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The Mentor Series

Ann and Wil talk about their mentor, Judith Aston

Judith Aston

The Aston Paradigm is an evolution of realizations by Judith Aston about the nature of human existence. It includes perceptions about our bodies' natural form and function, our processes of learning and self expression, and our interaction with the physical properties of the planet and our environment. Key to the paradigm is the recognition that the human body is an asymmetrical structure, that its motion and form take on three-dimensional asymmetrical spiral patterns and that each human body is unique.

Judith began training students in Aston-Patterning(it needs that R with a circle after it) in the mid-1970's. since then she mentored physical therapists, sports physicians, massage and bodywork professionals, psychotherapists, athletic coaches, and others in the health and rehab professions. Santa Barbarans Ann Todhunter Brode and Wil Gilbert have been two of these fortunate students. Ann was one of Judith's first students and Wil was in the latest graduating class.


Ann Brode

In the words of Ann Brode:

I have been attracted to the idea and practice of mentoring for over thirty years. Mentoring is an interactive relationship where the right teacher shows up and engages with the right student. It is the proverbial sitting at the feet of our elders. And like Odysseus who, in Greek mythology, entrusted his son to the tutelage and care of Mentor, such a relationship is one of sacred commitment.

The most profound mentor in my life has been Judith Aston, the founder of Aston-Patterning. I began my studies with Judith over thirty years ago…I was young, had talent and intellect and some life experience. But I also had a lot to learn about the understanding of the human body and how to engage effective structural change. I also had a lot to learn about being a student. It took me a long time to accept that place of “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”.

Some of the profound concepts that I studied under the tutelage of Judith Aston were, literally, how to see, how to listen, how to read the complexities of each body and how to design positive structural shifts that could be sustained. I also learned invaluable techniques designed to engage the soft tissues and bone structure through effective manipulation and subtle balancing. Over lighting it all was a philosophy that approaches each individual as unique and special. I know now as I knew then that such knowledge would necessarily have had to come from one of our time’s true creative geniuses. True, I studied in the context of a time when Ida Rolf, Moshe Feldenkrais, Ron Kurtz, Joseph Heller, John Upledger, etc were also discovering the physical implications of the mind-body-spirit puzzle but, for me, Judith had all of the pieces to construct the foundation that I needed to do my life’s creative work.

Ultimately, the most important thing that Judith did was model for me how to be a mentor …how to stand in that place of great knowledge and parcel out just the perfect amount, totally calibrated for each individual whilst embracing the mystery of the big picture. It is my deep belief that such relationships are the stuff of destiny. To recognize and honor our mentors deepens the impact and power of the journey.

By Wil Gilbert

How I came to Aston Patterning after twenty five years in the fitness industry was as much a reflection of the ongoing change in the “conventional wisdom” of physical fitness as it was the evolution of how I perceived myself in that world as a person and a teacher.

As a personal trainer and aerobics instructor from the mid seventies into the late eighties I worked and taught along the traditional lines of exercise philosophy of that time; burn calories, tone muscles through specific two dimensional exercises, and build aerobic conditioning. I did this well but by the time I entered my early forties and could feel the effects of these activities coming home to roost as arthritis, tendonitis, etc. I began to question the whole way that fitness was being taught.

I was not alone. During those years there were shifts going on in the world of fitness. Yoga and Pilates were enjoying huge success and the world of massage and other bodywork were coming into their own. Even though I had become a body worker and had explored the effectiveness of these other disciplines, they did not call to me. I was looking for something else.

Daniel Frank, my husband and long time rolfer suggested that I meet Ann Brode, and experience Aston Patterning. I met with Ann several times and as she worked on my body and began the subtle task of evoking new ways of movement and balance that were solely relevant to me, I could see that I had finally found what I was looking for. Before long Ann suggested that I move on and study with Judith herself. And, that is exactly what I did. With Judith, as with Ann before her, I was exposed to a truly holistic understanding of human movement. Instead of viewing the body as a collection of specific muscles and muscle groups that are designed to move in two dimensions, we were taught to see the muscular skeletal system as a unified integrated system that reflects one’s unique relationship to gravity. Judith’s teaching calls upon our ability to incorporate flowing, three dimensional, spiral movement in most activities. In a physical fitness context, this allows for more grace, tone, and far less wear and tear on the body.

As a teacher, Judith taught us how to elicit and help clients integrate these changes. We help the client understand, in their own bodies, what needs to change and then explore ways that evoke those changes. This is exactly the way Judith taught us to teach! When she is teaching a particular concept of movement, she begins by helping us understand our own existing body preference for that movement and then begins an exploration of new paths of action that are more efficient and healing. There is never a “one fits all” approach.

The transformative power of her work results in an even greater gift into which all the physical benefits are subsumed. When we experience a newness of being in how we move and how we relate to the gravitational field, all fields of expression can become new as well. It is this opening of untapped potential that makes Judith truly a master teacher.

Learn more:
Aston Enterprise
Ann Brode
Wil Gilbert

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