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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.

Hierarchy in Alexander Technique

Jeremy Woolhouse

The Alexander Technique has a remarkable relevance to any vocation - be it trade, art or sport.  It deals with fundamentals of human coordination and has a set of principles which organise specialised skills into a constructive framework.  Effective prioritisation of attention is a characteristic of positive coordination.  Many attempts to find relief from pain, or to improve performance, fail because a certain hierarchy is neglected.  

Central to Peripheral

When one looks at the requirements for any activity, there are many movements involved.  Usually our attention is drawn to the interface with our tool or instrument.  Most commonly, that interface is through the hands, but it may also be eyes, feet, ears or any number of other parts.

For coordinating oneself into the given activity, any limb or extremity will require support from the body.  In order to run fingers over a keyboard, the support of the arms, shoulders and whole torso is needed.  We continue until we have the base of the pelvis and feet transferring weight to the seat and floor before we can consider any action of hands and fingers to be fully supported.

So that the action is buoyant and light, the head’s relationship to the torso must also be positive.  This is most obviously critical if we have motion involving hands, as the arms and shoulders have some common musculature with the head, neck and back.  But it is equally critical to activities which are more indirectly related.

In coordinating the self for any activity, we need to prioritise the support from the core.  Once we have organised the central coordination, the peripheral is placed in optimum readiness for any particular refined movement.  The hierarchy here is that we must work from Central to Peripheral.

Making peripheral changes will inevitably place a different demand on the central support.  If the central support is optimised first, it is adaptable and supports peripheral change.  If central coordination is not engaged, the body will be awkwardly compromising its support structure trying to meet the demands of the limb.

General to Specific

Our activities involve very specific movements.  Refining these movements is part of skill acquisition, and practice of any discipline or practice.  Attention to these specifics may however be at cost to the bigger picture.  If our focus gets narrow, we don’t notice compromise appearing elsewhere.

Prioritising general coordination brings the whole self into a condition where it is best equipped to make specific changes.  At the very least, in attending to the general first, one avoids the possibility of compromise creeping in unawares.

We still need attention to specific details of any task.  Attending to the whole makes the ability to attend to specifics more profound.  Once can more deeply engage when the whole self is being brought to bear on the specifics of an activity, and distractions of discomfort elsewhere are avoided.


Whilst these two principles are quite simple, their practice is not so easy.  Our culture drives us to go direct for results, whereas these principles ask for an indirect process.  In order to embrace fully these principles, one needs to be prepared for a shift in perspective which challenges training and habit.  In doing so, one becomes open for a far more wholistic and integrated engagement in activity.

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