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Volume 11 Issue 1
May/June 2005

A Traditional Knowledge Keeper Awakens Spirit Through Stories

A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts

Leaves of Three, Let it Be: Poison-ivy & Its Antidote, Jewelweed

Anti-gymnastique Therese Bertherat: A Method to Reveal Your True, Harmonious & Balanced Body

Covenent Groups:
Finding Our “Selves” Through the Small-Group Experience


Anti-gymnastique Therese Bertherat:
A Method to Reveal Your True, Harmonious & Balanced Body

by Ginette Seguin-Swartz, BSc, PhD
Martin Krátky

Developed in the mid-1970s by French physiotherapist, Thérèse Bertherat, anti-gymnastique, or anti-exercise, as it is translated into English, has been taught for numerous years in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Brazil, and Argentina. In Canada, anti-gymnastique instruction has until recently only been available in Montreal. This powerful method is based on the findings and teachings of French physiotherapist Françoise Mézières. An expert in human anatomy, Mézières developed an original approach to physiotherapy and obtained spectacular results in curing such severe structural deformations as scoliosis. Thérèse Bertherat was a student of Mézières and practiced for many years as a Mézières physiotherapist before designing anti-gymnastique. Her book, Le corps a ses raisons (The Body Has Its Reasons), was her first effort in describing her philosophy and approach. The Body Has Its Reasons was extremely successful, selling over one million copies, and was translated in several languages. Thérèse Bertherat has since published four other books (see bibliography below), which have yet to be translated into English.

Anti-gymnastique is a self-healing method that involves the physical, emotional, and psychological realms. Students gradually learn about themselves, how their bodies are organized, and how they function. They learn to identify their muscular tensions, develop insights on the possible origins, emotional or otherwise, of their tensions and learn how to release them. Students become fully aware of the relationships that exist between the different parts of their body and how these parts interrelate. They learn about the concept of the back muscular chain developed by Mézières, how this exceptionally strong muscular chain, compared to a tiger in one’s back by Thérèse Bertherat, is organized and how it distorts the body as the muscles shorten and tighten over time and how this creates an imbalance between the front and the back of the body. This imbalance usually results in a misaligned body; for instance, one leg could be shorter than the other, one hip could be higher or more forward than the other, one shoulder could be higher or more forward than the other, the head could be constantly tilting to one side. A misaligned body is often associated with muscular pain. Students learn to lengthen the back muscular chain, restoring the balance between the back and the front of the body, bringing the body back into harmony and proper alignment, and eliminating pain.

A harmonious body allows for normal function of the body systems, good posture, easy movement, and optimal energy flow. What does a harmonious body look like? When a person is viewed from the front, standing with the feet together, the toes should be straight and the big toes should touch their whole length, the inner edge of the heels should touch and the anklebones should touch. The upper calves should touch, the knees should touch, and the upper thighs should touch. A space should be visible between the ankles and the calves, the calves and the knees, and the knees and the upper thighs. The hips should be at the same level, the shoulders should be at the same level, the clavicles should be horizontal, the head should be straight, and the facial features should be symmetrical. The arms placed along the body should show no curvature at the elbows and the middle fingers should align with the mid-line of the thighs (seam of pants). The space between the arms and the body should be identical on both sides. When a person is viewed from the back, the back should be flat and show no relief, that is, the shoulder blades should not stick out. When a person is viewed from the side, the most prominent point on the front of the body should be the nipples.
The regular practice of anti-gymnastique restores muscle elasticity and proper functioning, resulting in regained flexibility and balance, improved breathing and general well-being, youthful posture, and the elimination of muscular tensions and pain that prevent us from moving gracefully and effortlessly. Although not designed to be curative of specific diseases, anti-gymnastique often results in the alleviation of the symptoms of certain medical conditions, particularly when muscle tension plays a major role.

Anti-gymnastique is taught in small groups by an instructor who has been trained and certified by Thérèse Bertherat. Teens, adults, and seniors can practice anti-gymnastique. The method is helpful for pregnant women to facilitate delivery and is also beneficial to athletes to prevent injuries and improve performance.

Prior to joining an anti-gymnastique group, students must attend two individual classes with the instructor. These classes are an opportunity for a prospective student to experience anti-gymnastique firsthand and for both teacher and student to decide if the method is appropriate. Students who elect to join an anti-gymnastique group are enrolled for a session of ten weekly classes, each class lasting about one hour and a half. For classes, students are required to wear loose clothing, for instance, T-shirts and exercise tights, and to remove all jewelry, watches, rings, etc. During each class, students are led through sequences of very small and very precise movements that respect the anatomical reality of the human body. These movement sequences exert a profound effect on the physiology and the nervous system, resulting in positive, permanent change. Students are encouraged to express themselves during class, ask questions, and participate in discussions.

Anti-gymnastique represents a serious commitment. It requires a willingness to listen to one’s body, a willingness to change, and determination and patience, as changes occur gradually over time.

Books authored by Thérèse Bertherat:

Bertherat, T. and C. Bernstein (1976) Le Corps a ses raisons. Éditions du Seuil, Paris, France. ISBN 2-02004439-0 (published in English in 1989 as The Body Has Its Reasons, Healing Arts Press, Rochester, USA. ISBN 0-89281-298-2)

Bertherat, T. and C. Bernstein (1981) Courrier du corps. Éditions du Seuil, Paris, France. ISBN 2-02-005528-7

Bertherat, T. (1985) Les saisons du corps. Éditions Albin Michel, Paris, France. ISBN 2-226-02313-5

Bertherat, T. (1989) Le repaire du tigre. Éditions du Seuil, Paris, France. ISBN 2-02-010705-8

Bertherat, M., T. Bertherat and P. Brung (1996) À corps consentant. Éditions du Seuil, Paris, France. ISBN 2-02-023554-4

Ginette Séguin-Swartz is a certified Anti-gymnastique Thérèse Bertherat instructor and has been offering Anti-gymnastique classes in Saskatoon since January 2004. She is currently the only English-speaking instructor in North America. For further information phone (306) 249-1073, email Ginette at ibt221@sasktel.net, or visit www.antigymnastique.com.


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