“Your body is shaped by the way that you use it, and in response, your body shapes the way you move through your day. Just imagine what could happen if you took the time to focus on how you moved for just one hour. What new possibilities might you discover?” -Judith Aston, Moving Beyond Posture
Aston-Patterning is, more than anything else, an educational tool. The bodywork people receive facilitates the unwinding of old tension and pain patterns in the body, but it is the movement and ergonomic work that allows them to sustain change.
Over the years, I have found that the single best way to help people maintain (and continue to progress) changes in their movement and ergonomic patterns is to help them improve their body awareness. This enables them to join their intellectual understanding of the reason for change with a body sense of how the change feels. How we go about this is quite simple; using a few basic movements, I help people bring their awareness to some of the effects their current movement/postural patterns have on their body. I then take them into a new position and ask them to compare and contrast the effects that new position has on these same basic movements.
In the beginning stages of modifying movement patterns, it can be very easy to get caught up in how different the changes feel in the body. It can often read as “weird” or “wrong”. This is where comparing and contrasting your habitual patterns with any proposed changes becomes very useful; it allows you to move away from judgments based upon familiarity and instead ground your assessment in quantifiable changes to your movement. For example, it allows us to say: Okay, this feels kind of weird, but it allows me a greater range of motion through my shoulder girdle. I also have a larger range of motion when I turn my head from side to side.
Next month, I’ll guide you through a short checklist to help improve your body awareness, using the tool of compare and contrast. In the meantime, experiment with this on your own. Have you been working on changing some aspect of your movement-for example, modifying your golf swing, office chair set-up, or running form? Don’t just make changes arbitrarily; chose one or two things to pay attention to and toggle back and forth between your habitual movement pattern (A) and the change you’re considering implementing (B). How are your modifications helpful? Do they really make any noticeable difference? See if a slight variation on (B) is even better. Then go back to (A). Feel free to add other variations to determine if they are more useful, but only compare two options at a time- it will help you more precisely ascertain what is helpful and what is not.
Amanda Skidmore is a staff member of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, where she helps people release long-held tension and pain patterns, while also teaching them how to use their bodies with greater ease and efficiency. For more information, give us a call or visit the front desk.