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Aston-Patterning® is an integrated therapeutic method that combines ergonomic modifications, fitness training, massage, and movement education. Key to this healing modality is a belief that the body is an asymmetrical structure that moves in three-dimensional spiral patterns. Because each person’s body is unique, there is no single perfect way to move and Aston-Patterning® treatment plans are developed for each individual. As a therapy, it aims to treat the whole person by taking into account each individual’s body, movement routines, psychological patterns, and temperament.
The Aston-Patterning® process was developed in 1977 by Judith Aston. As a dancer with both a bachelors and masters degree from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Aston began her work as an educator at Long Beach City College, training dancers, athletes and actors.
In the mid-70s, Aston began to disagree with traditional idea that the human body is a linear, one-dimensional, symmetrical structure. In her experience working with clients, she became aware of the individual differences in human bodies and solidified her theory of the body as a three-dimensional structure. Aston has applied her knowledge to everyday activities and environments, and has influenced techniques for rehabilitating injuries and designs for ergonomic products. Her company, Aston Paradigm, offers formalized training for healthcare practitioners and ergonomic products.
A typical Aston-Patterning® treatment session has four basic elements. First, the practitioner will ask specific questions about health history and daily movement routines to assess the client’s needs. Then the practitioner will conduct some pre-testing where he or she, along with the client, will try different types of movement and look for ways to improve movement patterns. Next, the practitioner will use a combination of arthokinetics, massage, and myofacial release to encourage new patterns of movement. The final stage is post-testing. Here, the pre-testing movements are repeated, which allows the client to feel the changes in their body and incorporate them into daily life.
Aston-Patterning® bodywork involves more participation by the client than most kinds of bodywork. When releasing tension, the practitioner educates the client about healthier movement patterns to reinforce the behavior. Also, the client is urged to examine environmental factors that impact their health, like sleeping and sitting arrangements.
In addition to bodywork, clients can participate in the Aston fitness program, the final component of the Aston-Patterning® method. Like the other components of the system, the program is individualized for each person’s body shape, limitations, and goals. The multi-dimensional training program consists of five types of exercise: horizontal loosening, vertical loosening, toning, stretching, and cardiovascular conditioning.
Because of Aston-Patterning® can be challenging, it’s best to check with your physician before undertaking a course, especially if you have diseases or disorders such as heart conditions, diabetes, or osteoporosis.
Some people report feeling less tension, a heightened sense of well-being, and better range of movement after treatment. Side effects can include exhaustion and pain while adapting to new movement patterns. To get the best out of treatment without too much pain, it’s important to communicate with your practitioner about how you’re feeling.