Wake up and S-T-R-E-T-C-H

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Picture above: Platt sitting in St. John School of the Arts studio where his stretch class takes place during the week. St. John Tradewinds photo by Amy Roberts.[hr gap=”1″]

What are you doing at 8:00 in the morning?  If you’re not at work, or tending to family, or meeting some other obligation, you may want to consider coming to Alan Platt’s stretch class at the St. John School of the Arts.

Platt, a chiropractor who is awaiting his license to practice in the Virgin Islands, teaches the class at the Cruz Bay studio every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8:00 a.m., and on Saturday at 9:00 am, even if only one person shows up. “I do it whether anybody comes or not because I need to stretch,” he said.

Platt had a history of injuries resulting from daredevil childhood antics, periods of hard labor, and his love of thrilling sports.  At the age of 20 he had x-rays of his back and was told he had the spine of an 80-year-old because of osteoarthritis.

When he was 34 years old and in training to become a chiropractor, he suffered a period of paralysis because of the level of damage to his spine.  “Stretching became an integral part of gaining back what I had lost physically,” he said.

As Platt discovered the benefits of stretching to recover from injury, he began thinking about how stretching might help prevent injuries.  Reading everything he could on the subject, he eventually developed a routine which he describes as “ultimate basics,” one that is simple to learn and easy to practice at home, no matter what shape you’re in.

Platt’s stretch class is open to everyone on a drop-in basis for $10 a class.  He donates all the money he collects to the St. John School of the Arts.

At a recent class attended by five men and women—all aged 60 or older—Platt explained that stretching in his class differs from the stretching done as warm-ups in a typical exercise class. Each of his stretches is meant to last a minute or longer.   The goal is to relax deeper muscles, so when it comes to effort, “Less is more,” he explained.   Nothing is meant to hurt.  “It’s much easier than yoga,” he said.

As he guides everyone through the moves, he keeps up a steady patter, explaining the rationale and benefits.  While participants give themselves foot massages, pulling on their toes and pressing knuckles between the joints at the ball of the foot, he mentions that each foot—the body’s foundation– contains 29 bones.  In fact, half of the number of bones in the body are contained within the hands and the feet.

Platt had worked as a chiropractor in Southern California for five years, in the British Virgin Islands for ten years, and in St. Lucia for three years before moving to St. John.  (An avid scuba diver and diving instructor, he fell in love with the waters of the Caribbean.) During his years in the BVI, he often visited St. John.  “I must have hiked the Reef Bay Trail 200 times,” he said.  During one of his visits, he met his partner, Debbie Hayes, and decided to move to St. John and set up a practice in Red Hook, St. Thomas.

But things have not turned out as he has expected.  In spite of earning a D.C. degree (Doctor of Chiropractic) from Palmer College — established in 1897 by D.D. Palmer, the father of chiropractic medicine– and being licensed to practice throughout the United States, the BVI, and St. Lucia, Platt has not been able to obtain his license to practice in the Virgin Islands.

Platt explains the problem as resulting from an antiquated law and the interpretation of that law by of some members of the Virgin Islands Board of Chiropractic Examiners.

“The law states that the holder of a license must have a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree, or equivalent,” said Platt.

Platt explains that he did not follow the conventional path to pursue a medical degree after high school.  Instead, he joined the Air Force for two years and then moved to Alaska. During the summer he lay telecommunications cable along the Alcan Highway and then operated phone and office supply stores in Fairbanks for several years.

When Platt decided to apply to chiropractic school, he gained admission to Palmer College after completing all the pre-med prerequisites.  Although he has done most of the coursework, he never earned a bachelor’s degree from a college. Platt maintains that meeting the prerequisites and earning a Doctorate in Chiropractic should satisfy the requirement for “an equivalent” under the V.I. law.

“I’ve spent the last seven months typing out letters to satisfy the board, but to no avail,” said Platt.   In the meantime, he continues to offer his stretch classes which he hopes people of all ages and all levels of fitness will attend.

The website for the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards states that as of 2014, there were 29 active licenses for chiropractors in the Virgin Islands. Nineteen of the licenses belong to residents.  Three chiropractors currently hold office hours on St. John.