Dimon begins by describing the origins of movement, explaining how elemental life forms developed simple muscles and spines which helped them pursue food by enabling lateral flexion from the head down. Later species developed ribs, limbs, shoulder girdles, pelvic bowls and the corresponding joints and muscles, enabling refined and deliberate movement. Dimon highlights the consequential relationship between form and function, showing how size, shape, orientation and flexibility of various parts changed as different animals evolved. He compares our vertical form to fish, amphibians and reptiles, four-legged mammals and semi-erect mammals, explaining that rather than being built from the ground up, our erect stature is the result of a gradual up-righting of the original swing-from-the-head construct. Consequently, we are structurally suspended from above, namely, from the base of the skull, with extension and expansion happening from the head down. Ultimately, Dimon explains why and how the relationship of the head to the trunk (in any vertebrate) is the primary organizing principle governing support and movement and how "when properly poised" the human body "seems to spring upward effortlessly against gravity, maintaining its upward thrust because muscles supporting the head and trunk from below are also being lengthened from above."
The first eight chapters focus on the purpose and functionality of the basic musculoskeletal system, showing how each part works individually while contributing to sustaining upright posture. It is particularly helpful that each muscle layer is clearly described in relation to its connection (directly or indirectly) to the head. Subsequent chapters explain how breathing, the voice and throat and the spiral musculature both facilitate and are facilitated by our upright design.
Without mentioning the Alexander Technique, Dimon demonstrates that good design, really good design, affords the potential for good use, and that good use is vital to preservation of the mechanism and to its optimal performance. He also writes that our "capacity for autonomy and choice is directly related to our upright design." Uniquely human advantages such as opposable thumbs, a striding gait and vertical rotation are directly related to this most sophisticated of designs, influencing our powers of reflection and contemplation, expression, communication and exploitation
Beyond naming and mapping body parts, this book delves deeply into an understanding of how our tremendous range of movement is possible and how it serves our most human qualities of mind and spirit. Dimon ends with a call to "celebrate this physical form. . . and sing praise to its beauty". His book does just that, loud and clear.
2012 © Claire Rechnitzer (www.greatalexander.net). Reproduced with permission.
This edition © Mouritz 2014. All rights reserved.