Aston-Patterning is an integrated system of movement education, bodywork, ergonomic adjustments, and fitness training that recognizes the relationship between the body and mind for well being. It helps people who seek a remedy from acute or chronic pain by teaching them to improve postural and movement patterns.
Aston-Patterning is a process originated by Judith Aston in 1977. After graduating from college with an advanced degree in dance, Aston began working with
By 1977 Aston and Rolf's interests and views of bodywork had diverged. Aston left Rolf and established her own techniques, which she called Aston-Patterning. She has also developed a special program for older people called the Aston-Patterning Fitness Program for Seniors. Today Aston-Patterning is a registered trademark of the Aston Paradigm Corporation of which Judith Aston is the director.
Aston-Patterning assists people in finding more efficient and less stressful ways of performing the simple movements of everyday life to dissipate tension in the body. This is done through massage, alteration of the environment, and fitness training.
Seeking to solve movement problems, Aston-Patterning helps make the most of their own unique body types rather than trying to force them to conform to an ideal. Unlike Rolfing, it doesn't strive for linear symmetry. Rather it works with asymmetry in the human body to develop patterns of alignment and movement that feel right to the individual. Aston also introduced the idea of working in a three-dimensional spinal pattern.
Aston-Patterning sessions have four general components. They are:
- A personal history that helps the practitioner assess the client's needs.
- Pre-testing, in which the practitioner and the client explore patterns of movement and potential for improvement.
- Movement education and bodywork, including massage, myofacial release, and arthrokinetics, to help release tension and make new movement patterns easier.
- Post-testing, when pre-testing movements are repeated, allowing the client to feel the changes that have taken place and integrate them into daily life.
Aston-Patterning requires more participation from the client than many bodywork techniques. The massage aspect of Aston-Patterning is designed around a three-dimensional, non-compressive touch that releases patterns of tension in the body. It is gentler than Rolfing. Myokinetics uses touch to release tension in the face and neck. Arthrokinetics addresses tension at bones and joints. This massage is accompanied by education about the establishment of new movement patterns.
In addition to Aston-Patterning sessions, clients are also helped to examine their environment for factors, such as seating or sleeping arrangements, that may limit their body function and introduce tension. Finally, they may choose to participate in the Aston fitness training program that includes loosening techniques based on self-massage, toning, stretching, and cardiovascular fitness.
JUDITH ASTON ?–
Judith Aston was born in Long Beach, California. She graduated from University of California at Los Angeles with a B.A. and a M.F.A. in dance. Her interest in movement arose from working as a dancer. In 1963 Aston established her first movement education program for dancers, actors, and athletes at Long Beach City College.
Five years later, while recovering from injuries sustained during two consecutive automobile accidents, Aston met Ida Rolf, the developer of rolfing. Aston began working for Rolf, teaching a movement education program called Rolf-Aston Structural Patterning that emphasized using the body with minimum effort and maximum precision.
In time, Rolf and Aston's views on movement diverged, and the partnership was dissolved in 1977. Aston formed her own company called the Aston Paradigm Corporation in Lake Tahoe, California. This company provides training and certification for Aston practitioners. She also began exploring how environmental conditions affect body movement, foreshadowing the ergonomic movement in the workplace that developed in the 1990s. Over time, Aston has expanded her movement work to include a fitness program for older adults. Today, Judith Aston serves as director of Aston Paradigm Corporation.
Since clients typically work with an Aston-Patterning practitioner for extended periods of time, it is important that they feel comfortable with their specific practitioner. Certified Aston practitioners recommend that prospective clients make a get-acquainted visit before enrolling in a course of treatment.
Aston-Patterning can be quite demanding. People with any of the following diseases or disorders should consult a physician before undertaking a course of Aston-Patterning:
- Heart conditions.
- Diabetes. Because diabetes affects blood circulation, diabetics taking Aston-Patterning should ask the practitioner to avoid massage of the legs and feet.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. Aston-Patterning may worsen the pain associated with this disorder.
- Respiratory disorders, including asthma and emphysema.
- Osteoporosis. The deep tissue massage in Aston-Patterning may cause hairline fractures in brittle bones.
- Bleeding disorders and other disorders requiring treatment with anticoagulant or corticosteroid medications. Drugs in these categories can make the tissues fragile.
- Disorders requiring medications that affect the sense of balance.
- Post-traumatic stress syndromes. People suffering from acute stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other emotional disorders related to abuse should consult a psychotherapist as well as a physician before undertaking any form of bodywork. The physical contact involved in Aston-Patterning may cause flashbacks or bring up emotional and psychological issues.
The Aston-Patterning program can, however, be modified to meet the needs of older adults, those in poor health, or persons with special rehabilitation requirements.
Most clients of Aston-Patterning report a diminution of tension, improved ease of movement, and an enhanced feeling of well-being. Some clients, however, do report side effects, the most common being pain and exhaustion. To minimize side effects, clients should give the practitioner as much feedback as possible during sessions.
Research & general acceptance
Aston-Patterning is an outgrowth of Rolfing that has been shown to be of benefit in a limited number of controlled studies. Little controlled research has been done on either the benefits or limitations of Aston-Patterning; as of early 2003, no reports have been published in any peer-reviewed medical, alternative medical, or bodywork journals. Its claims have been neither proven nor disproved, although anecdotally many clients report relief from pain and tension as well as improved body movement. Aston-Patterning is a member of the International Alliance of Healthcare Educators (IAHE), and Judith Aston is a frequent speaker at IAHE conferences. In addition, Aston's postural assessment workbook is used by practitioners in other fields of bodywork and physical therapy.
Training & certification
The Aston Training Center in Incline Village, Nevada, offers courses and certification and promotes a code of ethics among its practitioners. Certification must renewed annually. As of early 2003 there are certified Aston-Patterning practitioners in fifteen states, with the largest concentrations in California, Colorado, and Washington.
Aston, Judith. Aston Postural Assessment Handbook: Skills for Observing and Evaluating Body Patterns. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, Inc., 1998.
Pelletier, Kenneth R., MD. The Best Alternative Medicine, Part I: Sound Mind, Sound Body. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.
Aston Training Center. P. O. Box 3568, Incline Village, NV 89450. (775) 831-8228. <http://www.aston-patterning.com>.
International Alliance of Healthcare Educators (IAHE). 11211 Prosperity Farms Road, D-325, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 34410. (561) 622-4334 or (800) 311-9204. <http://www.iahe.com>.
Rast, Mechthild. Book Review: Aston Postural Assessment Workbook. Neuro-Developmental Treatment Association Network January-February 2000. <http://www.ndta.org/edu>.
Rebecca J. Frey, PhD