Friday, August 27, 2010

My Observations of Body Tuning - Day One

I have recently had a distinct and rare opportunity presented to me: to serve as a protege under Shmuel Tatz. He created and practices “Body Tuning” which is a kind of body work that amazes and delights anyone who is fortunate enough to find themselves underneath his hands. Part art, part science and part intuition, Body Tuning has helped many people overcome pain by literally tuning the body.

After a few interviews, I was finally invited today to shadow him and watch as he worked on a few of his clients. It was a humbling honor to watch him at work. If you’ve ever watched an artist create, you can relate. The artist will stroke and swipe at the canvas in what appears to the layman to be random applications of colors and textures. If you watch long enough, the piece of art begins to take form before your eyes. Watching Shmuel work today was a lot like this.

His first client walked in and before getting on the table, he tells Shmuel, “I’m feeling less pain and stiffness” to which Shmuel jokingly comments “I’m surprised!” I get the feeling that he hears people telling him similar things all the time. In fact, when I tried to describe my experience of being a Body Tuning client, he cut me short, saying “I know what it is that I do.”

Shmuel asked the client to lie face down and after spending a few moments manually moving his legs around, began to do what looked like a classic Swedish massage movement, stroking the calf, distal to proximal and just past the knee. After a few of those strokes, he laid his right forearm across the clients lower back and with his left hand, in what seemed like a very specifically determined place, applied his thumb into the calf. It looked as if he might be stretching the hamstring, I thought to myself. I also noticed how it didn’t look like he was using much of his own energy. At this point he was only leaning his body weight into the client. He kept this up for a few minutes, and at the same time, he was mobilizing the client’s body through rocking actions.

After a while he moved on, and then, with his fingertips, he seemed to be exploring the details of the origin of the gastrocnemius, and around the popliteal area.

What he did next came as a surprise to me. Whereas the treatment seemed to follow a logical path until this point, he suddenly went to the ankle and applied specific pressure with his thumb to an area lateral to the achilles tendon. It looked as though he was searching for something. Every once in a while, the patient would jump as if the pressure was causing a sharp, sudden pain, but it didn’t phase Shmuel, who stayed on task. He appeared to find the place he wanted to be, and maintained a constant pressure there on the ankle for what seemed like a few minutes; and the client would jump occasionally.

Shmuel then applied an ultra-sound machine to the posterior, lateral, distal aspect of the client’s thigh. It looked to me like he was targeting the hamstring at the musculotendonous junction. He kept the ultra-sound on that spot for two minutes. (Actually he had me hold the machine on the spot while he went off to do some work on another client in another room.)

When Shmuel returned, he had the client flip over onto his back. He began teaching the client how to stretch the area on his own. He taught him to simultaneously extend the knee joint and internally rotate the thigh. I could see in the client’s face that this was not easy; it was causing pain. But it is necessary, taught Shmuel. I also noticed, for the first time, that there was a big, fresh scar on the patients left leg just medial to the patella. Obviously he had had some kind of knee surgery. Shmuel told the patient that he needed to do this stretching exercise all the time throughout the day to encourage the healing.

Shmuel then got out another machine. This one was creating electrical impulses. He placed the electrified pad on the client’s thigh just proximal to the patella and left him with the controls. He instructed to client to adjust the intensity as necessary. He was told he should feel the stimulation, but not so much that it was uncomfortable. Again, Shmuel went to another room to tend to another client while this one had his electrical stimulation.

I asked Shmuel, “do you use electrical stimulation on everyone?” and in his typically humorous way, he answered, “only in those clients who need to drink water.” Which was obviously his way of saying, “yes”

I’m sure that as I observe more and learn more, I will be able to pick up finer details of what Shmuel is doing, but at this point it’s really an exciting mystery. I’m honored to watch him work and eager to continue learning.

When Shmuel returned to this client after the electrical stimulation, he pulled on the legs. It seemed like he could either be adjusting or just observing, but it was simply a brief and gentle swinging back and forth. The client mentioned that when he did the pulling, he felt a lot of relief.

The treatment was over, and Shmuel sent him on his way with his exercises.

I know this is only my first day observing this master at work. I’m impressed with what he does, but as I’ve said, it is still quite mysterious to me. I can’t really tell at this point if his main focus in on the bones, or the muscles or the connective tissue. He seems to split his time between them all. He also uses a lot of reflexology points in the ears. He says his work is intuitive, so I imagine it will be an interesting adventure for him to teach and for me to learn this wonderful thing called “Body Tuning.” I’m ready for the ride.

If you have pain in your body and are ready to feel the relief of Body Tuning, contact me and I'll get you in touch with Shmuel, or you can make an appointment to see him through his website: www.nyphysicaltherapist.com

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