Tuning My Body
Today I had a session with Shmuel Tatz. I’ve been observing him tuning bodies for about four months now, and I finally get a turn. My shoulder had begun bothering me again, for the first time since I originally recovered from the January 2009 injury. I was in pain for a good six to eight months and then, by late 2009 I finally found the pain was gone and I was ready to start rebuilding my strength. It has been going very well, and I’m getting my strength back in the right side of my torso. But here we are, two years later, and I suddenly felt like my body needed more tuning.
Once I got on the table, it didn’t take Dr Tatz long to find the locations in my shoulder that were most painful. I’m quite sure that he simply puts his hands on a body and listens. Then the body will tell him exactly what it wants.
He worked a bit on the back of my right shoulder before he passed me off to one of his assistants. Viktor is a big strong Russian massage therapist, who really got deep into my back and shoulder with some basic deep tissue massage techniques. The relief was profound. I didn’t realize how much I had going on back there. I mean, I knew it was bad, but until he started getting in there, I didn’t comprehend the magnitude of the issue.
When Viktor was done, and Shmuel returned, I was pretty well kneaded and released. Shmuel moved my shoulder around and deftly cracked my elbow. Everything he did with my body seemed like something I’d want to have done if I were aware of it. I mean, I never realized my elbow needed cracking, until he cracked it and it felt SO RIGHT. And the way he was moving my humerus around in the joint also felt like exactly what my shoulder needed.
As he was working on me, I could see him shaking his head in disapproval or in disbelief at how bad of condition my shoulder was in. He told me, “This is a very old problem.” And I responded, “Yes. When I was about sixteen, I separated my sterno-clavicular joint in wrestling practice.” He nodded knowingly.
I wondered, later, if I had mislead him by not mentioning the injury from 2009, but my trust for him is so profound that I figured he’d know what he needed to know by now. My instinct was that when he observed that is was a very old problem, he was referring to that kind of history. In fact, I had often wondered if the 2009 injury wasn’t just a manifestation of the way my body had put itself back together after my wrestling injury of 1982. I had known that my body wasn’t right in that area, but it never mattered.
Dr. Tatz finished my first session by putting my shoulder under electro-magnetic vibrations for about twenty minutes.
Then, a very interesting thing happened. I started to feel worse over the next few days. I had a pain that would jump around from my neck to my back to my shoulder. It didn’t really settle into a particular spot and the entire joint just felt extremely awkward and unstable.
If I wasn’t already very familiar with the type of work that Shmuel does, I might have panicked and thought ‘he ruined me!’ But my instinct was that my body is being shifted and changed by the process of Body Tuning and during this period of transition, I was feeling destabilized.
It was uncomfortable for three whole days. On the fourth day, I had my second scheduled appointment with Dr Tatz. I was happy to be able to tell him that, as of that morning, the pain was gone and that my shoulder, in general, felt much more free than it had in months.
So for the beginning of the second session, he had my lie on my stomach and he started in my upper trapezius. He spent a lot of time working all around my scapula and he kept telling me, “relax, relax, you are much too unrelaxed in this area.” Which was a surprise to me. I had not been aware that, according to him, I was holding a lot of tension in my torso. It was so foreign to me that I was really struggling with figuring out how to ‘let go.’ I had no kinesthetic relationship to whatever it was I needed to let go of.
What he was indicating, however, made perfect sense to me. Because for about two years now, since the injury, I had been noticing that my whole ribcage was tilted forward and to the right. I was crooked! And if, like he said, I could relax whatever it was I was holding onto, I could see how it would allow my ribcage to return to its normal place. This is what I’ve really been wanting him to fix on me, but didn’t know how to ask him to help me with it. I was so thrilled that he was finding it on his own.
But now the challenge was that I didn’t feel I had conscious control of whatever it was that he was asking me to relax. He kept working, moving my arms and asking me to mobilize my scapulae. And I kept looking for tension in my body I could let go of.
We went on this way for what seemed like probably fifteen minutes until finally, I noticed that when he pressed on my back, it was pushing air out of my lungs. Despite the weird, vulnerable feeling I was aware of, I let him continue to press and effect my lungs. This made me aware of what I was holding previously.
He then took a deep series of strokes down by back and up under my right shoulder blade. Again, he was tracing the line of pull that I wanted to correct my misalignment. It felt, once again, as if he was doing exactly what my body wanted.
He then stood me up and proceeded to correct my stance and my walking. He pointed out the places I held unconscious tension and gave me an exercise to do. Balance a long cane on one finger while keeping my neck free of tension.
Again, my shoulder felt tender later in the day after our session and the next day. And it’s very tempting to start to worry or to assume he’s made my situation worse. But I am intimately familiar with his work and I know what I’m feeling is just that my tissues are migrating and my sense of self is being challenged. I wonder how many people get this kind of amazing treatments, but don’t realize that the weirdness they feel afterwards is not a bad thing.
The next morning, i could feel the problem he was trying to explain to me. My neck was sticking in a certain movement. My cervical spine was really creaky and in danger of freezing. I could understand why he wanted me to move my head the way he did.
Interestingly enough, when he first explained it to me, I wasn’t sure what he was getting at or why he said what he said. But I did practice the movements he prescribed, anyway. It was only through practicing the movements he gave me that I understood what they were for.
It makes me wonder if his clients are following his advice, too. I know that prescribing exercises is one of his services as a Body Tuner and he’s quite gifted at coming up with very specific exercises for each person’s problem. But, I wonder how many people are motivated enough, and actually have enough faith in him to do these exercises, even though they may not make sense at first. And not only that, but they can be frustrating because they take so much concentration and awareness.
It is a humbling experience, as a body expert, to be told something about my body that I wasn’t aware of, but this kind of thing is also extremely interesting and exciting to me. I look forward to gaining mastery over the things that Shmuel pointed out to me and going back in for another treatment once this one feels like it has settled down.
I will rest from my workouts again today and start with a body flow tomorrow, so I won’t be working out again until Saturday, when I do my moderate workout and then on Sunday, I’ll do my intense workout.