A Couture Massage for What Ails You

By Mary Bemis / September 10, 2011

I’ve been a guinea pig for all kinds of new spa therapies and treatments, but it’s not often that I find one that really stands out. Yes, they feel good and leave my skin polished, pummeled, and hydrated—but the majority of them don’t address what needs to be “fixed” in the way of aching joints or sore muscles, nor do they offer lasting benefits. So, I was happily surprised when I met with massage therapist Bud Early who works at the spa at The Jefferson hotel in Washington, D.C., the little jewel of a spa offers something called “The Couture Massage,” designed to address those needs. As lovely as it sounded, I was doubtful that it would differ much from any other customized massage at a very nice spa.

After speaking with Bud about my concerns, he went to work using two different Aston-Patterning forms: a deep tissue massage using Myo-Kinetics and the Arthro-Kinetic form, a wonderful decompression technique with an emphasis on the joints. He explained that Arthro-Kinetic work is very well received by those with joint problems like rheumatoid arthritis because it helps to increase range of motion and decrease pain.

Impressed, I asked him to explain the technique. He told me that Judith Aston was a dancer, choreographer, and a protégé of Dr. Ida Rolf (whom Rolfing was named after). “Dr. Rolf asked her to develop a set of exercises to help people maintain the postural improvement they got from being Rolfed, and Judith felt that myofascial/structural change could be produced without it being as painful as Rolfing usually was,” said Bud. “She began developing techniques that were deep and effective, yet less invasive, so therefore, less painful.”

When a fitness magazine ran a story with a few paragraphs dedicated to Judith’s work, labeled as “Soft Rolfing,” mayhem broke out at the Rolf Institute, and students there were told they had to choose between one or the other.

“Before the split with the Rolf Institute, it was my understanding that [Judith] was the only person Dr. Rolf herself would allow to work on her,” said Bud. That, plus the fact that the Rolf Institute bestowed an Emeritus status on her for her contribution to Rolfing suggests that she was on to something significant, he added. Today, Judith and her husband run the Aston Training Center out of Incline Village in South Lake Tahoe.

But back to The Jefferson: my Couture Massage also included a little Polarity therapy and some cranio-sacral work, making it one of the most therapeutic massages I’ve received in my 20-plus years of reporting. www.jeffersondc.com

Mary Bemis
Mary Bemis

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