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50 Hortense St
Glen Iris, VIC, 3146
Australia

0490 126 293

Practice of Jeremy Woolhouse, pianist and Alexander Technique Teacher in Melbourne, Australia

Specialist in working with musicians, RSI, posture re-education, neck, back and chronic pain management. 

Articles on Alexander Technique in life - by Jeremy Woolhouse

Monthly blog articles by Jeremy Woolhouse.  Alexander Technique for daily life, music performance, specialised activities, pain relief and management.

Is it OK to play piano with pain?

Jeremy Woolhouse

If you experience pain when playing piano, your body is telling you that you are at risk of injuring yourself. Piano technique is not inherently painful. Even a mild discomfort is an indication that you can improve on piano technique; whether this may be the specific movement of fingers on the keys, the balance of the whole body to support your hands, or a combination of both.

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Rolling at the hip joints and spiraling round the spine

Jeremy Woolhouse

The spine gets a bit grumpy with complex movements. It is fine with flexion, rotation or side bending, but if two or more of these movements are combined the demand on the musculature increases and the risk of injury increases. Alexander Technique is a framework for reducing potential injury, increasing ease and efficiency.

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I don’t have time to use Alexander Technique right now.

Jeremy Woolhouse

Alexander Technique is an effective method for managing stress and cultivating efficiency. If we use the Technique when we are stressed and rushed, its effect is profound. If we feel we must wait for a quiet moment to use it, we may not realise the potential Alexander Technique has for enhancing and creating ease during performance. Too often, the situations in which we could most benefit from Alexander are also the situations in which we feel we haven’t the time to use it.

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Health Funds and the Evidence for Alexander Technique

Jeremy Woolhouse

The Australian Federal Government is introducing legislation effectively preventing private health funds from continuing to offer rebates for Alexander Technique lessons from April 1st 2019. This is in contrast to international precedent. The government'’s statement that there is “no clear evidence demonstrating the efficacy of the excluded natural therapies”  is misleading. There exists high quality evidence for the effectiveness of Alexander Technique.

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Self-Awareness and Remembering to Remember

Jeremy Woolhouse

‘Whenever I use Alexander Technique, it helps. But I keep forgetting to use it! Sometimes I get to the end of a job and realise I didn’t think of it once.’

Even when we appreciate the benefits of Alexander Technique, remembering to engage with it can be a challenge. This is all the more difficult if we are unaware of ourselves in the moment in which we are moving or resting with poor quality.

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Flow, Distraction and Integration in Thought

Jeremy Woolhouse

To practise Alexander Technique is to use thought skilfully. There are some special Alexander Technique thoughts which we use to embrace a greater scope for ourselves, including intentions which give rise to ease and efficiency in work. As we recognise that the way we think affects our capacity for comfort and function, we may naturally begin to align all our thinking processes with the principles of Alexander Technique.

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Alexander Technique Thinking: Inhibition and Direction

Jeremy Woolhouse

Alexander Technique is a skill which is practised in order to experience associated benefits. The many ways in which we may study or apply the Technique are all based on two particular kinds of thinking: inhibition and direction.

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Fundamental steps in Alexander Technique: ABC

Jeremy Woolhouse

This article presents a simple entry point for beginners to Alexander Technique.  Those with experience will recognise it as a core practice for using the Technique at any level.  Leaving space for customisation, expansion and refinement, let’s start with an ABC: Availability, Buoyancy and Continuity.

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Embodied Training for Instrumental Technique

Jeremy Woolhouse

Instrumental technique may be considered as the interface between concept and sound.  Our technical prowess determines how effectively our ideas flow from imagination, through the instrument, to the listener.  The definitions we create of technique, guide our practice and teaching.  They may be a liberating or limiting factor.  We inevitably acquire a set of judgements around what is appropriate technique, and what is not.

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Semi-supine practice guide

Jeremy Woolhouse

Semi-supine, also known as ‘active rest,’ ’constructive rest,’ or ‘lying on the floor with your head on books,’ is a learning tool and ongoing part of practising Alexander Technique.  Semi-supine gives a framework for positive movement towards ease and comfort. This guide is intended to support independent practice.

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Positive posture at the piano

Jeremy Woolhouse

Piano instruction books often depict ‘the right posture for playing piano.’  They may illustrate a pianist with a straight back, feet on the floor, and forearms parallel to the floor.  There are advantages and disadvantages to presenting images like this.  If a student were to hold this position, the holding may become very limiting for piano technique, not to mention tiring!  Through an investigation into positive poise, we can explore some principles of coordination for playing.

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Considerations in position of the piano stool

Jeremy Woolhouse

When asked about school chairs, FM Alexander is quoted as saying “We need to educate our children, not our furniture.”  The same can be said about the piano stool - it is far more profound and fundamental to learn to change one’s coordination than to learn where to put one’s stool.  The former also informs the latter.  We can look to Alexander Technique not for a prescribed position of piano stool, but for principles which can guide our decision making.

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From pain to proficiency playing piano

Jeremy Woolhouse

Moving from pain management and prevention of injury, to confidence, technical and musical proficiency at the piano.

Of all the instruments, piano may appear to have a most straightforward ergonomic. The pianist doesn’t have to hold the instrument, control breathing, deal with major symmetry challenges or contort for fingering. In spite of this, the rate of pain reported by pianists is high. Wrist pain, hand or forearm tension, tendinitis, carpal tunnel, frozen shoulder and back pain are commonly experienced by pianists.

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Clinical Research going into detail on how Alexander Technique works

Jeremy Woolhouse

The May 2018 edition of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice presents a qualitative study of the 2015 clinical trial of Alexander Technique and Acupuncture.  While previous publications have dealt with the quantitative results, this study analyses the participants’ experiences and investigates how the modalities attained positive results.

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A pianist in pain - a revolution through Alexander Technique

Jeremy Woolhouse

A nineteen year old aspiring to become a professional pianist, got to the stage where he’d be writhing on the floor from back pain after playing for fifteen minutes.  Three Alexander Technique lessons gave sufficient perspective to manage the crippling back pain.  This is the story of how I came to Alexander Technique and the fundamental learning of my first three lessons.

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Constructive thinking in performance

Jeremy Woolhouse

A fine balance is required in the performing arts.  Attention must be divided among essential specifics, and simultaneously be united towards coordinated performance.  Too much attention on one aspect is as disastrous as too little.  

When musicians perform, we consciously initiate certain aspects of coordination and action.  Many more processes are managed outside of our consciousness.  Some, we can learn to become aware of, and we may learn to directly modify these.

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Open letter to the minister of health

Jeremy Woolhouse

Currently, Australians with private health insurance are (subject to the particulars of their policy) able to claim a rebate for Alexander Technique lessons.  The Australian Federal Government has recently conducted a review of health fund inclusions.  It intends to place restrictions on what modalities private health funds may rebate and proposes to exclude Alexander Technique from April 1st, 2019.  The letter below is an appeal to the Minister for Health not to ignore the solid clinical support for Alexander Technique.

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