dave wardman

physical Alchemy





Physical Alchemy is the name of the physical cultivation and alchemical methods I teach based upon my studies, training and experience in the last 14, or so, years. It is an Art of Re-patterning – just as there are martial arts or performing arts. 

current teachings

The methods begin with transmutation of the physical body, seeking to cultivate deep qualities (such as aliveness and physical intuition) as a primary, and base capacities of the body such as flexibility, strength and agility as secondary (and still important) focus. Thus, practically, the training begins as physical re-patterning work in which the methods outlined follow guiding principles that are explicitly not those of fitness, performance, health or wellness (though some or all of these may occur as beneficial collateral).  Training is to free oneself of unconscious and habitual patterns of motion, speech, behavior, gesture and posture – and to forge onward into the un-knotting of breathing, mind and emotional patterning.

Re-patterning Stretching differs from many methods of stretching in that it focuses simultaneously upon increasing range of motion and increasing the quality of sensory impressions from the new area – but with a hierarchy towards the sensory impression quality.  The breath, sensations and various protocols and parameters become more important in this sub-syllabus.  The intention is not so much on the maximum range of motion (flexibility) but in the quality of the ‘cooking process’.  We are using stretching here, not primarily for flexibility increase, but as the primary vector in an internal alchemical process – as tissues on stretch ‘light up’ in the awareness more strongly and can be focused on and worked in a number of interesting and specific ways. The library that is the sensory lexicon is stocked with many 'new tomes' from this process. 

This syllabus at its upper end also makes use of a number of ‘nuclear strength’ stretches and multiple partner assistance strategies for working on the body (when it has undergone thorough preparation, of course!) which are applied in a different way and are largely for experienced practitioners only.  These Body Tessellation level and other very strong stretches are truly remarkable re-patterning tools. And they are fun, too!  They are very good for increasing Kinesthetic intelligence in practitioners of physical methods or therapies.

Physical Cultivation is the use of physical culture exercise, movement training and martial arts drills within a Physical Re-patterning Work framework (the physical part of the greater ‘Re-patterning’ spectrum). Awareness when practicing is key to Physical Re-patterning work.  

Thus, Physical Cultivation combines Awareness, sensation clarity cultivation and motion with the hierarchy of importance within Physical Alchemy being:  Awareness –> Sensations (atmospherics) –> Motion (Movement) and Physical Cultivation.  This is in the inverse order to which I learned these skill sets.  Training tries as soon as possible to fuse all three aspects at once – in practice (training) and in daily life.


The method as it applies at a class and workshop level is largely about the practical application of the Re-patterning Stretching and Physical Cultivation syllabuses from the outer of three shells of Physical Alchemy.  These are huge syllabuses, so there is plenty of material that can be taken in any number of directions based upon the abilities and the flavor of the group being taught.  


Theoretically I draw influence from: the sciences (primarily anatomy & physiology; history and philosophy of science; ecology; exercise science and psychoneuroimmunology);  the intellectual heritage of the Stretch Therapy syllabus; the Structural Integration [Rolfing] school of bodywork and a number of Eastern (largely Daoist) and Western soft tissue re-modelling and physical cultivation systems.

Practically (on a physical body level) I am heavily influence by:  traditional and modern martial arts; the Stretch Therapy [Deep Well Being] system (of which I am a Senior Teacher); Western physical culture methods old and new – and my own explorations in the simultaneous uniting of physical, mental and emotional intelligences.

On a spiritual level I am heavily influenced by:  Ch’an and Korean Zen practice; Daoist practice and cosmology; the work of Gurdjieff and the teachings of my two Teachers [L] and Serge Augier [Clan Daoism – Ba Men Da Xuan].

An odd mix, I admit.



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