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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.

The game of choice

Jeremy Woolhouse

red pill blue pill

Our lives are a series of choices.  Billions of our choices are made beyond the realm of consciousness.  The effect of our choices - conscious or not - can be positive, negative or neutral.  The more skilful we become at making positive choices, the more fulfilling our lives become.

Alexander Technique is naturally subject to this principle, and as such, can be described as “a technique for decision making.”  It is a training that hones specifically the skill of making decisions which improve our coordination, and thereby our ability to function effectively with ease.

At any point in our journey, we are presented with choices.  If ever we believe there is no choice, then we have succumbed to some limited sphere of thinking and action.  In lessons, the Alexander Technique teacher guides you through movements which give you something outside of what was previously experienced, and in doing so, the novel movements become possible options for the student on his own.

If there is fear surrounding some decision, The Technique presents a framework for either expanding on, or navigating, the available options.  Adhering to its principles means that whatever course of action is undertaken, it will be done so with optimal integration and coordination - thus reducing the capacity for injury or perpetuating poor functioning.

Alexander Technique presents at its core, a principle which can serve to guide the practitioner into the safest choices.  It informs the options that are consciously present, and allows for others to arise from the body’s intuitive coordinative intelligence.  

The principle of Primary Control forms the yardstick against which all decisions can be subjected.  In very basic terms, Primary Control is the functioning of the central coordination.  (Some more detail here.)  The quality of the interplay between head and torso is fundamental to the functioning of the whole self.  When presented with a choice, one which compromises the Primary Control is going to be problematic.  An option which actively stimulates the Primary Control is more desirable than this, or than an option which has an indifferent influence on Primary Control.

When one’s Primary Control is positively engaged, certain choices present themselves as clearly not preferable.  For instance, if one starts well coordinated, then bending forward with the back, (rather than from the hip joints) becomes more obviously something to avoid.  The body recognises, (consciously or not) that particular way of moving compromises the positive orientation one had to start.  The movement from the hip joints presents itself as a more desirable option since hinging there enables the expansive relationship of head to torso to be maintained.

Not only does this prevent injury and promote healthy functioning, it influences the very activity itself.  I was astounded in exploring this concept to find that decision making from the perspective of “what serves my Primary Control” resulted in a completely different note choice in performing an improvised piano piece.  The process of engaging Primary Control diverted the music from my more familiar and more habitual patterns, into something previously unexplored.

This process removes the slavery to habitual patterns whether or not the habit is even recognised.  Thus it paves the way not only to safer and more auspicious choices, but to true freedom in thought and action. 

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