Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How To Become a Body Tuner

I recently got an email that I wanted to share with you.  It read:
I'm thinking about expanding my field beyond yoga and YTU and going into the physical therapy world, and I was wondering if you had a moment to let me know your experience working with Shmuel. Do you think it's worthwhile/necessary to have any massage background as well? I would love to hear your thoughts and what your plans are with this training -
My experience working with Shmuel has been incredible.  Read here about how I first met him.
I started my apprenticeship in September of 2010.  I would just go into the office and stand in the corner and watch him work.  It was fascinating.  Everything from the first interview he’d do with a new patient, to the way his work was always different and always seemed to be right on the money. 
I had been a massage therapist in a previous life.  I was licensed and practiced in Seattle for about eight years.  I gave up massage because I was frustrated by the way people would come to me week after week and expect me to fix their bodies, when it was obvious that they were doing no self-care.  I felt like I was fighting a losing battle and was getting no support. Since I also worked as a personal trainer, I could really compare the difference between working with people who were doing something and people who were just laying there. So, when I moved to New York, I never bothered to have my license transferred to New York State.
But once I started watching Shmuel Tatz and learning Body Tuning, I started practicing Body Tuning on anyone who would let me.  At first I could feel myself tempted to massage them. It really pointed out to me the big difference between massage and Body Tuning. (There is also a big difference between physical therapy and Body Tuning.)  As a Body Tuner, I seem to have made a fundamental shift from paying attention to muscles as a massage therapist, to paying attention to bones and joints.
It didn’t take long to me to start approaching the work like a Body Tuner.  Here is a blog post I published about a week after starting to observe him. And now, five months later, I’m getting results like I can hardly believe.  It is so simple that it doesn’t seem like a technique.  But it is. Body Tuning is a blend of many bodywork modalities.  And yet it is loyal to none.  It is a grab bag of techniques and the application of only what is perfectly appropriate to the body on the table at the moment.  It is largely intuitive and broad in knowledge.  It’s mainly about listening and responding.
The question about whether it is useful or necessary to have a background in massage is a good one.  I’d say, YES, it is very useful to have that background.  But I’d also say it’s probably not necessary.  
What is necessary is an unquenchable thirst for learning more and more modalities and techniques for reducing pain and returning the body to its natural state.  A Body Tuner should be a master of kinesiology and anatomy and should be highly skilled at movement education.  We must know what we can expect the body to do.  For example. we must know how much movement should be happening in the big toe, and in which directions, so that if we see a big toe that isn’t moving properly, we can make it a priority to return it to free movement. 
The basic theory of Body Tuning is that movement is health.  In most cases, pain is a result of (or at least accompanies) some deviation from the natural flow of joint movement.  A Body Tuner must listen to the body with his/her hands.  Knowing what feels right and what feels wrong will guide a Body Tuner to help the body return to what is right.
I originally wanted to study with Shmuel Tatz because of his approach to health and wellness.  I came from an exercise science background and most of my work was involved around fitness.  There is a difference between health and fitness, and I knew that studying with Dr Tatz would strengthen my knowledge of and ability to teach and master the world of physical health.  
His knowledge has been very grounding and enlightening to me.  He makes me define and evaluate everything I thought I knew.  For example, whenever I show him an exercise that I’m doing or that I’m having my client do, the hardest question he asks me is “Why would you want to do that?”
I had been involved in the fitness industry for so long that I have stopped asking that question.  I realized that I had been assuming that everyone wanted to be in top shape and was willing to do whatever it takes to get there.
When I decided to study his work, I didn’t intend to become a Body Tuner.  I really just wanted to hang out with him and absorb his fascinating perspective on body care.  My thinking was that being around him and his work would be such a great facet to mine.  And I figured I'd learn something unexpected from this man, and I was right.  His down-to-earth approach to health, wellness and body care has become a filter through which I view all of my work. Asking “What would Shmuel think?” is a powerful litmus test for any of the exercises I bring to my classes or my clients. Shmuel Tatz will always be with me now.
I was working with him for half a year before I finally put together what he was really looking for in an apprentice.  I’m not his ideal protege because I'm going to be moving out of the state.  He’s looking for a colleague.  Someone who is well-versed in his approach and who he can trust enough to say, “I’m going to leave early today, can you take care of my afternoon patients?”
He has been giving me patients of my very own.  Mostly people who don't have insurance and can't afford his rates. And I’m working on them in the office.  In stead of paying Dr Tatz for the training, its more like I have a part-time job in which I’m learning great skills and earning money. 
Now that I know what he’s after, I want to help him.  I’m going to be moving away to Seattle and can’t continue to train with him.  But I would love to find someone who’s interested in learning from him and becoming his colleague.
It is really a great opportunity for anyone interested in working on bodies to learn a technique that blows away any other approach I’ve seen.  And in my nearly 20 years in the fitness industry, including eight years as a massage therapist, I’ve seen, and experienced many different types of body work. 
Please consider working with Dr Tatz and learning Body Tuning.  He wants his legacy to continue, and it would be a true loss to the world of health and fitness and dance and music and art if his work ended when he retired. He’s in his 60’s now, so that day might not be too far off.
Contact me if you want to get started in a new adventure.  I hope to hear from you.
Read my other blog posts about some of my observations during my apprenticeship.





1 comment:

Sarah said...

Jason - thank you so much for this! I really appreciate your thoroughness in answering and your love for the work really comes through.