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Association for Body Mapping Education Teaching Manual

Section Six

General Guidelines


  1. Format your Section Six as three 20 minute or two 30 minute lessons. Ideally this will be Section Six of your Trial Course.

  2. This is primarily a lesson about movement for music making. It should not be an anatomy lesson.

  3. Ask the student what their primary concern  is in relation to music and movement.

  4. Help the student identify their mismappings by asking questions and by watching them play or sing.

  5. Compare the student’s mismappings with the anatomical truth by showing anatomical images or anatomical models and modeling healthy movement yourself.

  6. Provide a movement exploration in order for the student to kinesthetically absorb the new mapping information.

  7. Return to music making and guide the student as they begin incorporating the new movement patterns into playing or singing.


Trainee Objectives


  1. Demonstrates a high quality of awareness of the room and others in it.

  2. Uses questions to uncover mapping errors and to discern what is the most important information the student needs to know in this lesson.

  3. Uses models, images, palpation, and movement activities to explore body maps.

  4. Allows time for assimilation of information and feedback.

  5. Demonstrates on their instrument, when appropriate.

  6. Models an excellent body map during the lesson.

  7. Includes musical ideas and interpretation with Body Mapping work.

  8. Demonstrates through their language a clear understanding of Body Mapping fundamental concepts.

  9. Points the student to the future for issues that could require weeks and months to assimilate.

  10. Addresses the map as a basis for technique, not technique itself.

  11. If the lesson is being taught as a master class, the Trainee has inclusive awareness of the room and the people in it. If deemed appropriate to the situation, feels free to address others in the room to support the learning process of the student being taught. However, do not shift the focus away from the student being taught.

  12. If touch is used, it is done professionally, with permission, and explanation and in a manner that truly increases the student’s understanding of the body map.

How to use Questions with the Body Mapping Student


  1. The first questions need to establish the conditions for the observation. Is the student playing (singing) a performance for you, or will you be observing them practice or warming up? You should be clear that any of these conditions can be beneficial. Allow the student to set conditions that make them comfortable. Let the student know that you may stop them, in order to allow enough time for Body Mapping work.

  2. Before they play or sing, ask the student what they want to work on or what problems they have encountered.

  3. Frame questions that will help them find greater kinesthetic awareness. For example:

How did you feel as you played? (uncomfortable)

Did you notice your neck as you were playing? (sort of)

What did you notice about your neck? (feels tight)

These questions help the student notice how they use themselves, and also give you important information that will help you proceed. You will help them remap head balance and neck muscles and also teach them how to look at the music which may require changing the height, or angle, of the music stand.

   4. Ask questions to help the student uncover their own body maps:

What is holding your head up?

What are your neck muscles used for?

How much do you think your head weighs?

   5. Often, as you observe a student performing, you notice many different issues that need to be addressed, and you aren’t certain                 what to start out with. Using questions can help guide you in how to proceed. 

Here are some questions that may be useful:

What did you notice about your playing (singing)?

How would you like to change the way it sounds?

How would you like to change the way it feels when you play (sing)?

What did you notice about yourself as you performed?

   6. Ask questions pertaining to musical expression such as:

What is the exact emotion you’re trying to convey with the music?

What are some ways you’ve been practicing in order to bring out that emotion?

What is your musical intention?

   7. Finally, at the end of a session it’s always a good idea to ask: “Do you have any questions?” Or you can    

       ask the student to summarize what they learned from the lesson.

   8. Allow adequate time for the student to understand and respond to each question.

Common Challenges Observed by Sponsoring Teachers


  1. Get the Trainees to take the time to ask themselves “what is the underlying mapping issue?” before diving in. If they don’t think they know, then figure out the right sort of questions to ask the student in order to get at what the mapping error may be.

  2. Base the work you do with the student more directly from the music, rather than the movement. Find the musical motivation first, then work on discovering the mapping or movement that will achieve the musical result. The exception to this would be a student who arrives with a pain issue that prevents them from playing or singing. This student would need extensive help with kinesthetic awareness and remapping.

  3. Movement work is often explained, but not fully explored in the context of the whole body. When a student has a symptom that they want to explore, as the teacher you need to see if what they want to address is a symptom of a whole body issue, or an isolated issue. The symptom could show up as an extremity issue, but often the mapping issue comes back to places of balance. Make sure to always be observing and integrating the localized map into the whole.

  4. Always remember to bring the movement exploration back to the music. Remapping is the first step toward reintegrating the movement back into the playing/singing. The exception, again, would be a student with an injury who is not comfortable singing/playing at this time.

  5. Develop presentation skills that utilize clear, succinct language. Paying attention to each word and avoid using fillers such as “like” or “um.” Developing a sense of pacing and use of silence.

  6. Develop an empathetic rapport with the student. Leaving space and time in the dialogue for the student to absorb concepts at their own pace.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do you determine what to focus on?


Observe the student in terms of what they said they wanted to work on at the beginning of the lesson. Follow up with what they tell you their experience or observation of their playing is at the end. Include the most important mismappings you observe in their playing or singing. Try to keep the 20-30 minute lesson to a maximum of two mismappings.


2. How do you prioritize if there are several things you see?


Prioritize that which makes whole body integration and whole body movement easier. Often a student requests help with a particular issue. In this case, prioritize the student’s request within the context of whole body integration. Keep it simple for the 20-30 minute lesson. Leave time and space for emotional responses to the situation and to the music making.


3. If you are teaching someone who doesn’t play your instrument, do you make a disclaimer?

We use Body Mapping to improve whole body movement and musicianship. As long as you can hear phrasing and see whole body organization improving you are going in the right direction!  You can ask questions about what you don’t know and you may uncover some Body Mapping errors by asking those questions based on your understanding of the instrument you are working with.


4. How do you make sure you and the student are speaking the same language and communicating effectively?

Listening and following body language cues are good first steps. We cannot make assumptions about what people know about their own body and their own body maps, even with the most experienced students and teachers. Leaving time for questions during and at the end of the lesson is very important.


Section Six Guidelines

by Barbara Conable (2005)


1. Depending on how you integrate working with your students in your courses and workshops, you will be watching for mapping errors and seeking to help the student correct them. In general, you want to figure out what is the very most important information you can give the student, the information that will have the best effect over the longest period of time. Ask yourself, “What does this student need most to know?”

2. It is not important that the student assimilate the material in the moment. You will many times need to point students to the future and give them strategies for assimilating the material over time. It is very important that the student understand what you are recommending. Remember that one way to describe our course is as a jump start in the use of the texts. With this in mind, you can often tell the student just which pages of WEM (WEP, etc.) will be most useful in the short run.

3. You need to honor the technique that your colleague brings to the course/lesson, and not seek to change it. Second, it’s not the matter at hand. Body Mapping is the matter at hand. You want to be as effective as possible in addressing your students’ body maps. Third, for the most part, Body Mapping Educators address the basis for technique, not technique itself.


Make a clean distinction in your mind between technique and the basis for technique. Body Mapping is the firm foundation for any technique you may choose to use in your playing or singing. In singing, it is the foundation for Western classical technique, for Indian classical technique, for choral technique, for pop singing, for country singing, for gospel singing, and all the rest.


While singing techniques tend to differ according to the music being sung, violin techniques apply to the same music. Ferocious passions are aroused in defense of this bow hold, or that. The violin should be stationary, or it should move. The thumb should be in one position, or it should have many positions. The thumb should be in this position, or in that position. Vibrato is done at the wrist, no, it must be done at the elbow. The left arm should give the violin optimal support consistent with getting around the fingerboard, or it should not support the violin AT ALL and only stabilize the instrument against the depressing of the string. There should be a shoulder rest or there should be no shoulder rest. High human dramas are built around loyalties to one or another of these notions, friendships destroyed, careers ruined, and all the rest, over disputes about technique. You can read about this in the biographies of famous violin teachers.

We as Body Mapping Educators must express no opinion on these matters unless asked to do so, and then we must merely state what we would do if we were violinists. If I were a violinist, for instance, I would want a moving violin, a thumb that could go into many different relationships to the neck, strings, and fingers, a wrist vibrato for certain passages and an elbow vibrato for others, optimal support from the left arm, and a custom fitted shoulder rest. I am free to state these preferences, if asked, but I am not free to recommend them. I’m not a violin teacher. I want to know what the student wants, and I go about helping the student to move as beautifully as possible within those technical choices even if they are the exact   opposite of the choices I would make. My business is the student’s body map, not the student’s technique.

4. How you approach students in a lesson may be further complicated by the fact that some of you are either Alexander Technique teachers or you have had considerable experience of the Technique and have incorporated the principles into your studio teaching. In any case, you will be teaching the Alexander principles, insofar as they are relevant to the student, from a Body Mapping point of view. If, for instance, you observe that a student has a tight neck, please address the mapping issues involved, which are well spelled out in the teaching manuals. In general, neck tension comes from mapping the neck as too short, at top, at bottom, or both, as being in back only instead of all around, as merely superficial, or as having muscles fibers that are horizontal rather than vertical. You need to be able to either identify these mapping errors by sight or get to them by asking the right questions and listening carefully to the answers.

5. Some of you teach with your hands in a music teacher sort of way in your studio and may feel prompted to teach with them in the individual sessions of the course. This is fine, of course, so long as your students have not the slightest doubt about what you’re doing, though keep in mind that one of the great contributions of Body Mapping to studio teaching is that it rarely if ever requires hands-on work. When we touch students in the context of the course, it is almost always to heighten their sense of some area, or call attention to an area, or to trace a bone or delineate an area (the wrist for instance) not to guide a muscular release, which we would count on the body map correction to achieve.

6. Inclusive awareness should be a top priority in the supervised teaching lessons. You want to be asking yourself: what is the quality of this student’s attention? What is the quality of attention to himself or herself? Is this person wide awake to the information coming to him from the body, tactilely, kinesthetically, emotionally, proprioceptively. Is attention integrated so that every bit of information is in relationship to every other bit of information? What is the quality of attention to the instrument? The audience? The space? The other musicians?

Inclusive attention is the condition we are looking to cultivate in all musicians. It is the gestalt that works for making music. We have three possibilities for awareness, basically: introspective, where most or all our attention is on ourselves; extrospective, where most or all our attention is on what’s outside ourselves; and inclusive, in which we are wide awake to information coming from the inside and information coming from the outside. Sometimes I ask people to imagine the gestalt of opera singers, for instance, who must be constantly aware of their breathing (because they must constantly make choices about it), their movements that execute technique and articulation, their gestures, their facial expressions, their emotions, the heat of the lights, the feel of the makeup, the feel of the costume (why? in order not to trip on it, for one thing), and, on the extrospective side, the other singers, the orchestra, the conductor, the audience, the space, the furniture, the rake of the stage.


You will probably need to explain the word gestalt if you use it. English borrowed the word from German because we didn’t have a word that means what gestalt means: the contents of consciousness at any moment and its organization. Your gestalt always has a focus, like vision, and, like vision, the rest of the information in awareness falls somewhere in the ground. Ground is the term that gestalt psychologists use to describe everything in the gestalt that is not in focus. What is in focus they call the figure, so every gestalt can be analyzed from the point of view of figure and ground.


Your understanding of figure and ground will help you in making a clear distinction between concentration, which is terrible for musicians, and focus, which is good. If some item of awareness is in the ground, it is very easy for it to become figure at the right time. A conductor, for instance, who has been focused on the altos is nonetheless aware of the tenors, but they just don’t happen to have the focus at the moment. But the tenors are about to have the melody and to be singing alone, so it’s appropriate that they now have the focus. Bringing focus to them will be easy, because they have been in awareness all along out there in the periphery. They just swim into focus, as it were. By contrast, if they have been out of awareness instead of in the ground, it will be mentally effortful to bring them into awareness, and one may, in doing so, lose awareness of the rest of the choir. Not a good plan, to say the least.

You will need to be able to identify scanning if it should happen in your student. Scanning is rapid, sequential concentrating, a terrible way to use a brain. When students are exhausted by practicing it is almost always because they are scanners. They have been allowed to concentrate in their music lessons and practice--in the worst cases they have even been encouraged to do so--and they are desperately attempting to play with their concentration now on the left hand, now on the bow arm, now on the bow (is it parallel to the bridge?) now on the notation, and so forth. This is very hard work for a brain, completely contrary to its natural functioning, therefore frustrating and exhausting. These students generally give up their lessons after a time, declaring that it’s too hard or they just don’t like it. Of course they don’t like it. Or they may conclude they’re not talented, when all that has happened is that their awareness has been mis-trained.

I sometimes make an analogy to a flashlight. Even if you have a very powerful beam, if you bring it up close and concentrate on the knee, for instance, you’ll see the knee, but you won’t see anything else. If you want to see the elbow, you have to move the whole beam. By contrast, if you back up and take the whole person into the light, you can see both the knee and the elbow and you can see how they relate to each other and how the knee and the elbow relate to the whole person. Bringing the beam to only the knee is concentrating. Backing up and taking in the whole person allows for a shifting focus that sees the knee in context and allows for an easy shifting of attention to the elbow, should you wish to or need to shift to the elbow. It’s this easy, shifting fluidity of attention we want for musicians.

7. Be sure you know whether your student wants to perform for you and the others or to work on practicing. If the student wants to perform, you can treat the lesson like a master class. It will be good for you to find out what’s on your student’s mind, in either case. If the student performs, you can ask, “Is there something from that performance that you would like my help with?” or “What’s your analysis of what you just did?” This is not required, of course, but asking questions is often the best way to discover what should be worked on in the lesson. You can, of course, ask a very specific question, “What was in your awareness as you performed?”

If your student wants to work on practicing, you can interrupt at any moment that you have something constructive to say and you can keep coaching verbally while the student is practicing. Don’t be afraid to speak right up so that the student can hear you right in the context of the practicing.

© Association for Body Mapping Education August 2023

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