom the ankle is the lower leg

  3. Those who have failed to map walking as a coordination of all six leg joints


Another movement to observe in your students is stride:

  1. Over striding at the hip joint: if the leg is made to swing too far, one stays too long on the heel and the stride never truly finishes.

  2. A too small swing will also adversely affect the stride.

  3. Stride is calibrated to the size of the person, so it is possible to find just the very comfortable stride length that is perfect for the size of your body.

  4. Walking will feel almost effortless when you have found proper stride length within proper balance. Encourage the students to do that.

  5. Give musicians permission to move and have their feet under them whenever they want them. Some will have been taught a foot position that they cling to even when it feels bad or prevents musically expressive movement.


Video: MWAI on Walking and Breathing

You may have some students who will claim to have heard that some new science suggests that the stride does not begin at the heel. So far as I can tell, this means that the stride does not begin at the back of the heel, which is true, though many people do land on the back of the heel because they are back oriented or have the foot mismapped, or both. When these people first experience landing on the bottom of the back of the heel, it feels so far forward of what they are used to they think they are no longer landing on the heel even though they are. Sorting this out can be quite confusing. When I watch video of the running and walking that the new science claims to foster, I see a perfectly ordinary stride of the sort described above, not a landing on the front of the foot and then rolling back, which always causes pain and looks very strange besides.

-Barbara Conable


  • How has your awareness of your legs and pelvis changed from studying this information?

  • How has this work improved your functional efficiency?

  • How are you helping your students make global connections between how they are using their legs and the use of their torso and arm structure?


Common Mismappings

Some common ​mismappings ​of the leg structure you may encounter when teaching. This doesn’t mean you need to tell everyone. You need to observe and listen for these to come up in lessons and ask questions to facilitate the clarification (this list is intended to help your eyes see what people are doing).


  • That the leg has no freely movable joints

  • That the foot is L-Shaped

  • That the kneecap is the joint

  • That the leg starts at the top of the pelvis

  • That the waist is the middle of the body

  • That the hip joint faces forward rather than to the sides of the pelvis

  • That one sits on the legs, rather than the sitting bones.

  • That the waist is where bowing happens, rather than at hip joints.

  • That weight goes through calves rather than the tibia

  • That the femur comes out of the pelvis straight rather than at an angle.

  • That the leg is joined to the pelvis on the bottom, rather than the side.

  • That the hip joint is only mapped from the front and not the sides or back.

© Association for Body Mapping Education August 2023

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