Mattes Method Active Isolated Stretching and Strengthening Reflections on AIS Certification Process
By Ellen Turgasen

The AIS Certification process was unveiled and presented in July 2011 at the Chicago Basic Seminar taught by Aaron Mattes. I was new to AIS but already appreciating the knowledge and potential that  learning  AIS  could  bring  to  my  practice.    I  thought  to  myself  “Go  for  it!” I  remember  Aaron  Mattes  saying  “There  aren’t  enough  AIS practitioners. We need  more  of  you.”

I immediately started using the skills I had learned at the Chicago class in my practice. Those beginning stretches were tentative indeed and my clients had to be patient with me. I studied carefully the hand and forearm stretches and started to do them on myself every day. Or almost every  day  ... I noticed that my hands felt so much better on the days I did get up early to do AIS and so did my mental outlook and mood. I feel happier and more optimistic when I do AIS. This is very noticeable, actually.

I took my first seminar with Roger McNear in March 2012. AIS of the Upper Extremities. The physiology and stretches covered in class were identical to what is taught by Aaron. The one difference was that we were focusing exclusively on one specific area of the body. We had two full days for this and the class size was smaller. So there was more time to learn and repeat the individual stretches and the protocols. There was repetition, repetition, repetition. By the end of the weekend we all knew and could perform the Neck and Shoulder protocols. The same was true of the Lower Body seminar and the Trunk, Hands and Feet seminars. Roger teaches in an intelligent, careful and meticulous way as does Aaron Mattes. The difference is the amount of material covered in each class is more manageable, I would say and there is more time for repetition.

As I completed each seminar, I felt more competent and confident and started being able to use AIS more effectively in my practice. It seemed that as I learned more, the opportunities to use AIS presented more frequently as well. I started to document my hours for certification and each month the hours that I used AIS increased. This was so cool and I appreciated not experiencing the old familiar continuing education dilemma of spending time and money taking classes but never really getting proficient at the skills I had learned.

By November 2012, I  had  completed  Roger’s  three  basic  courses  and  I  ventured  down  to   Sarasota  for  the  Advanced  Seminar.    I  wasn’t  sure  that  I  qualified  as  ‘Advanced’,  but  Roger   encouraged me to go. Well, with the knowledge of the stretches and the principles of AIS practice and the protocols that I had methodically gained from taking three basic courses with Roger, I was thrilled to be back studying with Aaron Mattes and this time understanding much more of what he was teaching. I could keep up! The new book was just published and it was a great addition. By now I had 80 hours of classes completed towards certification and I decided to come back to Sarasota in January 2013 and take the Basic Course a second time. My table mates and I had taken courses previously and we found that we were not only learning the stretches  ‘from  the  top’  again,  but  we  were  amazed  at  how  much  more  nuanced  we  were  finding   the material to be. Especially the effectiveness of the gentleness and exactness of an informed AIS touch. The  ‘quality of the AIS touch’  was  the  leading  learning  of  that  class.

In February 2013, I took the Advanced Course again and this time spent some days observing in the clinic as well, which was a great learning experience. Aaron and David both said and did things in the clinic which I will never forget. On February 12, 2013 which was my 60th birthday, I completed the requirements for AIS Basic Certification.

I feel with this AIS Certification that I am now a well prepared beginning practitioner of AIS.

I have the background and knowledge needed to practice AIS safely and effectively in my practice and to really start understanding it more deeply and helping people more with AIS. For anyone considering whether to put forth the effort to meet the requirements for AIS Certification, I would say to you what I said to myself in Chicago, “Go  for  it!”

The AIS Certification process is well worth the effort required.

The requirement of taking 125 course hours may seem like a lot and the repetition of classes necessary to reach 125 hours may seem redundant. What I found was that taking this many hours and repeating classes by Aaron and by Roger was totally enriching and fruitful. There are layers upon layers of learning inherent in the understanding and practice of AIS. First, of course is learning the physiology of reciprocal inhibition, the stretches and the protocols. This is a large body of knowledge which takes a lot of time and study and practice to master. Beyond that is the exactness and gentleness of the touch, how to cue the clients to participate optimally, how to perform AIS in different positions; standing, seated and on the table. How to adapt the AIS protocols to address different health conditions and different populations of people. Athletes, the elderly, children, the abled and the disabled. Then of course the strengthening portion of AIS which is integral to its success. And AIS for self-care. The learning builds upon itself and the more classes taken the better the understanding and the more informed is our practice and the better practitioners we become.

The requirement of 400 hours of documented practice was a great motivator for me. It kept me using AIS with my clients when it might have been easier to fall back on just doing massage. When  people  came  in  with  a  particular  condition,  I  always  would  say  let’s  try  AIS  first  and  then   I will massage you. My clients responded very favorably. Now some are requesting only AIS ‘because  that  is  what  works’.    If  I  didn’t  have  the  400  hour  goal  I  wouldn’t  have  pushed  myself   to  do  as  much  AIS  as  I  did  in  the  past  year.    I  wouldn’t  have  the  depth of experience that accompanied the classes I  have  taken.    I  wouldn’t  have  used  the  skills learned in the classes with as much consistency.

The skills/competency exams given by Roger at the completion of each basic class are also a great motivator to learn the protocols well from start to finish. Roger is a fair and skilled teacher even when evaluating our skills. I always learned valuable lessons while taking the competency exams.

As with any new program, there are areas that still need to be developed. In the AIS Certification program, there needs to be developed a way to evaluate and certify the Advanced Practitioners who have been studying and practicing AIS with Aaron Mattes for many years. It is my understanding that this need is recognized and being addressed by Aaron Mattes and Roger McNear.

I am grateful to Aaron Mattes for developing AIS and to both Aaron and Roger McNear for teaching me and supporting me and for granting me this AIS Basic Certification. They are both men of superior integrity and great knowledge as well as dedicated and generous teachers and practitioners of Active Isolated Stretching and Strengthening.

Ellen Turgasen, R.N., LMT, Certified Mattes Method Active Isolated Stretching Practitioner
March 20, 2013
Madison, WI 

Upcoming Seminars:
Seminar Schedule 

Roger McNear: