Monday, August 30, 2010

Shhh! Body Tuning in Progress

Observations from the second day of my apprenticeship.

“Most people do too much, or not enough. People who do too much, need to tune their bodies. People who do too little need to tune their bodies.” Words of wisdom from Shmuel Tatz, creator and practitioner of Body Tuning. You take your car in for a tune-up at regular intervals, you have your musical instruments tuned regularly to keep them running optimally, so why wouldn’t you treat your body with the same care?

Do you like your body? Do you love it? When was the last time you told your body that you love it? Even though literally saying “I love you” to your hand may have benefits, I’m talking about a different kind of communication. Most people don’t really have much of a relationship with their bodies. They don’t really give their bodies much notice until there is a pain or discomfort. But this is not good. This is your body’s desperate way to get your attention and alert you that something is wrong. By the time you feel the pain, it has likely been wrong for a while. If you had been taking care of your body, then you wouldn’t have gotten to this place and you wouldn’t be in pain or discomfort. Being in communication with one’s own body will help keep you tuned up.

I have been a fitness professional for 20 years. I work with people who are exercising and want to improve their bodies. And in this process, I’m very often stunned by how little conversation there is going on. At no time is there much inquiry on the part of the client; and if there is, it would usually be an inquiry of me, not of their own body. Most people want to be told what to do and then they may or may not do it. But if they took the time to listen to their own body and then responded to what the body was saying, they wouldn’t need to ask me anything; they’d already know the answers. Or at least they’d know where to find the answers.

A simple thing like gentle, flowing movements of all the joints is something that your body will likely ask for every morning. Are you listening? That creak. That staggered movement. The stiffness. That is the language of your body. This is the language a Body Tuner speaks. By being alert to the sounds and sensation of your body, a Body Tuner hears your body’s request loud and clear.

Today, as I was watching Shmuel work, I was struck by how often people are really wrapped up in their stories. They love to describe everything that was or currently is going on in their bodies and to relate a total history, complete with the opinions and ‘diagnoses’ of other professionals. I often heard Shmuel asking them to stop talking. “I only want to know what’s going on right now,” he says. He asks, “What are you feeling right now.” And that’s what he really wants to know.

The proper answer to this question would be, for example, “My left shoulder is very stiff and it hurts to raise my arm.” In my experience, this would be enough information for Shmuel to begin his work. But this is not the way people like to answer. Today, as part of my training, I observed two clients being interviewed. Both were new clients and obviously not used to the way Shmuel works, because their answers were quite ornate. Both went into a description of the complete history, including the opinions of prior professionals, sleeping habits, what they had experienced in the past, what usually helps, what doesn’t help, what makes it worse, and even what they suspected was going on.

The work of Body Tuning has no use for all of this information. In fact, while a Body Tuner is tuning the body, all of this talking serves as nothing but a distraction. “Please listen to the guitar” Shmuel will say, referring to the peaceful classical music playing in the office. When the client is finally quiet and relaxed, he can better ‘hear’ the body. The body will ask for what it needs, and it will clearly and precisely describe what is wrong. A Body Tuner listens by touching and moving the body. It is an intimate relationship between body and hands.


I can tell that this technique is one that would be very hard to teach, and I admire Shmuel for endeavoring to teach me and I hope that I am open and ready to learn. The work itself is powerful in its simplicity. As I watch, I sometimes think, ‘that’s yoga. If this person had been doing yoga, then they might not be here in this office.” But then there are other times when he uses reflexology, or deep, constant pressure or traction.

Today, as he was working on a famous dancer who was in his 60’s, Shmuel was mobilizing his hip and as he worked, I could hear him repeating “relax, relax, relax, relax” At first, I assumed Shmuel was speaking to the person, but the dancer was lying on the table and seemed utterly relaxed. His right hip, however, was telling a different truth. I finally suspected that Shmuel’s mantra was directed to the body, rather than the mind. “Relax, relax, relax” was what he wanted the muscles of the hip to do.

When I first started to watch Shmuel work, my big question was “how do you know what to do.” But after only two days, having observed his work on about ten bodies, I think I know how he knows what to do. He asks the body, and the body answers.

And isn’t that how it should be? If he sat me down and told me, “first you pull this, then touch that making sure you always turn this that way first....” I’d glaze over from the dullness. But this work is exciting in that it is alive. It’s fresh. There is no pattern, no system. It’s a communication and allows the body to do its best. We all have the capacity to self-heal, and Body Tuning sets that capacity free.

Today I was given the opportunity to assist manually. I was stabilizing the lower leg of a client while Shmuel was pulling the thigh. At first, I didn’t feel anything happening, but after a minute or so, I started to feel the tissue of the leg shift and change. I would swear I could feel it moving around, adjusting, making itself more aligned. And then I heard (or did I feel?) a few, very tiny popping sounds. Intuitively, I knew that felt good. Moments later, the client said, “that feels good to turn my hip that direction.”

How did he know? The client didn’t tell him. The client never would have known that’s what he needed. But this client was lying quietly and letting his body tell us what it wanted.

If you made a lifetime practice of listening to your own body, you’d be in great shape. But if you, like many people, have some pain in your body that doesn’t seem to be going away, that’s your body saying “This is wrong! Do something different” You owe it to yourself to visit Shmuel for some Body Tuning. He speaks the language of the body fluently and he can translate what your body is asking for and put it into action.

Want the pain gone? Visit Shmuel and get tuned up. And, if possible... Please visit while I'm in the office so I can watch.

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