Body Mapping with Lea Pearson and Lynne Krayer-Luke
Updated: Aug 31, 2021
The more I learn about Body Mapping, the more that I like it and can see it's benefits. Last year I attended an excellent lecture about Body Mapping that was given by Amy Likar at the NFA Nashville flute convention, August 2004. This year I had a great and free private 15-minute body mapping session with Lea Pearson (thanks Lea!) and attended an excellent lecture by Lynne Krayer-Luke called: "How to Survive the Practice Room." The convention program reads: "Lynne Krayer-Luke shares strategies that utilize Body Mapping in order to achieve more effective results in the practice. room." What follows are my notes from the class:
Part 1 - How to Survive the Practice Room
Training our Movement - Free movement
-The quality of our movement determines the quality of our sound. -The integrity of any movement depends on the integrity of the Body Map that governs it. -The Body Map consists of: Structure, function, size - If the body map is good, the movement will be fluid, free - Kinesthesia sense = sense of movement - So often when we bring our flutes up to play, we concentrate on a small area of our body and the flute (e.g., arms, hands). We need to be aware of the WHOLE body.
Exercises-Play your flute. Where do you notice movement that you haven?t noticed before?
Dictionary definitions- Posture-To pose or place; to take an artificial position Relax-Relief from work; to become lax, weak or loose
Problem with these definitions. Regarding the term relax, we tend to relax down and draw the body in when we are told to relax (i.e., collapse inwards)
Think instead of BALANCE-a state of equality in amount, value, and importance of weight: physical equilibrium. Distribute your effort throughout the body, not just in one area. (e.g., arms, and hands).
Staying in balance gives us access to better support and allows us to play with the minimum amount of work.
What supports us?-chair, floor, bones.
There is a normal physical upward force that counteracts the force of gravity.
Free movement helps to insure efficient practice.
Part 2: The Places of Balance in the Body
1. First place where you need to find a balance: The head meets the spine in the middle of the base of the head. Most people think it's at the back of the head. If we put our fingers in our ears, we're pointing at the AOL joint which is at the centre of our heads. Since the spine is in the middle of the head you can think of balancing the head on the spine and NOT holding up the head with the neck. Freeing the neck muscles is the key to freeing up the rest of you.
Exercise: Tense your neck muscles and notice what it does to the rest of your body. If your neck is not free, the rest of your body will not be free.
2. Second point of balance: The core of the spine. Many people think of holding themselves up with the upper part of the spine. This is not good. The spine is not big there; it is bigger at the bottom half. The discs of the spine are in the front part of the spine. The nerves are in the back part. Keep the weight off of the nerve-bearing part of the spine. The biggest bottom half of the spine curves forward to bear the weight of the body.
Exercise: Experiment with balancing your head on your spine. See how your body feels. Speak. How does your voice sound when your head is in the wrong position? Imagine the effect this positioning would have on your flute sound! Now, try standing with a 'correct' posture. Speak again. You should notice changes in the tone of your voice. Now try arching your back. This will throw your weight forward of the weight-bearing part of your spine. How does this feel? (Answer: tight). Now Balance your head and thorax over your lumbar core. Speak again. Notice the tone of your voice.
3. Third point of balance: Sit bones Feel your weight through your sit bones into your chair.
Exercise: To feel the sit bones (these are NOT the tail bone), rock back and forward on the tail bone.
4. Fourth point of balance = knee joint, NOT knee cap which is above knee joint. A knee can be locked or balanced or bent. Great flutists use a balanced or bent knee.
5. Fifth point of balance = ankle The weight of the body goes down the front of the leg. The toes are not part of the arch of the foot. You can judge how free your arch is by how free your toes are.
Exercise: Stand up. Now rock forward and backward of your arches. Rock side to side. Find a balanced position.
6. Sixth point of balance = arm structure. Arm structure is balanced over ribs in such a way as over weight bearing spine.
Exercise #1: Pull shoulders back - restricts breath. Push shoulders forward - same sort of result. Exercise
Exercise #2: Do shoulder circles. Find point of balance. Improves breathing.
Summary- You need to free your muscles by making sure that you have a good body map. The main points of balance, as outlined above, are at joint locations. There are a LOT more places of balance between these points.
I have been working with what I learned in the class and from Lea and can honestly say that when my 'balance' improves, my flute tone improves. My body also feels better when I play in a more balanced position.
For more info. about Body Mapping, go to http://www.bodymap.org/ Also check out the following book by Lea Pearson: "Body Mapping for Flutists-What Every Flute Teacher Needs to Know About the Body" by Lea Pearson (Andover Educator).
Part 3. How to Practice with Body Mapping
1. Learn about the structure of the body – Explore your own body map. Ask yourself questions – where is my spine, etc.
2. Keep anatomy pictures next to your music on your music stand. Merck has a lot of online anatomy pictures. Anatomy flash cards are also available.
3. Make a video recording of yourself while you are practicing.
4. Check in frequently while you are practicing. by asking yourself: “Do I feel free or do I feel tense.” If your movement is less efficient, your practicing. will be less efficient. Access free movement when you notice excessive effort.
5. Apply body mapping to other daily activities (i.e., typing, test taking, walking, etc.). If you take movement from another activity into the practice. room – for example, if you go into the practice. room after an intense study session at the library, there could be problems.
How to Access Freer Movement
1. Inclusive awareness exercises = self perceiving the world Exercise: -What do you see? -What do you hear? -What do you smell? -What do you feel? Kinesthetic sense-sit and notice how your body feels. Don’t collapse down and in; take up space with your body.
2. Use exercise balls, balance boards, and plastic swimming noodles. Exercises:
a) If you forget to ‘check in’ while practicing. and become tense, etc., use a physio ball like a Theraband exercise ball. -Kneel behind the ball. Lean over the ball and hug it. Practice. your flute while sitting on the ball. Bounce gently on the ball while you play a difficult passage. You won’t be able to tense up. Not stand up and try to produce the same kinesthetic sense that you had while you were sitting on the ball. -Ball drape - ‘Lie’ on the ball. Place your arms back over your head. This is particularly good for people who close in on the body when they play.
b) Stand on a balance board. For example: http://www.fitter1.com/Professional-Rocker-Board_p_21.html It rocks. Find your balance or support over the core or your body.
c) Place a noodle under the part of your body that’s tense. Lie on it for a short while. Pull the noodle out gradually.
How to Survive the Practise Room -Part 4
1. Traditional Instruction: ”Relax” Often translated as: collapsing down and in – NOT good. Body mapping translation: Allow the head to balance at the A.O. joint, and deliver the weight down through the lumbar spine out to the hip joints, down through the knees and ankles and into the ground.
2. Traditional Instruction: ”Keep your throat open” Body mapping translation: Allow the neck muscles to be free, find balance at the A.O. joint. The air flows in front of the food tube. Exercise: Swallow. Notice the movement in the muscles. These muscles are NOT helpful for flute playing.
3. Traditional Instruction: ”Breathe from your diaphragm.” Body mapping translation: Breathe into lungs. Find balance around the core so that the abdominal muscles are free to move as the diaphragm descends and pushes the viscera down and against the pelvic floor and out against the abdominal wall.
Everything that is above the diaphragm is for respiration. There is nothing below the diaphragm that is used for respiration.
Think of support as the ground supporting you.
Flutists MOVE for a living so how we are moving our whole body is something that we need to be paying more attention to in our flute playing.
For painless and efficient practise, visit the 6 points of balance.
Use balls, pool noodles, and balance boards to free your movement.
Master Class Notes by Susan Maclagan © August, 2005