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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.

Alexander Technique and Osteopathy

Jeremy Woolhouse

spinal alignment with Alexander Technique

I’ve been benefiting from osteopathic treatment since 2004 as an adjunct to my application of Alexander Technique to recover from spinal injury and for my ongoing journey since.  I’ve had confidence in referring to osteopathy and composed this article to explore the relationship of osteopathy to Alexander Technique.

Alexander Technique - some unique features:

Alexander Technique is a skill one learns.  Like learning a musical instrument, the basics alone may be studied, or the skills may be refined indefinitely.  A series of lesson will be of benefit to clients in very poor health, very good health, and everything in-between.

In addition to being educational, the process of learning, and applying Alexander Technique is therapeutic.  The effects of touch and manual movement associated with other body work modalities apply to Alexander Technique sessions.  In addition, the one-on-one discussions on a student’s thinking habits, health and lifestyle have a positive psychological impact. 

Alexander Technique offers a practical method to integrate the principle of body-mind inseparability.  The teacher instructs the student in modes of thinking which give rise to an improved coordination.  The teacher guides the student through movements and demonstrates how various modes of thinking impact on coordination and ability in a task.  The student is consciously engaged in the process of retraining movement so new thinking and moving patterns are learned together.

Students learn thinking skills which prevent engagement of habitual patters.  Then there is basis for a new conceptual framework to guide improved movement coordination.  Through this, the pupil is refining an awareness and learning how to appropriately respond to increased sensitivity.


Alexander Technique can complement osteopathic treatment

If a client is unable to retain improvements made during osteopathic treatment, possibly the client’s manner of movement or postural habits are hindering treatment.  Alexander Technique teachers are trained to identify the influence quality or manner of an activity has on the student’s coordination.  Activity which causes issues or is particularly relevant to the student is studied with the teacher and movement retrained.

These modifications in posture and movement would support and integrate changes initiated in an osteopathic treatment.  Also, the acquired ability to recognise, prevent and release accumulated tensions would make the client more open to change, and better able to integrate such changes during a treatment.

Alexander Technique is based on retraining the whole person - body and mind, and as such, it often can address idiopathic symptoms.  The teacher will diagnose how the student prevents his or her natural coordination from manifesting.  The Technique operates on the principle that engaging natural coordination creates the best condition for the body to function.  Invariably this improves management of symptoms, if not completely removing them.

By this means Alexander Technique has offered much to those with chronic conditions.  Through learning The Technique, students can challenge habituated responses to pain.  The empowerment this gives to the chronically ill is remarkable.  Students often become relived of a sense of helplessness or start to take responsibility for their own wellbeing on a whole new level.

Any clients who show they want to do something to improve themselves will find Alexander Technique infinitely rewarding.  Addressing a pattern of movement fundamental to symptoms will lay the ground for prevention of reoccurringinjury.  Beyond that, improvements in efficiency gained through Alexander Technique lead to greater ease and facility and will be of interest to anyone who wishes to refine or develop specialised skills.

One of the key aspects in Alexander Technique training is the development of self awareness.  As long as one is unaware of habitual misuse of the self, no change to that misuse is sustainable.  Again due to the integration of thinking and activity, Alexander Technique offers a unique and profound way to deepen awareness of the manner of one’s use of self.


Alexander Technique students value osteopathy

A refined sensitivity is one reason many Alexander Technique students appreciate the subtlety of osteopathic treatment.  Much as the Alexander practitioner may be able to engage himself to improve conditions, there is scope for external assistance.  If an obstruction is particularly resistant, support in getting over that hurdle is something osteopathy does effectively.  

Sometimes a profound effect is achieved in just one session of Alexander Technique.  However the subtle nature of the technique means it is often quite slow to make change.  The positive side of this is that the change has come by the student’s application and can be sustained.  The changes an osteopath may be able to make faster often bring relief and facilitate progress in learning Alexander Technique.

The initiation of a change in alignment through a treatment helps overcome the inevitable resistance to change that long standing habits present.  Osteopathy helps to bring the body into a condition where the skill of Alexander Technique can function optimally.

A particular strength of Alexander Technique is addressing issues which have arisen through habitual misuse of the body.  Whilst The Technique is still very effective, when a condition has arisen through some external factor, it is congruent to recruit treatment from external input.  Then the student can use Alexander Technique to address their responses to bodily insult and habitual patterns around that on their journey to recovery.


Consistencies with osteopathy abound

Similar to osteopathy, Alexander Technique is based on the principle that a symptom cannot effectively be addressed in isolation.  Working on an improvement in overall condition is considered the appropriate way to support a change that needs to happen locally.  Alexander Teachers are trained to work from the general to the specific - looking at the big picture and then addressing more refined and detailed aspects.  

F M Alexander coined the phrase “Primary Control” to describe what he observed of the way the quality of the head, neck and back relationship is fundamental to the functioning of the rest of the system.  This seems to reflect similar findings to the Cranial Osteopath’s emphasis on the head and neck.  The principle of Primary Control also encapsulates the relationship between positive structural orientation and effective functioning of body and mind.

In keeping with the principle of homeostasis osteopathy refers to, Alexander Technique is a process of removing barriers to the body’s natural coordinative intelligence.  Optimal conditions in the body will arise when the body can initiate it’s own processes.  The Alexander Technique teacher avoids ever imposing change upon the student, rather works with the student to enable change to arise in its own manner.  Thus it is an indirect procedure.

Much of an Alexander teacher’s work is encouraging the release of stresses and tensions.  Like osteopathy, the touch and movement the teacher makes is subtle and gentle.  Whilst some of this work is done in sitting, standing or in activity, it is in the lying component of an Alexander Technique lesson where students will most often comment on parallels with osteopathy.


Considerations and conclusions

There are no contraindications to Alexander Technique. 

Many referrals are made in the basis of The Technique’s history of success with:  mobility problems, speech and respiratory disorders, RSI, coordination, chronic and acute pain management, neck and back pain, neurological and musculo-skeletal disorders, sciatica, headache, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, anxiety and depression, postural defects, organic dysfunction, and many similar or general discomforts.

Because of its therapeutic nature, Alexander Technique is recognised by private health insurance funds though rebates depend on particulars of each policy.

Although it is sometimes a slow progression, the experience of a series of Alexander Technique lessons lays the foundation for independence.  It can take a client out of a persistent pattern and turn a downward spiral into a positive one. 

The combination of Alexander Technique with osteopathy is a powerful catalyst to make profound, sustainedpositive changes in health, wellbeing and lifestyle.


Image courtesy of sippakorn at

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