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50 Hortense St
Glen Iris, VIC, 3146
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+61 3 9819 0845

Practice of Jeremy Woolhouse, pianist and Alexander Technique Teacher.

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, specialised activities, pain relief and managment.

The one prerequisite to learning Alexander Technique

Jeremy Woolhouse

emerging metaphor for learning

Alexander Technique is for everyone.  And it is not for everyone.  I firmly believe that everyone has the capacity to benefit from Alexander Technique study.  There is only one prerequisite and those who don’t meet may find more value in other modalities.  Alexander Technique has the potential to help everyone because meeting that prerequisite is also something that everyone can learn to do.  it’s just that some will choose not to.

At the root of my teaching practice is a conviction that we have within us the capability to coordinate ourselves optimally for every occasion.  We could call this the “body’s coordinative intelligence”, and it lies below (or above) our consciousness.  (I’ve not had occasion to work with students with brain injuries, but they may be an exception if the coordinative areas of the brain are affected.)

The role of Alexander Technique is to remove obstructions to this natural grace and ease.  The obstructions are patterns of thinking and movements - habits we acquire through various means.  They may be associated with injury or trauma, training or genetics.

The reasons for the deviation from our innate coordination warrants an article in itself - for now I’d like to talk more about the prerequisite.  It is what I will call willingness.  I propose that if one is willing to engage with, investigate, learn, question or experience Alexander Technique, then one is qualified to redeem its benefits.

Actually, that is all that is required of the student.  Progress will occur as a natural result, if the principles of The Technique are adhered to.

One aspect of willingness, is a willingness to change.  Every student who seeks Alexander Technique has some desire to change - to reduce pain or increase performance etc.  There are several kinds of change, I group them roughly in heretical categories.

Environmental change

Some situations can be improved by an ergonomic adjustment.  Changing the height of a chair, a pair of shoes, or reducing the amount of weight one is carrying can make significant impacts on ability to function.  However, there remains the possibility that the environmental changes are made, but the movement pattern remains unaffected.  We can persist in sitting badly if the “bad” chair has been replaced for a “good” one.

Superficial change

For sometime I used a break program on my computer which blanked the screen out for 5 minutes out of every 30.  It supported me in changing the habit of being stuck in one place for too long.  We can change our routines or diet, take up sports or meditation, change jobs or procedures and feel like we are making progress.  These changes however, on their own don't present as sustainable unless they are there to support something deeper.

Profound change

When the processes of Alexander Technique are fully embodied, they become inseparable from the task at hand.  The very manner of undertaking any procedure is integrated with the innate coordinative system.  The way in which we think and act is inclusive of a larger picture - it includes the task at hand and the quality of the self undertaking the task.  This is a change of attitude at the deepest level and is the most fundamental.

Support

The aspiring student probably has give no consideration to these subtleties.  Her understanding will arise from her experiences as she progresses with study.  A willingness to engage in these changes is something the student must develop, since operating from a profoundly different attitude will feel unfamiliar.  Unfamiliar sensations are often processed as a threat, in spite of our best intentions to embrace change.

The teacher is there as a support in making these bold movements away from the comfort of habit.  The procedures of Alexander Technique present a framework for entering the realm of the unknown.  And the principles provide the safety one needs to embark on the journey.

Faith

Given that the sensations of familiarity are going to be challenged, the pupil needs some belief in the process.  There must be some conviction in order for there to be willingness.  It is nice when the student trusts the teacher, but if this is blind faith, then it undermines the student’s own willingness.  Blind faith is not only potentially dangerous, it is counterproductive.

I’d like for the student to recognise that what she is trusting in, is her own judgement of the teacher’s competence.  In Alexander Technique, the teacher is actively trying to make himself redundant.  If the student can manage on her own, she is empowered and can sustainably access the body’s own coordinative intelligence to meet any situation.  

The faith I aim to foster in the students is not a faith in me as a teacher, or in the Alexander Technique as a tool.  If the student can even for a fraction of a second, successfully apply Alexander Technique, they have experienced the body’s ability to coordinate itself, and this experience can form the basis for a faith-of-self which permeates through all the students thoughts and actions.

It is accessible to all who are willing.

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