Fiona Bryant is a choreographer, performer and movement educator. She graduated from Melbourne’s School for FM Alexander Studies in 2013.
Fiona has written this book as a study manual for the unit ‘Use Body Mapping to Improve Movement and Posture’, which is offered to Alexander Technique teacher trainees and other interested people at the school in North Fitzroy, Victoria. The unit is designed to be applicable in a range of training situations and also to be used in clinical situations where teachers/practitioners are working with postural and movement issues. This is the second version of the manual.
Fiona has based the book on Alexander Technique principles, the body mapping work of Barbara Conable and other Alexander teachers, and various somatic approaches including Ideokinesis; an “approach that engages visual and tactile-kinesthetic imagery to support the improvement of human posture and body movement”.
In her introduction Fiona explains that she was fortunate enough to learn about how bodies are designed and how they move, thanks to dance training when she was young. She argues that we can all benefit from having a clear understanding about how our bodies are designed to work, so that we can “cooperate with our design” as we go about our activities.
The book includes a description of what people who undertake the unit can expect to learn, including the ability to “analyse the coordination of the healthy musculo-skeletal system in activity” and “apply basic knowledge of body mapping in a way that supports the healthy musculo-skeletal system in action”. The book covers major bones and joints of the body, healthy range of movement at the joints, overall bodily coordination and basic principles of the Alexander Technique.
The book is divided into 10 sessions, as per the unit of study. Each session is divided into a number of parts. The information is well set out and clear. The sessions progress from an introduction to body mapping to respiration, the arms, legs, balance and posture, muscle functioning, the skull and spine, and internal organs. In the final session is an opportunity to review one’s body map to include the knowledge and experiences gained during the sessions.
As well as written information and illustrations, each session includes the opportunity to reflect and write about the ideas presented, and to draw different aspects of one’s body map. There are many suggested movement and exploration activities included in the sessions.
While the Body Mapping Manual is not designed to replace undertaking the face-to-face unit of study, it remains an excellent resource for Alexander teachers and students with significant experience of Alexander Technique lessons and groups. I have found it useful in my teaching; helping me to be clearer about my own body map, giving me activities that can be used in individual and group settings, and as a collection of images that can be used to demonstrate to students the ideas that I am trying to convey in lessons.
Collecting the images that appear in the book is a significant achievement in itself. Some seem to have been sourced from free sources on the internet, and there are pictures that have been taken specifically for the book to illustrate the concepts discussed in the text. There are many clear images of the skeleton and muscles that are helpful in developing understanding about joints and their functioning. All images are black and white, of a good quality and thoughtfully chosen.
The book sets out a lot of information clearly and concisely, and in a well-structured way. It is easy to read and the activities are relevant and interesting. I appreciated that readers are reminded to send their directions before doing activities, and are encouraged to approach activities in a mindful way.
I noticed a few typos that were distracting at times, and there is quite a bit of technical information about the course, which I skipped over.
Fiona has done an excellent job at bringing together and structuring this information in a digestible and engaging way. I imagine that the unit of study is very useful, and have found the manual on its own a great support for the refinement of my body map and for my teaching.