Saturday, September 25, 2010

Making Pain A Thing of the Past

A Body Tuning Course for EveryBody
w/ Dr. Shmuel Tatz, PT, PhD, creator of Body Tuning
Tuesdays 6:30pm to 8:00pm
November 16, 23, 30 and December 7

You tune up your car. 
You tune up your musical instruments. 
Don’t you owe the same kind of care to something as important and irreplaceable as your own body?
Musicians, dancers, actors, athletes and people who rely on their bodies for a living often find themselves in pain or unable to move freely. They MUST have a proper functioning and performing body in order to do their work. When they need help, they contact Shmuel Tatz for some Body Tuning.  Performers like Tommy Tune, Lou Reed, Kathleen Turner, Diana Vishneva, Mstislav Rostropovich, Marlo Thomas, Peter Jennings, Isaac Stern, Christa Ludwig, Alexandra Danilova, Daniel Goleman, Tara Bennett-Goleman and many others all put their trust in Shmuel’s incredibly gifted hands. Dr Tatz’s work is artfully intuitive and immediately effective at eliminating pain and on educating people how to remain well and live a long, comfortable life.
Until now, this work was only available to those who could afford $250 per session, or had the best health insurance plans; which prevented most of the general population from having access to this powerful and important work.
But now Shmuel Tatz is offering, for the first time ever, a low-cost course in self-care through Body Tuning. 

In this course, you’ll learn how to take care of yourself and tune your own body.  You’ll learn skills to help tune your friends and loved ones, and also some simple, basic movements that you can practice on a daily basis to keep your body performing at its best.
After a single session of Body Tuning, people say, 
“I feel so much lighter!” “It’s much easier to move.” “I feel taller.”
“Wow, it doesn’t hurt anymore, that’s amazing!” “Look at how different I look.”
This course will meet once weekly for four weeks. Each ninety-minute session will devote half to Body Tuning work and the other half to Body Tuning movements.  A session with Shmuel in his office, for this same work, runs $250. The cost of this course is many times less than a single session with a Body Tuning practitioner. For the entire course you pay $100 (or you can attend single classes for $30 each). 
This course will improve your life.  The small investment is insignificant considering the value you will get from this material. The course size is limited to between 8 and 10 students, so register quickly as slots are sure to fill up for this unbelievable opportunity.
Registration begins when course dates are finalized.
Contact Jason to be put on Waiting List and you will be contacted when registration begins. 

Body Tuning for the Masses

If you’ve been living with pain this may be the answer to your problems. If you ever feel like your body is not performing optimally; if you have restricted movements or just feel heavy, lethargic or lacking in energy, this could be just what you needed.  If you want to start taking better care of your body, but don’t know what to do, this course will teach you.  If you like the idea of exercise, but don’t like straining or creating discomfort then what you can learn in this course will be very useful to you. 
For the past month, I’ve been studying this highly effective form of physical therapy that combines art and science. Dr Tatz has created a technique unlike any other.  His combination of many forms of therapy come together as Body Tuning; a technique that he has often lamented is so effective that it costs him money.
If he were more like the medical community, he’d be able to keep his patients sick. He’d get them addicted to treatments like many patients are addicted to medications or chiropractic adjustments. The medical system has people trading one symptom for another, so that they keep coming back and billing their insurance for continued treatment.  Body Tuning fixes people.  So once they’ve completed their series they don’t need to come back.  The effectiveness of his work is also its downfall. 
My mentor, Shmuel Tatz, jokes this way about his problematic situation.  Of course, his main motivation is to make people well. The model of the medical industry, he jokes, is a much better business model.  But he will continue to do what he does, which is not only to fix people, but to educate them on how to actively participate in their own healing and how to stay well for their lifetime.  

He says he’d do his work for free if he could be sure all of his bills were paid.  He doesn’t want to live the life of a millionaire, but just to have a modest apartment, eat three meals a day, pay the expenses required to keep his office running and to have enough money leftover to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.  If anyone is interested in being a sponsor for Dr. Tatz, please contact him and let him know.  By supplying a grant or monthly endowment that would cover the cost of his simple lifestyle, you would be essentially providing the powerful work of Body Tuning for the large majority of people who need this work but cannot afford it.  You would be directly improving the lives of many needy people. Consider using your money for this highly altruistic venture and contact Shmuel Tatz if you’re interested.
In the meantime, he’ll still be helping erase pain from the bodies of people with the best health insurance and/or the amount of disposable income that would allow them to benefit from Body Tuning at the current rate.
Another way Shmuel wants to bring this work to the public is by offering a course in Body Tuning.  This course, never before offered to the public, will teach a layperson how to perform the basic movements of a Body Tuner and how to treat themselves and their loved ones.  The course will also spend a great deal of time on learning simple movements and exercises that Dr Tatz teaches to his clients.  These simple exercises are the best way to keep your body running smoothly and free of pain and restrictions. 
Before anyone embarks on a program of exercise, they should first make sure that their bodies are properly tuned.  Any abnormality or misalignment will very likely be exacerbated by exercise. Once the alignment is corrected and the body-mechanics are in sync, then exercise can be a helpful thing.
The Body Tuning Course will prepare you for a more vigorous form of exercise should you desire that.  But it will also teach you that you need to do far less work than you may have thought.  If you’re simply concerned with being in good shape and living without pain, then come to Shmuels Tatz’s Body Tuning Course and be delighted to learn how easy and fun it can be.  
This course will meet once weekly for four weeks. Each ninety minute session will devote half to Body Tuning work and the other half to Body Tuning movements.   The cost for the entire course is $100, or you can attend single classes for $30 each. This course will improve your life.  The investment is insignificant considering the value you will get from this material. A session with Shmuel in his office, for this same work, runs $250. The course size is limited to between 8 and 10 students, so register quickly as slots are sure to fill up for this unbelievable opportunity.
Contact me to sign up or for more information.

JAG's Body Shop

I’ve been a personal trainer and taught fitness classes for over 15 years.  I love the group setting for exercise.  There’s something nice about being with other people who are like-minded. The camaraderie is inspirational and motivating and the joy is infectious. 
I love to be surrounded by people who, like me, are seeking to improve their bodies and their lives. I am motivated by improving my strength and endurance and flexibility and agility. I like to notice myself improving on a regular basis.  
Recently, I put together a program called Fitness for Actors.  It was a three-month program that included all of the elements of fitness.  We met three times weekly and each week included the healing movements of Nia Five Stages, the intense metabolic conditioning and strength-building movements of Energy Flow, the precision and alignment of Yoga Tune Up, the creative, playfulness of Nia, and a wide variety of breathing and meditation techniques. The program was such a success that we actually extended it for a fourth month. 
One of the things that really helped to make this program so successful was the dedication of the participants.  Because the same group of people showed up each day, it served as an ever-strengthening support. Whenever one of the participants wasn’t in class, they were missed.  And many times, were even emailed by the other participants asking if they were OK, why they missed class and if they’d be there next time.  This kind of accountability is why group classes can be so powerfully effective and successful. 
Also, because the group was consistent and the program was on a limited time schedule, we were able to make and achieve goals.  This is something that I have always struggled with while offering drop-in classes.  In that environment, we never know who’s going to be in class and there is no sense of progression nor is there an emphasis on growing and/or improving.  And if someone isn’t there in class, no one tends to address that.  So the accountability isn’t there. 
The experience of my Fitness for Actors program has made it clear to me what my path is meant to be.  I am creating a program that will address health, wellness and fitness.  It will include everything that I included in the Fitness for Actors program, but will also go a bit further to include sessions devoted to self-massage and body care.
I have also been studying a form of physical therapy called Body Tuning that is remarkable in eliminating pain and restrictions in the body.  I will be including Body Tuning sessions in the new program as well as sessions with the Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls.  Both are indispensable ways to keep your body running smoothly and pain-free.  
This is a different paradigm than the drop-in class system. I’m looking for eight people who want the benefits of the group dynamics and accountability and who are interested in setting and achieving health and fitness goals. With eight people, we can create a group Personal Training environment.  This is a new type of class format that moves through a cycle from beginning to end. In this format, the students sign up and are committed to the three-month time period. In the beginning, they share their fitness goals with the teacher who will then teach them, throughout the course, how to meet these goals. More than just classes, this is a training course.  You will be educated rather than just exercised. When the course is over, you will not only have achieved part or all of your short-term goals, but you will know what you need to do to continue along the path and achieve more long-term goals. 
So, be on the lookout for JAG’s Body Shop.  This will meet three times weekly and will cover a wide range of fitness categories. We’ll learn proper body mechanics, self-care, proper breathing, relaxation and meditation, stretching, strengthening, dancing, playing, yoga, self-healing, fat loss and more. Each person will get individual personalized attention and be part of a group. The fees will be on a monthly basis with a contractual commitment to the three-month period. 
Participants will leave this course with a full understanding of what they need to do to continue pursuing their fitness goals.  They’ll have an exercise routine that they can do on their own, and they’ll learn a full yoga practice that is appropriate for them.  They’ll have a stretching routine that addresses their body and will have practiced many techniques for relaxation that they can use whenever they need.  
JAG’s Body Shop is more that just fitness classes.  It’s a fitness education.  This takes the power of the class and combines it with the power of personal training. 
If you’re interested in participating in JAG’s Body Shop, I will be asking you to write me a note explaining what you hope to achieve and expressing your willingness to be committed to the program.  I hope to get this program started soon after I return from my JAG Fitness West Coast Tour 2010 in mid November.  The dates have NOT been officially set yet, but I am gathering names of interested people.  I’m planning to keep the class enrollment to between 8 and 10 people and I anticipate the cost of this program to be $147/month.  This includes your own personal set of props that we use in class: a blanket, a yoga mat, a strap, a block and a pair of Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Latent Pain

I got an email last night, asking if I could come into Shmuel’s office an hour earlier than I usually do. I had no idea why this was requested of me, but I complied. I came into the office today, expecting it to be just like any other day.

But when I got there, I found that Shmuel had taken the day off and that his colleague, Valery, had requested I come in early so that he could work on my body. This struck me as an unexpected and delightful surprise. Little did I know what lay in store for me.

The way Shmuel describes it, Body Tuning uses slowness and a minimum of manipulations. Body Tuning focuses on mobilizations.

Valery’s work is quite different than Shmuel’s; it compares more to a chiropractor. He moved my body around very quickly and with great confidence. Although I trusted him completely, it was a bit unnerving how much pain he was uncovering. As he moved my ankle, he grunted in disapproval. “This is very bad” he said, and his assessment was backed up by the pain I felt. A healthy ankle, I know, should be able to do this movement free of pain.

He discovered similar pain in just about every one of my joints. I was not in pain before his treatment, nor was I in pain afterwards. But the majority of the movements that he did with my body elicited a painful response.

So this was quite an eye-opening experience for me. I know about latent pain. Latent pain is something that can live quietly in our bodies. It can be caused by inflammation, misalignment, disuse, abuse or many other possibilities. It’s called “latent” because one doesn’t realize it’s there. Going through our daily activities don’t trigger the pain. But when someone presses on an area in latent pain, or moves a joint in latent pain, then the pain is experienced.

The pain was always there, but the body protects us by not sending a signal unless the situation escalates into a dangerous place. We need to get Body Tuning before latent pain becomes chronic pain, which is the next step if left unaddressed.

I experience occasional pain in my lower legs and feet, which I handle with self-massage whenever it comes up. But I had no idea the degree to which I was suffering with latent pain. It took a skilled body worker to discover this for me.

So, now, are you wondering if you have latent pain? The test is simple. Squeeze your muscles. Does that hurt? Give them a good squeeze like you’re trying to get juice from an orange. If it hurts, that’s bad. A healthy body should not only be able to tolerate a good squeeze, but it should feel good. If it hurts, or if you find that you are unable to really give yourself a good, firm squeeze, then you may be in latent pain.

Latent pain is chronic pain in the making. The wisest thing for you to do is to get yourself some body work before you are in pain. Shmuel Tatz often tells his patients, ‘If you had come to see me five years ago when this problem started, I could have helped you a just a few treatments. But now that it’s gotten this bad, it will take twelve weeks of appointments twice weekly. But after that you will have the hands like you had twenty years ago.”

So I’m grateful to Valery for exposing me to my latent pain. Looks like I need some Body Tuning. It’s a good thing I’m in the office every day.  Maybe you can come and see Shmuel and say hi to Valery and me.

My First Body Tuning "Lesson"

Today I got what I might consider my first official Body Tuning lesson. Until today, I had simply been immersed in the art. Watching and listening to what Shmuel Tatz says to his clients about the practice were my means of learning. I have been gleaning lessons from my observations and from what I hear Shmuel saying to his clients. I also get pieces of the puzzle out of brief conversations I have with Dr Tatz.

And more recently, Shmuel has had me mirror him. As he works on one leg, he motions me over to take the other leg and I get to do exactly what he’s doing. We don’t speak, but we’re communicating through movements. And I have sometimes been fortunate enough to get feedback from the person we’re working on. Some have told me that my movements seem quicker and less fluid, and other have said that I use less pressure. It’s all good information and I’m growing daily from these experiences.
Today, however, Dr Tatz checked his schedule and then announced, “There’s enough time. You’ll Tune my body for half an hour.” My first reaction was excited nervousness. Imagine what it would be like if Mozart or Chopin asked you to play a piece on the piano for them, or if Michelangelo wanted to see some of your sculpture. But I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I’m hear to learn and that nothing could be expected of me but what I know.

My Sankalpa was very helpful here, too. I repeated it a few times, ‘It calms me to expose my imperfections to people.’ That calmed me. If you don’t know what a Sankalpa is, you should ask me about it, they’re great.

He told me exactly what he wanted done, so that wasn’t an issue. He told me first to tune his ankles and legs, and then to apply the ‘magnets’ to his upper back with my right hand while rocking his body with my left hand on his sacrum. Wow, so now I was nervous again. I’ve rocked someone and I’ve worked with the magnets plenty, but I had only ever done these things separately before, and I’d always used both hands to operate the magnets.

So I went to work. I started by lifting up his legs. I know that part of Body Tuning is feeling how the joints are moving, so I was attempting to feel what’s going on in the hip joints. From inside the face cradle he says, “You started wrong!” I lower his legs and listen. “First you touch, then you move.” He explained how I am more likely to encounter tension with the approach I just tried. It would surprise the person on the table to have their legs lifted up right away. So I laid my hands on his ankles and just listened with my hands.

He talked me through as I mobilized first the left and then the right ankle, and then the big toes and the rest of the toes. He asked me which ankle was moving better, which toe had more range of motion and told me to make it my habit to feel the difference between “what feels good and what doesn’t feel good.” He suggested I practice by moving healthy bodies around to get a good feeling for what it feels like. I’ve only been tuning bodies that are complaining of pain, but moving healthy bodies is important so I have a basis for what state I’m trying to bring the bodies to.

I remembered, “Slowly, slowly” and what I learned by mirroring him working on legs for the past few days. I tried not to be aware of the fact that I was working on the master and just see it as another body. I didn’t get any other instructions as I worked on the hips and thighs so I took that as a good sign.

When I was satisfied that the legs were more relaxed than when I started, I then I got the magnets and figured out how to hold them both in the same hand. It was a bit awkward at first, but I eventually got the hang of it. Before I knew it, I was rhythmically rocking his body with my left hand on his sacrum and adjusting the magnets with my right.

The magnets spark every three seconds and I keep them on the same spot for three sparks before switching to a new spot. It took me a while to co-ordinate so that I didn’t stop rocking while I switched spots. Eventually I got into the groove and was consistently rocking in a slow repetitive rhythm while moving the magnets around his upper back with one hand every ten seconds.

I was delighted to hear, after about seven minutes of this, he began to snore. I smiled.
Music to my ears.

When his fifteen minutes were up, the machine beeped and shut off. I put the paddles away and gave his body a few seconds of two-handed rocking. I said, ‘OK How do you feel?” He got up and got dressed and told me I did well.

The lessons I learned were, ‘look first, then touch, then move.’ And ‘feel the difference between what feels right and what feels off in human joint movements.’ Still lots more to learn, but today was a good day for improvements and practice.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Who is Body Tuning For?

A Body Tuner is well-versed in many different modalities.

For some people, a brief lesson in the Alexander Technique will be just what they need to learn how to carry themselves without creating tension in their neck. For someone else, a few yoga poses would be just exactly what they need to live their lives free of pain. Some folks are going to need some reflexology, while others will benefit from mobilizations. Some clients will find great benefit learning a few of the basic tenets of the work of Moishe Feldenkrais.

The point is that no one modality is good for everyone. It is the work of the Body Tuner to know about all of these techniques and to provide and introduction and, if necessary, some instructions in practicing an appropriate modality.

I have seen Shmuel Tatz give many clients a few exercises to do at home to help with their own healing. Sometimes these exercises resemble yoga, sometimes they appear a great deal like Alexander Technique. He is not giving the same exercises to everyone. In fact, I rarely see him give the same exercise to two different people. His application of the many different practices are precisely based on the specific needs of each person.

Many people will go to a Pilates class or a yoga class and when they come out of the class they may report that they ‘feel better.’ But without specific application of the proper modalities, they are only experiencing a general treatment. In most cases, this will not address the issue in a way that will promote true, permanent change. The permanent changes come from a modality chosen and applied as a direct response to what is going on in the body to create the pain or restriction of movement.

Classes are good. It’s great to feel the joy of movement and to take the initiative to move your body in a loving, mindful way. Dance is therapeutic. But this mostly addresses the psyche, the mind, the spirit, and only addresses the physical body in a general way.

The combination of spirited, mindful movement and appropriate, specifically applied body work modalities is the true prescription for a long, happy, pain-free life. And this is the work of the Body Tuner.

When you come to visit a Body Tuner, you don’t know what you will get. We also don’t know what you will get. We will first touch your body and by listening and being attuned, we will get the message from your body about what it needs. Some bodies say, ‘rub me’ some say ‘I need stretching’ some request better posture, some need more rest... the list goes on and on.

Going to someone who specializes in only one form is the surest way to guarantee that you will receive that kind of attention. A Pilates instructor will give you Pilates, a yoga teacher will teach you yoga, a massage therapist will massage you. Doctors learn the science of medicine, and osteopaths are trained in surgery. Body Tuners can reach into their vast bag of tricks and pick out which modality is most appropriate for your individual situation. And this personalized application is why Body Tuning has such a remarkably high success rate in helping people reduce and eliminate pain and to live long, happy lives filled with easy movement free of discomfort.

Because Body Tuning draws from such a wide array of techniques it is accurate to say that Body Tuning is for every body.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Skin Cancer Update

(The Fun Continues)

Here is an update on what’s been happening with my skin cancer battle.

As I stated in my last post, I didn’t want to pay over $900 for the Imiquimod, so I found a Canadian pharmacy online that had gotten positive reviews and was selling a generic brand for only $160.

I was supposed to start my chemotherapy back in the end of August, but it took almost three weeks for the drugs to arrive in the mail. It said on the website that due to customs and issues with sending prescription meds of national borders that it would likely take up to 15 working days.

So, I got my drugs a few days ago, but now I don’t want to start taking them because I’m about to start a month long west coast JAG Fitness tour and I don’t want to be on a fitness tour, giving talks, playshops and classes with a rash on my face.

So, I’m going to wait until I get back to start the treatment. Then, after I’ve been on the chemotherapy for a month, I go back to the dermatologist so she can check out what happened.

In the meantime, nothing has really changed. I had a little scare with there seemed to be a redness on the tip of my nose and it was tender to the touch. But it lasted for only a few days and then it went away. I don’t know if this is a behavior of actinic keratosis or if I just had another kind of issue.

In my original post, when I said i was going to find a cheaper alternative to the over $900 Imiquimod from Duane Reade, an anonymous comment was left by a pharmacist who cautioned that I may be getting counterfeit medications. The stuff I got is called Imiquad.

I googled it and it appears to be legit. At least I couldn’t find any sites that spoke of bad experiences with the stuff. If anyone knows anything about Imiquad, please comment here.

The only other thing I have to report is that I think I may have found another spot. It’s down on my neck near the collar line of a T shirt. It looks more mole-like than the spots on my nose and forehead. If it is something, it seems like it’s more akin to the ‘age spot’ that was removed and send to the lab and came back as
actinic keratosis.

Of course, it could just be a mole or an age spot. Nothing to panic about.

I’m sorry I don’t have more to report. I was sort of hoping that by this time, I’d have some gory pictures to post. But I will post them in November when I get back from the JAG Fitness tour and start my therapy.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Body Tuning Toy Box

The work of Body Tuning encompasses more than just manual therapy. In a typical session Shmuel Tatz will spend a great deal of time touching and mobilizing the body. But in many cases, there is another element. I love it when Shmuel reaches into what I call the “Toy Box” and uses another modality.

I don’t mean any disrespect. I’m sure they are highly intricate pieces of expensive equipment, but I like calling them toys. I’m going to describe what I’ve seen so far. These may not be the official names of the pieces of equipment, but just what I call them:

MAGNETS: They call these ‘the magnets’ but to me they look like ping pong paddles for a Wii. One has a little red plus sign and the other has a little blue minus sign. You can set the intensity in increments of 10 and Shmuel usually uses about 60 or 70. When you hold the paddles up to someone’s body, it sends an electrical impulse about every three or four seconds. Often it will cause the underlying muscle to quickly contract. It reminds me of an extremely low-powered defibrillator. It seems to me that this action can stimulate contractions in muscles that are either outside of the conscious control of the person or that have been in such a state of disuse for so long that the person seems to have lost access to them. If you’ve ever had a ‘twitch’ in your muscle, the feeling is similar to that. Shmuel will usually use this on areas that are flaccid or paralyzed with tension.

ULTRASOUND: This is the same technology used to look at fetuses in the womb. But in this case, there is no monitor. The sound creates vibrations that effect the tissues. This machine looks like a flat circular metal disc, about the size of a quarter, with a long handle on it. Before using the ultrasound, a water based gel is applied to the skin. This serves to contain the sound vibrations, which would otherwise dissipate into the air. From what i understand, the vibrations create heat in the tissues and can reduce swelling and inflammation and begin to loosen and break down scar tissue.

EAR POINT FINDER: I’ve already blogged about this one. This looks like a big plastic electronic pointer. It, like many in Shmuel’s toy box, is emblazoned with what looks like Russian. I can’t read a word, so I don’t know what all the buttons do. But when turned on, this miraculous gadget makes a beeping sound that, when pressed into the skin, may or may not change in pitch. According to Shmuel, when the pitch rises, this is an indication of an Ear Point and the practitioner will stay on that point until the pitch lowers again. Read more about the Ear Points.

SCANNER: This isn’t a razor, but it looks and sounds like an old fashioned electric razor. Remember these?

The scanner is a rectangular plastic casing and on the ‘business end’ there are two metal plates. When turned on, this makes a buzzing sound, like an electric razor. I’ve seen Shmuel use it and he drags it over the body part over and over again. As it glides across the skin, the sound changes slightly as if the razor were cutting whiskers. But there are no blades; only two flat metal plates. The client will report a feeling like ‘pins and needles’ as it drags over their flesh. I was using this one a client once and what I found most fascinating was the way it would ‘drag’ when I was sliding it over inflamed tissue. My guess is that it seems to be attracted to excess fluid. As the swelling goes down, the dragging lessens. I was using this on a woman’s leg and after sliding it on her for about four minutes, it stopped dragging and just easily slid over her thigh. That’s when I knew the swelling had gone down. You can also hold the scanner on an inflamed area and it will signal with a chirp when it detects a change in the swelling. It's a fascinating machine.

GOLD PRICK EGG: One woman who came in with severely deformed thumbs was given this toy. It looked simply like a metallic egg shaped devise covered with prongs. She was told to squeeze it and to let the prongs stick into her flesh. This was intended to stimulate the region that appeared to have no life.

VIBRATION PLATFORM: I have been put on this one and I’ve seen one other person on it. It looks like a step you’d find in an aerobics class at a gym, with one important distinction: this vibrates. It feels incredible. As I described in my blog post, it really helped me feel my heels when I was afraid I was numb. It was profoundly relaxing.

RELAXER: This looks like a steering wheel with a square block behind it. On the other side of the block are four metal bumps. When this machine is turned on it vibrates. Pressing the metallic bumps on the body will send a wonderful relaxing vibration into the tissues. When I use this machine, it vibrates so much that just by holding the steering wheel part, I get a nice relaxing vibration in my whole upper body. It's becoming one of my favorite machines.

INFRARED: The infrared machine looks like a plastic microphone but instead of having the mesh it emits a red light. From what I understand, the light waves are so small that they penetrate our tissues easily and get deep inside to increase the internal heat. This is useful for pain and inflammation.

WALKING STICK: One of the more impressive toys in the box, this is simply the same type of walking stick you’d see paired with a top hat and monocle, or being used by someone who needs assistance walking. Only Shmuel has developed a whole new use for it. He has shown lots of people how to use what he called the Baby Boomer Stick for Stixercise. It can be used as a tool for giving self massage, or to help strengthen the grip or stretch and strengthen the arms, wrists, hands, elbows, shoulders and more.

There are many more toys. Some that I haven’t even seen him use yet. The point is that Body Tuning is more than hands on, it uses many different modalities to get the job done. And being a boy at heart, I’m excited that we get to use all of these toys in our work. Plus they seem to enhance the work and that’s a good thing.

Slowly, Slowly

When Shmuel Tatz is Body Tuning, he’ll do some work and then he’ll ask the client to get up. He’ll either want them to roll over onto their back, or to get up onto all fours, or sit on the edge of the table or get up and walk. He always says, “Slowly get up and...”
and it is amazing to me how often the person will quickly get up and throw themselves into position.

“Slowly, slowly” Shmuel will say.

Why are people in such a hurry? Why is there such a resistance to moving slowly?

Moving slowly gives the mind an opportunity to be aware of the body. When a body moves it creates lots of sensations. If the body is moving quickly the sensations will come and go more quickly than the mind has the ability to process. So what ends up happening is the mind will not perceive the sensations of the movement.
“Slowly, slowly” is a way to sense. The people are coming to Body Tuning so that they feel better. How will they know if they feel better or not if they don’t give themselves a chance to have full access to their sensations?

Body Tuning is changing the structural alignment of the body. It encourages the body to find a new normal. If the person who’s body has just been tuned begins to move without full awareness, they have no choice but to revert back to their habitual ways. In many cases, right back to the habits that put them in this situation in the first place.

“Slowly, slowly” allows a person to try on their new body. Since the body had been reeducated and is now realigned, the sensations may be different than what they had been previously. To get up off of the table after a session of Body Tuning without exquisite awareness of yourself moving, is a shame. You run the risk of immediately undoing much of the work.

I’ve noticed this even outside of the treatment room. Walking in the streets of New York, I wonder, why is everyone in such a hurry? I want to ask people, “are you late?” “Do you have to go to the bathroom?” “Is someone chasing you?” “Do you even realize how much you are speeding through your life?”

I recently had an alarming instinct. I wonder: Are people in such physical pain that it actually hurts them to slow down? I hope not.
I’ve been guilty of rushing, too. But whenever I catch myself rushing, I hear Shmuel saying “Slowly, slowly” and I relax into a more comfortable, leisurely pace. I immediately start to notice much more. I can feel my body more. And I notice people and dogs and signs and I feel a sense of peace with the world.

In my Nia classes, I’ve been toying around with this concept as well. Lately, I’ve been asking my students to move more slowly so that they have time to go deeper. Not only physically deeper, but sensing deeper. My students have been reporting me that they feel more heat in their body from working this way. Especially the older students have been saying that the opportunity to take the time to move slowly has really helped them with their balance and their sense of security. I can feel my body getting stronger from moving “slowly, slowly.”

There was a recent article in Psychology Today magazine about how the latest research is showing that moving SLOWLY, with a great deal of awareness is better for your body than exercise! This is big news. Tai Chi and Yoga, two practices that have survived for millenia, are both big on the concept of moving slowly and with awareness. They have been embraced in the past few decaded by western culture but with one exception. Especially with yoga, we’ve taken the practice and sped it up. Time after time I see that the most popular yoga classes in western culture are the ones called Vinyasa, or Power Yoga. These classes blast so quickly through the postures that there’s scarcely enough time to perform them correctly, let alone with much awareness. And certainly there is no time to “be” with the poses in a yoga flow class. For this reason, I teach a detail-oriented class called Yoga Tune Up® and I’ve been inspired to create and teach a class I call Deep Yoga. Both of these practices embrace the benefits of moving slowly and with great awareness.

“Slowly, slowly.” Let’s all slow down. I think it would do us all a lot of good. We’ll feel our bodies more, which will inspire us to be more mindful of taking care of them. We’ll see each other more clearly and we’ll have the time to really connect. “Slowly, slowly” will not only heal your body, but maybe it can heal the planet.

It’s worth a try, right?

How I Met Shmuel Tatz

I am an intuitive person. Long ago I made a commitment to myself; I promised to listen to my intuition and to give my intuitive voice more consideration than my logical voice. It started as an experiment, but I found it to be so freeing and precise that I have stuck with it.

For example, in 1995 I read an article in a fitness trade magazine called IDEA Today. The article described a new exercise technique called Nia. This new form of exercise called itself Mind/Body/Spirit fitness and combined martial arts, healing arts and dance arts. It was practiced barefoot. It focused on Pleasure over Pain. After reading the article, I contacted the Nia headquarters and signed up for a training in becoming a teacher. I instinctively knew, without ever having done a Nia class, that this was for me. My first Nia class was actually during my training. Fifteen years later, I’m still loving Nia and I thank my intuition for alerting me to the importance of that one article of the many articles I read about health and fitness.

The same is true of Yoga Tune Up®. I am an employee of the Equinox Fitness Club, and they send out monthly emails to their employees about opportunities to become trained in the latest fitness fad. I usually disregard them. I’m not big on fads and I feel like I’m already on the path I was meant to be on. But one day, I got an email describing Jill Miller’s Yoga Tune Up® and I stopped. I read it carefully and once again, I knew this was for me. I had never taken a Yoga Tune Up® class and I had never taught yoga. But I just felt that this was perfect for me.

I did practice yoga, but I felt that classes in general weren’t the best venue for the practice because of the high level of detail required and the limited ability to give the student the amount of attention required to properly perform many of the complex poses. So once again, I signed up blind. Simply based on what I read, and the feelings I was getting, I jumped in. Now I am a certified Yoga Tune Up® teacher and it’s been an important part of my life and my healing and rehabilitation from my shoulder injury.

So, it happened again. The first time I heard Shmuel’s name mentioned was by Jill Miller in my Yoga Tune Up® teacher training. She described a man who knew the body so well and who, without a word, could find the problem in your body and start fixing it. The way she spoke of him impressed me so much that it inspired me to bring him something I hadn’t trusted in anyones hands but my own: my shoulder injury.

I went to him and he seemed surprised that I hadn’t seen a doctor, gotten X-rays or MRI’s, that I didn’t have a referral or even insurance. I’m sure it’s a rare person that comes to him first. I suspect most people run to doctors first, and then are possibly referred to osteopaths and threatened with the prospect of surgery before they do something as desperate and alternative as physical therapy or Body Tuning.

During my session, I remember him doing some mobilizations of my shoulder that felt both vulnerable and borderline ecstatic/painful. It almost felt as if the joint was being moved. And felt like it was being put BACK into place. He kept on repeating the action, and it felt so strange, but I didn’t want him to stop because I had the feeling I really needed it. But then he moved to my neck and mention to me that it was a big part of the problem. He was right on, of course. So he moved that stuff around a bit, too; focused on the cervical vertebrae.

The manual mobilizations took about twenty minutes and then he has an assistant come in and apply what felt to me like prickly electrical impulses to my shoulder. This didn’t feel so good, but in the first few moments that Shmuel was touching my body, he gained my complete trust. My gut instinct was telling me that Jill was right; that this man knew exactly what he was doing.

When I walked home from that one visit, I noticed an unfamiliar feeling. My fingertips were brushing up against the side of my leg. What’s unusual, is that they had always brushed more towards the front of my thigh before. Which would indicate a forward position of the shoulders. But after one visit, he had my fingers swinging from a properly aligned shoulder joint.

I went back for a second visit and was anxious to see what Shmuel would unlock. And I was hoping he’d to that thing to my shoulder again. So, I got on the table and he did the shoulder movement thing, but to my disappointment it doesn’t feel the same way again. It seemed much freer, without that dramatic feeling that it was being put back into place. It actually felt like it was already IN place. I couldn’t believe how much change he effected in just one session.

I stopped seeing Shmuel because I couldn’t afford to pay the rates without insurance. A year went by. At some point I signed on to his emailing list. I don’t know why I did it. I didn’t logically know why I’d want to be getting emails from a physical therapist, but as I have said, I operate largely from instinct, and it seemed like what I should do.

So, last month, Shmuels sent out an email to his list. He said that after a period of fasting and meditation that he wanted to find a protege to teach his technique to. Although I hadn’t thought about going back into the field of bodywork (I had just decided to retire from show business and was busy building up my fitness business), I felt instinctively that this was a wonderful opportunity to study with a master. I responded to his email and expressed my interest.

He interviewed me a couple of times before finally saying, “I think you are ready.”

The strange thing about following your instinct is you never know where you’re going to be headed. Three months ago I had what I thought was a clear plan for my future and now it’s all different. I’m thrilled to be on this new journey, and I feel so fortunate to be able to learn this beautiful and powerful practice called Body Tuning.

Tuning My First Bodies

For the past three weeks I’ve been watching Shmuel Tatz do his Body Tuning for about three hours each day. The premise is that I’m learning by immersion and osmosis. He has given me very little direct instruction. The other day, he suggested that if I brought in some of my clients that I’d be able to see what he would do to Tune their bodies. He’d show me, by example, what to do on them and then I could practice on them.

I thought it was a great idea, so I contacted my clientele seeking four people who were interested in helping me. I got a lot of response and now the program is off and running.

One client came in with a complaint in her feet. Shmuel showed me how to work to reduce her ankle swelling and to restore free movement in her ankles and toes. And since Body Tuning always addresses the whole being, he also showed me how to teach her to walk properly and how to hold herself more efficiently. After her session with Shmuel, she said she felt much lighter and freer and wanted to keep doing the work. She made another appointment with him and also made an appointment with me so I could practice on her.

She came to see me a few days later. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to remember what Shmuel did. But then I caught myself and ended that way of thinking. I realized that even if I did remember what Shmuel did last time, that would not be the way to do Body Tuning. Thanks to the experience of watching him work, and the lesson I got from my own session of Body Tuning, when Shmuel reminded me that he “touched first and THEN moved” I knew I had to first touch her body and listen with my hands. I knew I had to completely surrender to not knowing and to be alert to her body’s signals.

As of today, I have worked on three clients and the biggest thing that I notice is my tendency to go back to my old ways. I was trained in Swedish massage and I practiced for eight years. The gist of that technique is to work on the muscles. My understanding was that since the muscles are the most pliable part of the body, and they are responsible for the movements of the body, that addressing them was the most logical way to allow the body to adjust itself and find balance. But Body Tuning focuses on movement rather than tissues. It seems to use ease over force. Natural, free movement is the goal.

But I kept catching myself being drawn to the old ways. The experience helped solidify my understanding of what Body Tuning is and what it isn’t. In the past, as I was working on a body, if I felt that a muscle was in spasm or restricted, I would have worked ON the muscle. Kneading it and pressing on it, basically forcing it into submission. It was a lot of work and sometimes it got results. But that was the old way.

So now, as I’m working on my practice bodies, I stop myself and remember that Shmuel wouldn’t be doing that; he’d be mobilizing the joint and using a lot less force. It felt more like co-operating with the body than bullying it. The mobilizations felt more in rapport; like I was re-educating the body, or reminding it of it’s natural, healthy state. I was in communication rather than being manipulative.

Most of the movement of my hands on the tissues were now exploring and looking for answers rather than kneading and manipulating the tissues. On occasion, I’d get the feeling that the tissue was asking to be kneaded and then, I’d knead. But some tissues ask to be gently tapped on and some request a stretch. If the tissue seemed lost or confused I found that asking the client to perform a certain movement as I offered gentle resistance would clarify that.

Much to my delighted surprise, the three clients that came in to allow me to practice on them, all left with reduced pain. One even went so far as to say I had ‘magic hands.’ I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’m used to witnessing this experience because every time someone gets up off of Shmuel’s table they report that they feel better. This is the joy of Body Tuning.

Although my observations here and my experiences so far feel very adolescent to me, I do feel like I am doing the work of Body Tuning. It feels much different than massage. I am looking forward to growing and maturing and I know that this work is going to help me to make a big difference in many people’s lives. I’m eager to share it.

I will continue to update as I get more insights and understandings of this work.
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Getting my Ankle Tuned

I’ve been watching people get Body Tuning for about ten days now. Sometimes it looks painful, sometimes I can’t tell what they’re feeling and sometimes it looks like it would feel really good. After absorbing so much by observing from the outside, I wanted to feel it from the inside. So, today I finally got my first Body Tuning with Shmuel Tatz.

The first thing that surprised me was that when he asked me what body part we were going to work on, instead of answering, “My shoulder,” which has been plaguing me since January ’09, or even saying my foot, where I had been having a painful cramp since Sunday, I blurted out “My ankle” I don’t know why. it was an impulse. It may have something to do with my adventure with Wally, another practitioner in the office, who alerted me to the pretty bad condition there. So, I said ankle. I didn’t really have a particular ‘complaint’ in my ankle, I just wanted a Body Tuning experience.

Shmuel pressed on what I call the heel points. These little things are so cool. They’re really, really, intense and they release a lot of tension when they’re pressed and held.
He had me flex my ankle while he held on one. Whew, it made me sweat. He also found some similar points on the top of my foot. He showed me a heel point on a client I was watching him treat. He told me it was a very important point for life. That seems pretty important. When he presses on them, it sure feels important. It hurts a lot at first and seems like it’s not going to let up, and he’s still pressing on it. But then, eventually, it starts to ease off and then it disappears pretty quickly and he stops. He asked me to move my ankle around and it did seem easier to move.

Some things he did to both ankles. He mobilized them both in all directions. And he mobilized all the toes, which was how he got involved in my bunion. He pointed out to me how my right big toe moves fully and freely and my left big toe is very restricted. At one point he was pulling my toe. It hurt, but also felt like it was going to lead to something great. Inside my head, I was cheering. “YES! DO THAT MORE!”

He moved up into my calf and was drawn to the inside of my calf. He applied pressure just posterior to the tibia, he even pounded on that area. I assume his concern was the soleus muscle because he had my knee bent to access it.

He asked me to sit on the edge of the table and he lowered the table far enough so that my feet were resting on the floor. Then he placed on hand over the top of my knee. It wasn’t actually on the knee, but on the thigh just proximal to the patella. With that hand resting on the leg, he pounded the heel of his other hand into his fingers, which went down my leg into the floor. He asked me if I felt my heel being pounded into the floor, which was kind of strange because I think I could feel it. But then it got me wondering... do I feel it? What do I feel? I could tell the pounding was going through to the floor, but I don’t know if I actually felt it. Was I supposed to? Am I numb?

Then he asked me to lift and drop my ankles on the floor and then to lift and drop the balls of my feet. When I dropped my ankles, I could finally ‘feel’ my ankles hitting the ground. And this was a relief. I wasn’t numb.

Then we went into the next room and he sat me on a chair in front of a vibrating platform and told me to put my feet on it and repeat everything he just did to me.
The vibration felt really good. I was so compelled by this pounding heel experience that I immediately started doing the lifting and dropping thing. It had helped me to feel my heel on the ground and I was interested in feeling it again with the added vibration. But Shmuel stopped me, saying, “I moved you first? NO, I touched first!” So I started from the beginning.

After the session, he asked me what I learned and I was disappointed in myself for not having a good answer. I certainly knew that my foot was in pain and that my ankle had funky sounds and movements, but I don’t know that I learned anything new. I suppose I could have answered that I learned some cool techniques to get into the soleus and a way to have a sensation of my heel hitting the floor. But I guess I assumed he was looking for a diagnostic answer, so I blanked.

He told me to look at my feet and compare them. He pointed out how the right foot, which doesn’t bother me, rests on the floor, while the left, the one with all the problems, has a higher arch and a slight inversion. I was impressed. This is the eye I need to develop. I had black socks on. I could barely see my own feet, and he was seeing this exquisite detail and pointing it out as if it were as obvious as a Rolls Royce in the parking lot.

Today I witnessed an exchange between Shmuel and a client who he was teaching me how to work on. He showed me what to do and then left the room for me to do it. When he returned he asked her how she was and she referred to me, saying “He’s good.” To which Shmuel replied. “And I hope he gets better!”

And so do I.

The Problem with Medications and Surgeries

It is a shame that we live in a society where it is considered normal to medicate and cut into people, but it is considered alternative and experimental to address problems through dietary change and non-invasive bodywork.

Our chemical balance is largely dictated by our diet, and this same chemical balance can create an atmosphere that is either friendly or unfriendly towards our health. Many symptoms for which doctors will immediately prescribe medications can be addressed more naturally, and more permanently through dietary change. Inflammation, for example, which is responsible for a large percentage of our physical pain, can be exacerbated and, conversely, reduced by elimination of certain foods. But, in our culture, we’re more likely to go to a medical physician than a nutritionist for assistance.

The same holds true for surgery. Although many musculoskeletal abnormalities can be addressed through manual bodywork such as Body Tuning, it is more likely that a typical American will see a doctor for physical pain. The doctors field of study is ‘MEDICINE’ so is it any surprise that the doctor would prescribe medication for pain? There are two distinct problems with this approach.

One problem is that no medication is free of side-effects. Some of the side-effects of common medications are horrific. In many cases you are not only trading one problem for another (taking a medication for dry skin might give you diarrhea, or a medication for depression might give you headaches, etc.) The list of side-effects are staggering. When I see a television commercial for an allergy medication and the announcer starts listing the possibly side effects (irritability, headache, nausea, dry mouth, difficulty with urination, confusion and death) I sometimes wonder if I’m the only one paying attention. Is this really worth the allergy relief? Have you even tried nasal irrigation or eliminating gluten from your diet?

And another major problem with drugs is that medication only addresses the pain, not the cause of the pain. The cause continues. If it continues unaddressed (except for deadening the pain sensation) the cause will continue to get worse and worse until the doctor finally refers the patient to an osteopath, orthopedist or neurosurgeon. In most cases, surgery is not far behind.

But, like medication, surgery addresses the symptom, not the cause. Most people who get surgeries for things like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Bunions and Tennis Elbow are back, complaining of the same pain within five years.

This is due to two main reasons:

One, is the reason I already sited. The surgery addressed the result of the problem, but not the problem itself. If the patient does not change the activity, or correct the misalignment that caused the problem in the first place, the problem will return. Education on proper body mechanics is crucial for recovery.

The second reason is that many people fail to realize that getting surgery is only half of the battle. The post-surgery rehab is just as important as the surgery itself. If you think about it, surgery is actually quite barbaric. The surgeon must cut into your flesh, many times slicing through layers of healthy tissue to get to the problem. Any surgery creates collateral damage by disturbing what is really a very fine, delicate balance of tissues within the body. This takes months and months of diligent effort to heal properly.
If you do elect to have surgery done, you would be best off getting a series of Body Tuning to assist your body in regaining that balance it was born with.

There is no excuse. You'd have to be living under a rock not to know that all experts agree that eating a healthy diet, based on fresh, whole, unprocessed foods, drinking plenty of fresh water, getting a proper night of sleep every night and exercising regularly are your best tools for staying healthy. Making this a lifestyle will go a long way towards preventing you from even needing to consider medications or surgery. Also, getting your body regularly tuned up, just as you would a car, is important to keep it running smoothly and pain free. Do this BEFORE you feel the pain and you'll live a long, comfortable life.

We have a responsibility to our bodies. We need to listen to them and take care of them, as if they were our children or our pets. Many people take better care of their cars than they do their own bodies. Take ownership back. Don’t let our society become more and more sick by relying blindly on medications and surgeries to ‘fix’ something that can be more permanently and efficiently addressed with a little hands on care and attention. Your body is always telling you what it needs. Are you listening?

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Body Tuning Dance

An older gentleman came into the office today when I was there observing. This man was one of those people who walk around with a permanently hunched posture. This is something I see quite often in older people. A lifetime of bad posture eventually develops into a spine that looks like a question mark. It looks incredibly painful to me.

The man laid down on the table and Shmuel laid his hands on his back. One hand was above the waist and the other hand below the waist, on the pelvis. As he began rocking the man back and forth on the table, it was obvious that there was a lack of free movement between his hips and torso. His body rocked like a single, solid piece of wood, rather than as a series of articulated bones, as it should.

Then, Shmuel started to do what seemed to me to be a little dance. His hands planted, one above and one below the client’s waist, and his arms straight, he started to move his own pelvis. Shmuel seemed to be mimicking the exact movement he was trying to get the client’s body to do. He was rocking his pelvis back and forth while his upper body remained fairly immobile. I was wondering if this ‘dance’ was some kind of body to body communication.

Shmuel also performed many of the activities that I’ve come to recognize as Body Tuning; he pressed on some trigger points, mobilized the hip and lower back joints, and even gave some attention to the neck and jaw. I’ve learned that when Body Tuning, the area of the pain complaint is not always the area of the problem, or not always the ONLY problematic area. Because of the precision within the human body, there are always peripheral areas that need attention.

The session ended with about ten minutes of magnetic-electrical stimulation up and down along the client’s back, parallel to the spine.

After his session, as the client got up to leave, I noticed that although he still had his question mark posture, it was much less pronounced. His body was much more erect than it was when he walked in. I could see that if he was consistent with these treatments and if he did the very simple exercises that Shmuel taught him, he would gradually improve more and more and maybe one day stand up straight again.

About an hour later, I was given the opportunity to assist with a client I’d seen Shmuel working on four or five times in the past. One particular thing that he had me do was to face the client prone (face-down) and put my hands on his back and rock him. It was a movement almost identical to the one he had done on Mr. Question Mark.

I took this opportunity to try the Body Tuning ‘dance’ I had witnesses earlier. I planted my hands into the client, one above and one below the waist. I locked my arms and softened my knees and began the rocking of the pelvis, just as Shmuel was doing. What I discovered was that the rocking of my hips translated through my body and flowed effortlessly into the clients body. My arms were doing very little work, but the clients body was moving quite a bit. The movement that I was doing with my pelvis felt good in my body; it didn’t feel like I was straining or working at all. It actually felt like I was taking care of my own body with that movement.

Underneath my hands, I could feel the clients tightness melt away. I have a feeling that if I had stabilized my pelvis and attempted to mobilize this client’s lower back by moving my arms or my shoulders, that I would not have been translating the same relaxed, pleasing energy that I was currently translating. I would have been transferring my effort and my strength into his already over-tightened back.

I suddenly understood the Body Tuning Dance as a wonderful tool to coax a tight body into easing up and relaxing. The simple pelvic movement was healing not only the client but the practitioner as well. It was a classic win-win situation.

What I learned today was a reinforcement of everything I suspected and have recently been experiencing about Body Tuning. The main thing for health in the body is easy movement. Free and comfortable movement is the language of the body, and Body Tuning returns the body to its natural, free, easy state.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

INSPIRED: My 2010 summer started off with a bang. I got to lead the fifth Nia Immersion retreat hosted by fellow Nia teacher, Lynn Peebles. We slept in her historic home and played in her inspiring healing movement center, Studio 208, in Cornwall-On-Hudson, NY. The weather was gorgeous on the summer solstice as we spent the weekend dancing, experiencing, exploring and learning more about Nia and ourselves. Among other things, we threw a Friday Night Nia Dance Party. During the Immersion, we danced a Free Dance Playshop and did the Bond Girls routine. We self-healed with Nia Five Stages and experienced emotional healing through the Trance Vision routine. One of the truly memorable aspects of these retreats is in the evenings is in Lynn’s kitchen when we all cook dinner together. Dinnertimes were the backbone of some of the deepest and most intimate conversations of the weekend. I always look forward to these retreats and they always serve to motive and inspire me and make me a better Nia student and teacher.
TRANSFORMING: I turned 44 this summer. (June 15) Ever since I was a kid, I had this feeling that 88 was my magic number. Double infinity. such symmetry. The same, whether upside down, mirror image, frontwards or backwards. I have recently wondered if this was meant to be my lifespan. If that’s the case, then here I am, right smack in the middle. I’m not about to buy a Corvette or anything, but I have been in the mood to take stock, evaluate and redefine my purpose in life. So, is this a midlife crisis? I don’t think so; because I’ve done this at least five times before. I think it’s more like another seven to ten year cycle coming to an end.

RAPIDLY REPRODUCING: Part of the inspiration to take stock was this summer’s introduction to the world of skin cancer. In June, I finally found out that the little bump on my neck was squamous cell carcinoma and the ‘age spot’ on my face was actinic keratosis. They removed the former, leaving a giant crater wound in my neck for six weeks, and for the age spot, and some other spots that we now look at suspiciously, I’m going to undergo topical chemotherapy with Imiquimod. I apply the cream to certain spots on my face. The imiquimod reacts to rapidly reproducing skin cells (ie skin cancer) and destroys them. The end result is what looks like a rash on my face anywhere there were precancerous cells. I saved $800 over the price at Duane Reade by filling the prescription through a Canadian pharmacy online. The downside of that is that it takes a long time to clear the prescription and to ship medications internationally through the mail. I’m still waiting for my imiquimod and am looking forward to the adventure.

RETIRING: This news sparked something that had already been brewing and this was to retire from show business. For a long time, I had been aware of how much of an actor’s life is spent in stressful situations and I felt like it was harmful to my health to continually put myself in these situations. I struggled with this because the art of acting is such a joy. I love rehearsing and performing, but that’s only about 10% of the business. The rest of the business always made me sick with nerves and anxiety, but I overlooked it. The acting itself was worth the struggle of the business.

Much like the death of both of my parents about six years ago sparked a whole new outlook on life, so did my confrontation with cancer. When my parents died, I made a vow not to spend another day filled with stressful situations. I would only act if it were to come relatively easily. I had agents and I had connections with theater companies so I could keep busy enough without auditioning or by auditioning for and working with people I was already comfortable with. And now, this has gone a step further. With my new life perspective, I don’t see myself acting as a business any longer. I’ve told all of my agents to “book me out” which basically means ‘don’t call me anymore’.

CREATING: Since my ’09 shoulder injury, I have been reintroduced to my first passion, which is helping people live healthy lives in fit bodies. Through my own journey of rehabilitation, I created JAG Energy Flow, which helps people get into the best shape of their lives. My approach was from the ground, up. I was reduced from being able to do 200 pushups, to being unable to push half of my body off the ground even once. And within just a few months progressively increasing intensity and sophistication I brought myself back to great shape.
In trying to support two different careers, acting and fitness, I wasn’t able to give my complete attention to either. I’ve cancelled classes and rescheduled workshops because of acting gigs, and I’ve turned down acting gigs or tours because of commitments I’d made in fitness. But this summer, with my newfound passion for rehab and fitness, it became easy to finally say ‘acting is just a hobby for me.’ I love the stage and the camera, and the art of acting, and I even like having my picture taken and used in magazine ads for drugs I don’t approve of, but I can finally now turn my back on that and focus on my fitness business.

Case in point, I was able to focus enough to finally fulfill one of my long time dreams: To combine both of my lives and teach fitness to actors. My Fitness for Actors program was born this summer thanks to the wonderful people at Magnet Theater allowing me to use their space. The success of the Fitness for Actors program has encouraged me to create a new way of teaching my stuff. I loved having the same people in class week after week so that we could really focus on creating an appropriately challenging progression for each one of them. This is the way I prefer to work. Having a class with an open door seems to stagnate the class as a whole. There is no way to move forward if someone new is always showing up. This inspiration will lead to the creation of JAG's Body Shop. This will be a course of study. Each student will learn their own proper body mechanics and what they need to do to achieve their goals. Rather than a weekly class with no direction, this will include goals, personalization and a supportive group atmosphere. The student will learn how to get a complete, full body workout without a gym or any equipment. They'll also learn a yoga series they can practice on their own, and a full stretching routine. It combines the great things about class room fitness, with all of the personal attention of a personal trainer. The cost is a bit more than your typical classes, but the value compares favorably to getting a personal trainer and having a gym membership. My goal is to launch this program in late 2010. More details to follow.

MOVING: So, I moved to New York back in 2000 in order to pursue a career in acting. I gave up a great career as a fitness trainer and massage therapist, to follow a dream. So now that I’ve stopped chasing the star, I’m wondering what I’m doing here in New York? Haven’t I been here long enough? I also made another huge life changing decision this summer. New York has been a wild ride, but its time has come. My current plan is to drive across the country in spring 2011 with everything I own in a Penske truck. Bye-bye, Big Apple. Hello Emerald City. Even though I was born in Santa Barbara and lived there, or in nearby LA or Ventura, for my first 27 years, I never felt “at home” anywhere as much as I felt in Seattle. So, I’m starting my life over again. I love doing that.

BODY TUNING: Another exciting and very important thing that I did this summer was to grab a fantastic opportunity to study under an amazing physical therapist. This genius approach to body work is hailed by everyone who experiences it. I had only one session with Shmuel, back when my shoulder was still in pain, and I immediately knew he was something special. One day in July I saw an email from him in my inbox. It said that he had come to the realization that he needed to pass on his special technique of Body Work to someone eager to learn and practice it. To this day, only Shmuel and Glenn Black, who trained with Shmuel decades ago, are able to call themselves Body Tuners. I have been blogging extensively about my experience with Shmuel, so I won’t go into it here, but I will say that it promises to be a keystone in the creation of my new life. I plan to go to Seattle and put together a program that take JAG's Body Shop another step further and incorporates Body Tuning along with all of the other things included in JAG's Body Shop: Energy Flow, Nia, Yoga Tune Up®, Deep Stretching, Nia Five Stages and Yoga. It is going to be something incredible, but it’s still in the works.

As I write this, there are still actually two more weeks of summer. Given the way this summer has been, I wouldn’t be surprised if something else pretty fairly major happens between now and the Autumnal equinox. If that happens, I’ll write a supplementary blog entry, but for now let this suffice as an account of...

What I Did Last Summer
by Jason Alan Griffin
age 44

Ear Points

Hanging on the wall in one of the treatment rooms at Shmuel Tatz’s is a colorful poster called “Ear Points.”

It shows an ear with the super-imposed image of a human fetus with the head lined up to the earlobe and the legs curled up to comprise the upper portion of the ear. The poster indicates a correlation between all of the body parts (including internal organs) and certain specific points on the ear.

I’ve seen Shmuel occasionally use a small electronic gadget that makes a squeeling sound. When he presses it into spots on the ear it may or may not change the pitch of the sound. He explains, as he uses it on his clients by pressing it into points on the ear, that when he hears the pitch go up high, that’s the indication that he’s on the exact right point and he’ll stay there for a bit. The client, as do all of his clients, end up saying that the pain is gone when Shmuel is finished.

A few days ago I was standing and watching a Body Tuning treatment and my back was feeling slightly achy and painful. If I weren’t in the process of observing, I’d typically lay down and do some mobilization and some stretching to relieve my back, but I felt it would be rude to do that, so I just ignored it. It wasn’t excruciating or debilitating.

Then, my attention was drawn back to that Ear Points poster on the back wall. I wasn’t close enough to see the details, but I remembered the image of the fetus and how it was positioned in the ear. So, imagining the earlobe as the head, I worked my way down the outer edge of my ear (which corresponds to the spine), giving it light pinches as I went. Then, when I got to a place in the middle of the outer edge of my ear, I hit a spot that was very lively. The same pinch I had been giving all along my ear suddenly, in this specific point, felt extremely sensitive. So I stayed on it with consistent pressure despite the slight discomfort.

Much to my amazement, I could feel my back tension melting away. After less than two minutes of attention to that Ear Point, my back felt much better.

If that had been the end of the story, I may not have been so impressed, but it goes a bit further. That night, I was explaining my experience to someone else. In the process of explaining, I was pinching my ear as I had done earlier, to demonstrate what I did. But, to my surprise, I could not find that sensitive area. I could pinch all up and down the outer rim of my ear with no particular pain. Now that my back wasn’t achy, the Ear Point was gone!

My friend told me that he had heard of dentists who don’t use novocaine, but instead apply clothespins to their patients earlobes. I told him how that would make perfect sense because the earlobe corresponds with the head, and therefore, the ‘mouth’ point would be right there.

And this is still not the end of the story.

A few days later, I was experiencing a tightness and discomfort in my knee, so I thought I’d give the Ear Points a try. I was delighted to find there was a particularly sensitive spot in my ear. This time it was higher up on the out edge of the ear. It felt similar to the sensitive spot that helped relieve my back, but it was higher up on the ear - equivalent to where the fetus’ knee would be.

I applied my two minutes of pressure despite the sharp sensation that might otherwise cause me to stop. And, as if by magic, I could start to feel my knee pain dissipate and was finally completely erased.

So, I am a believer. I’d love to hear your stories. If you have pain in your body, start pinching your ear and let me know if you find one of those Ear Points. And, also I’d love to know if applying two minutes of consistent pressure on the point had any effects on easing your tension or discomfort.

So, now, my big question is... why is something as effective and simple as this not more well-known??

Same Knee, New Hope

I was fortunate enough to be witness to a wonderful epiphany in a fellow human being today.

I’ve seen this particular man on the treatment table three times in the nine days I’ve been observing Body Tuning in progress. Shmuel will sometimes leave a client in the room with electrical stimulation or ultra sound, or ice, and as the treatment works on one client, he will go into the next room and begin or continue working on someone else. I’ve seen him working on up to four clients at one time.

In some cases, I’ll stay behind and talk to the client about their experience with Shmuel and Body Tuning. Such was the case with this man, who told me something pretty inspiring.

He had had knee surgery back in 1971 and had been in pain ever since. The scars on both of his knees were still plainly visible and Shmuel has been working on the knees aggressively to return proper function and pain free range of motion. The client told me that about a year ago he was told by his doctor that there was no cartilage left in his knee and that the joint was ‘bone on bone.’ You can see in this illustration, how there is supposed to be cartilage and connective tissue called menisci between the bones of a healthy knee to serve as a protective cushioning.

The doctor informed him that recovery was impossible and that he’d either have to live with the ever-increasing pain, or have both of his knees surgically replaced.

Fortunately the man’s wife, who had been in an accident, was seeing great results from Body Tuning and suggested that he give it a try before agreeing to something as drastic as surgery.

Today, on the table, the man told me that he’d been seeing Shmuel twice or three times weekly for about three months and that after the last session with him, he actually felt a bounce in his step. He was walking pain free and this 50 year old man who has hobbled since 1971 told me he felt like he was 25 years old and that he finally actually saw some hope of having his knees back.

He is so grateful that he listened to his wife and found Shmuel, rather than undergo another surgery. Body Tuning saves another person from ‘the knife.’ His exact words were “Shmuel has given me new hope.” I can’t think of a greater gift.

What's In The Belly?

Yesterday was my sixth day observing Shmuel Tatz Body Tuning. When I walked into the office this morning, he was already working on a woman. An hour later, he finally finished. The whole time I watched and I wondered what her complaint was. I know that Shmuel likes to only focus on one complaint at a time, but I could see that he was addressing many different parts of her body. This is perfectly logical because anytime you have any one part not co-operating, it will have an effect on the structural integrity of the whole body.

One of the things I saw yesterday was something that I’ve seen Shmuel do a few times, to different people. He presses his hands deep into the client’s belly. Sometimes he’ll apply pressure in a certain direction or seem to apply a certain motion to the activity. It’s different each time he does it, but it always seems to me to be so dramatic. It really was curious to me.

Through this process of leaning the art of Body Tuning, I have avoided asking questions. Body Tuning is an intuitive art and I want to trust my intuitions in both learning and practicing. When I got my Nia Black Belt, I learned that asking questions can shut off the intuitive mind, so I let my questions sit and they fuel me to watch more intently. But today, I did ask a question. I wanted to know why Shmuel was pressing into people’s bellies.

I had pondered this question since I first saw him do it. When something puzzles me, I often try to do it to myself. But this one looked so scary. I didn’t want to do it to myself. But yesterday I asked him what he’s doing so that I could go home and try it on myself. His answer was disappointingly vague to me. I asked “what are you pressing into? Is it the diaphragm? the psoas? the liver? what? I was hoping for specific directions and he gave me a surprise. In stead of giving me a specific technique or target, he told me that many problems lie in the digestive system. I know that our health is tied up with our digestion, but I didn’t realize that Body Tuning would take that into account. In retrospect, I don’t know why that should surprise me; Body Tuning is a holistic approach to physical health and well-being.

It was a reminder to stay in my intuitive mind. So I put my questions away again.

When I got home, I pressed hard into my own belly. The first thing I noticed was that it was not only easy to go as deeply as I saw him pressing on the clients, but that it actually felt really good. It felt especially good when I stopped. I know that sounds like an old joke, but it actually felt like a really good muscular release.

And here’s another thing I noticed... Ever since my injury (see Too Little is Better Than Too Much , Injury Update and How I Fixed My Body) I’ve noticed that I’m crooked. When I hold a plank position for more than about thirty seconds, I start to lose the inner grip on my ribcage on the right side, and despite my best efforts I cannot hold my upper body evenly. I also notice that if I stand and look at my body in the mirror, there is a very slight deviation of my ribcage in relationship to my pelvis. I’m wondering if something inside didn’t heal up right; which made me crooked.
Well, when I tried this belly-pressing technique and I actually pressed in and turned, with the intention of fixing my crooked ribcage, it felt amazing. And I felt like I could realign myself from the core. It actually felt like something Shmuel might be up to when he’s doing some of his digging.

The strange lesson I learned yesterday was not to think in terms of parts. I already know my anatomy; its not like I’m not aware of the parts. But the focus seems to be on the organism as a whole, rather that any single part. We’re dealing with systems and connections. The body working in concert.

The comparison of how I thought of the belly pressing before today and after my own belly pressing experience is that this morning, I was interested in what muscle was being targeted. And now, I understand it as a great center. An access to some profound shifting.

Then, as if by divine coincidence, I went into the office this morning to find that Shmuel was absent for the holiday and that his assistant was the one who had asked me to come in an hour early. He laid me on the table and proceeded to give my body a thorough working over. This session is actually going to be another post, but what I wanted to mention about it was that, as part of his work, he pressed deep into my belly.

The sensation was astounding. It wasn’t particularly painful, but it was certainly loaded with emotion. I felt like I was about to cry. Not from pain or even from any particular memory, but just a pure, strong emotional connection to whatever he was accessing with his deep touch.

The question remains unanswered for now. But it is still burning and driving me to observe and experience even more. One of the driving questions of my work will now be “What’s in the belly?”