Body Mapping for Yoga - A New Course In Functional Anatomy
This website is dedicated to the achievement of poise as the backbone for a safe and full-filling yoga lifestyle.
Flora D.H.Ojanen is an experienced teacher of the Alexander Technique. In this fundamental course of study, yoga students are guided to develop physical intelligence through the fascinating study of the moving body-mind, gaining awareness of ineffective and possibly injurious ways of moving. Flora is continuing to investigate Alexander Technique applications for yoga practice and has designed BodyMap Yoga to bring that knowledge to the yoga community.
The Alexander Technique is like a compass for the unchartered land of the human body. Let it point you to the secrets of skillful movement through accurate sensory feedback from your brain all the way to the soles of your feet.
Why Body Mapping
It is common for yoga practitioners to collapse into their joints or effort themselves into a preconceived, 'done' pose. In contrast, Alexander Technique offers a clear and dynamic process for replacing habitual tendencies to tense up in movement with adaptive, fluid responses. Learning to use the innate structure of our body will support our yoga practice and movements of everyday life. Experience shows that studying the technique makes the whole body feel more integrated and energized in movement.
When learning any Yoga pose, it is important to be aware of the landmarks (joints and bones) that make up our physical form and guide our experience. It is helpful to know exactly how the architecture of the body is designed for movement and sensory awareness. We need to know the shape, size and function of the landmarks that make up the body for the establishment of successful movement patterns. Is the map we have of our body reliable and accurate, true to reality? Then movement can be pleasurable, efficient and functional. Or is the map unclear? Movement then may be strained and become more difficult to execute.
Ease and functionality in movement depends on knowing and using the working design of the body to our advantage. The freedom to choose something different from habit comes from applying the Alexander Technique principles to every action our body takes.
Origins of Body Mapping
The ideas about body mapping are important pedagogical tools. In the book "How to learn the Alexander Technique", Bill Conable, a Teacher of the Alexander Technique and the originator of the term "body mapping", states: "We all seem to have in our mind maps of our bodies and their workings. They include size, shape, and mechanics. These maps are what we use to interpret our kinesthetic and visceral sensations... we also guide our movement by them. This is not the same thing as the well-known neurological correspondence of various parts of the brain to various parts of the body. That is simply physiological; the map being discussed here is something constructed in consciousness...
Because the maps must be able to be changed, they must be learned. They are created from the experience of movement, of touching and being touched... They are our memories of our interpretations of our experience. But because these interpretations may not be accurate, the maps based on them may also not be accurate.
It also seems to be true that the interpretations forming the basis of the map are often unconsciously performed. They often take place early in life, well before the development of a sophisticated adult consciousness. Therefore the map based on them is often at least partly unconscious and often initially accessible to adult scrutiny only with some difficulty. Once this difficulty is overcome, it is possible to learn to change the map with surprising ease and with surprisingly powerful results."
Enhancing or changing your body map is possible.
BodyMap Yoga sessions are designed to help you see and feel your internal body map clearly. We were not born with these maps, but we are all born with the ability to build them, accurately or faulty, and change the maps if they no longer guide our movements correctly. It can make your Yoga practice more pleasant, safe and evolutionary relevant.
Your Beautiful Design
Your body is beautifully designed to move.
Neuroscientists are very aware of the presence of the body map in the brain. The baby's brain starts a simple map as it becomes aware of its body in movement. With the development of more sophisticated movements like crawling, standing and walking, the body map develops as well. Unfortunately, in the process of growing up and individualization, how we move, think and use our upright human design is for the most part not freely accessible to our sensory awareness. We tend to move through our days (and our yoga classes) without examining the efficiency and quality of our physical expressions, because we do most things on auto-pilot.
We are typically unaware of that design.
We typically don't know how we sit are sitting (but we might feel the physical effects associated with it (unspecific unease in the back). We don't know how we bend down to pick up an object from the floor (but we might feel dull back pain - the effect). We don't pay much attention to how we handle the dishes when doing them (we might just feel the excess effort). We don't know how to stay mentally engaged with the process when the going gets tough in Yoga class (we might just hurry and muscle through). It is a fact that the how in all those activities is exactly the same how we will do all of our Yoga.
Classes in body mapping teach the understanding we need to find out if the means by which we are doing things are effective and health-giving, or if those means are overloading our nervous system and wearing us out prematurely. The way to find out is to study our body maps, which have developed over time and are operating on a subconscious level, day in and day out. Those maps dictate the quality of our movements.
Studying our body map in movement can be fun and eye-opening.
In BodyMap Yoga classes, Students will be led on a journey through their body's landscape and architecture. You will learn mindful tools based on the Alexander Technique, emphasizing functional whole body coordination rather than flexibility, quality of movement rather than how far or how deep you can move. This clear and simple approach uses body mapping to help you establish references in the body for safely moving through poses without blocking the flow of energy, circulation, or breath. In each class we will carefully deconstruct and rebuild poses highlighting the new awareness. This series is suited for all yoga practitioners, no matter age or ability. Come and treat your body with care, curiosity and reverence.
BodyMap Yoga classes will help you to develop physical intelligence and sensitivity in all your movements, on and off the mat. It is the missing link to a successful, pain-free and long-term Yoga practice.
This is a radical new way to learn about ourselves.
The Alexander Technique and Body Mapping offer surprising insight and perspective outside of yoga which is beautifully applicable to yoga because it addresses the foundation of all movements.
Take for instance a familiar movement, performed in daily life and on the mat: The pictures below show a "standing forward bend" often performed in daily life, and a "seated forward bend" as a yoga pose.Note that both students have the tendency to arch the back and tense the neck when over-reaching and bending forward. Muscles are shortening and joints are compressing, making movement more difficult.
Through a sharpened sense of Self as taught in the Alexander Technique and accurate body mapping, students can re-learn how this movement pattern can be executed in accordance with our human design and therefore promote easier, safer and more enjoyable movements. The important understanding is that lasting change only happens when the entire organism, the entire person is re-educated in thought, sensing and movement. This process is radical, intelligent, enjoyable and truly empowering.
What you will learn
A BodyMap Yoga course can give you the know-how and skill sets needed to be more centered, poised, and at ease in your Yoga practice and beyond. Knowing how we relate to the space outside ourselves and at the same time to our inner structure is the key for well-being and longevity of our physical form. Since what we do all day long has more influence on us than what we do for 90 min two times a week, it is of most importance to be conscious of our thoughts and actions. The Alexander Technique delivers that skill in a powerful and unique way.
Since it's such primary and fundamental knowledge, it is wise to study yourself in this way before you set out for more yoga anatomy or advanced yoga teacher training.
When people start to take up any kind of exercise or new skill, their unconscious tension patterns underlie and dominate all of their movements and activities, and will therefore be carried over into the new activity.
It is the evolution from the habitual, mostly subconscious way we people inhabit our body, to a new and constructive, conscious way - a new process of thinking in the Alexander Technique which has proven to be the key to real change. We can learn to stop trapping ourselves in cycles of pain and undue psycho-physical stress. Moving in harmony with our design brings our nervous system into balance, sharpens our senses and creates space for healing and thriving, inside out.
Mr. F.M. Alexander stated over 100 years ago:
Mr. F.M. Alexander
It sounds revolutionary, and it is! BodyMap Yoga is here to empower you with self-care strategies you can use immediately and in all aspects of your life. Not only will you feel better, lighter and walk taller, you will gain self-confidence in expressing yourself on and off the mat.
Flora working with Student at a BodyMap Yoga course at SF Sivananda Yoga Center.
The Flood Building Suite 460 870 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94122
What Students Are Saying
"I recently took Flora's workshop Primary Body Mapping and Functional Movement for Yogis. That was exactly what I needed: comfortable settings, a small group and a kind and knowledgeable instructor, who guided us and introduced us to Alexander technique. Every class was a great combination of theory and practice that helped to easily digest given information and use it in our daily life. Flora is a very attentive and supportive teacher, always ready to help, her explanations of material were clear and easy to understand..." - Tanya F." (Oct. 2015)