How to Avoid Yoga Injuries

newlife-coverThe positive effects of yoga are widely accepted. Modern science can, in fact, quantify these benefits, such as increased flexibility, improved strength, better posture, positive mood, reduced stress levels, and –the widely desired – weight loss.

Recently, however, there has been an increase in the dialogue about the other side of the coin: injuries that may be incurred while practicing yoga. But before you allow yourself to be scared away and miss out on all the benefits, here are some ways to determine your personal level of risk before stepping onto the mat.

Gain perspective

Practicing the asana (posture) aspect of yoga is a physical activity that requires the same level of awareness regarding the body’s capability as when engaging in any other type of athletic endeavor, such as running or soccer. Just as you should not attempt a marathon when first starting to run, pushing the body into the full, or advanced stages of a pose can be detrimental. To be safe, adhere to your body’s natural limits and avoid overstretching, which means moving past the point of first resistance when performing a pose. If you heed your body’s signals, your risk factor for injury is far less than many regular daily activities such as driving a car!

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The Body Whisperer

Legendary body-worker Shmuel Tatz explains why keeping your body in tune can help you avoid long-term injuries

Shmuel Tatz PT

Stay Tuned

Because active people often have problems with their knees, ankles, or lower back, it is essential to get regular therapeutic sessions with a qualified professional. He believes his body-tuning technique is the best tool for helping very physically active people stay injury-free (and I would have to agree), but if you don’t live in the New York area, here are some of his suggestions to help keep you in a perfect rhythm.

  • If you experience pain, stop doing yoga and get daily treatments from a physical therapist until the pain I gone.
  • Make sure the physical therapist has at least 10-15 years of experience. The therapist should spend a minimum of 40 minutes treating you, and a large percentage of that time should include “hands-on” treatment of your body. At every visit, the therapist should be trying different techniques.
  • In addition to working on the affected joint, the therapist should work on other body parts that have been thrown out of alignment because of the injury.

Generally speaking, we yogis are a healthy bunch. We practice our asana regularly, are mindful of what we eat, and often meditate to release any and all negative energies. Sometimes though, we come up against obstacles, the most annoying of which are physical.

But we deal. We steam our strained muscles, haul our sore bodies to massage sessions, and sometimes even enjoy a day at the spa. We start to feel better, so we go back to the mat, and in a few weeks or months, a new obstacle inevitably pops up. As this cycle repeats over and over, many of us face chronic injuries. In the long run, our bodies and our practices suffer.

So it was that I recently found myself sun-saluting my way through this wheel of physical suffering. Then, one afternoon, as I rested on my mat waiting for class to start, I heard the quiet whispering of nearby yogis, speaking about a man with a magic touch.

Magic Man

A few days later, I am in an office located deep in the belly of Carnegie Hall. It feels like I stepped into a time warp. The office is worn, with an air of another era but somehow comforting, and there are strange-looking devices here and there (was that a flux capacitor?). classical music is playing, and there are pictures of dancers, actors, and musicians on the wall—all reveal loving and grateful inscriptions dedicated to the man with the magical hands—Shmuel Tatz.

Shmuel is a thin, distinguished-looking man, with playful eyes and a thick eastern European accent. He orders me to walk across the room, and I hear him muttering as I obey. On my return stroll, I can see him shaking his head and stroking his chin. Shit.

“What you are doing to yourself?” He seems really annoyed with me. My voice is meek as I tell him about the tightness in my thoracic spine, a strained shoulder, and an injured hamstring. “You do too much yoga!” he exclaims, as he leads me to a smaller room, and I lay my submissive self down on a table.

He began to whisper to me to relax and breathe as he went to work on my neck, my psoas, my hips, and my feet. Things were cracking and popping like an Orville Redenbacher Fourth of July, and I was alternatively sweating and feeling relieved. I felt gooey afterward, but I also felt as though my breath was traveling on a freeway around my body. Best of all, I swear I walked out of there taller!

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Tune Your Body

I’ve worked with thousands of musicians from Rosalyn Tureck, Mstislav Rostropovich and Issac Stern, to Leon Fleisher, Richard Goode and Gidon Kremer. Most of the pianists I have seen have had good training in the mechanics of playing the instrument properly: how to sit… the importance of arm weight and relaxation… and having a nicely rounded hand. Even so, there are many pianists for whom the normal pedagogical training simply doesn’t apply, and yet, regardless of their anatomical make up-whether their hands are large or small, whether they play with straight fingers or curved or hold their hands high or low-they still achieve wonderful results. Vladimir Horowitz often played with almost completely straight fingers. Glenn Gould sat very low and almost seemed to play from under the keyboard.

What was their secret? They managed to be at the keyboard in s position where their muscles and ligaments were working for and not against them. It is possible to play for long periods of’ time without experiencing any tiredness or pain. And to achieve that, the body must be as in tune as the piano.

One of the ways that you can help your body to help you is through active physical exercise. Another is through passive exercise, and by that I mean lying on a table and allowing someone like me to move your body. I will talk more about that but first, here are a few tension-relieving exercises that can be done by any pianist when taking a break from practicing, (hopefully after 5000 minutes at the keyboard). Please note that none of these should be clone with out first having an evaluation by a physical therapist to make certain they are right for you.

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Double Acts

Shmuel Tatz is the favoured physiotherapist of many of Manhattan’s Leading Musicians, among them New York Philharmonic Violinist Hanna Lachert

Physical Therapist Shmuel Tatz and Violinist Hanna Lachert

I WAS INTRODUCED TO HANNA ABOUT 20 YEARS AGO THROUGH her husband, the Manhattan violin maker David Segal; she has been a regular client ever since.

Eighty per cent of her treatment is using hands only and for the other 20 per cent she gets individualized exercises. Just like a violin pupil plays a sonata at their lesson and the teacher after listening to it makes some suggestions, big and small, so only when I am touching or watching the body can I maneuver it and give some suggestions, some ideas. Hanna’s a very good student as, like most musicians, she has the discipline needed to practice. You don’t need to rush to the tuner, you can do self-tuning – if you have problems you need to go to the master, but mostly you can do it on your own.

I wish in our sessions we could talk about the interpretation of music – I can only listen, to hear how in tune the body is. When I’m working on a musician’s body I’m listening with my fingers, my hands; I can feel the vibrations of every muscle, every joint and every organ.

One thing I have learnt from Hanna is not to wait when we have some little problem – the sooner you go to the tuner, the less time it takes to get better. With Hanna, any discomfort in the body – perhaps she feels something a little bit out of tune – and she immediately calls and makes an appointment; it takes a couple of sessions and everything’s OK. She doesn’t wait until the body starts to scream and needs to takes some drug straight away.

I often hear Hanna play. I recently heard her in piano trios by Rachmaninoff, Chopin and her composer brother Piotr. I’m crazy about piano trios, so I enjoyed that very much. Fortunately she’s a very active chamber player and doesn’t only work with the Philharmonic. But not long ago I also heard her play in Verdi’s Requiem. Afterwards we were having some supper together and she was so excited – she said, ‘This time not only you had fun but I had fun.’ It’s a great piece – 90 minutes felt like 15 or 20.

I’ve learnt so much from Hanna and other musicians about their particular physiological challenges and ailments – things that other health professionals haven’t always grasped. For example, I’ve had violinists with shoulder problems who have been to very well-known orthopedists. One of them had a session following a famous tennis player who had got over a shoulder complaint by switching arms – so the orthopedist suggested the same for the violinist! It shows such little understanding of violinists! Hanna knows to phone me before she has an injection or gets some medicine; she knows to trust me.

THE FIRST TIME I SAW SHMUEL WAS AT MY HUSBAND’S SHOP; he was with a violinist friend of his who was one of my husband’s clients. That fellow was raving how fantastic Shmuel is. I was skeptical at first – just another physiotherapist. He insisted on demonstrating right there on the floor what he could do and it was encouraging. So I said alright, I’ll try. And true enough I was very much impressed and have been going to him ever since, whenever I have a problem.

In my case it’s often my shoulder, but recently I had some swollen joints and he was able to help with that – which borders on a miracle! My husband, David, once twisted his ankle so that he was on crutches, painkillers – you name it. The next day we called Shmuel, who said to just come over; we drove there and an hour later David walked back to his work.

My sessions with him don’t involve me playing, but he will show me exercises to improve my condition. On a basic level he told me always to pay attention to the way I sit, the way I drive, what’s happening to my shoulders when I write or am at the computer – basic things about posture that we tend to forget. That’s on top of his manipulations. He also uses some electronic devices – I’m not sure what they are, but I trust him!

“When I met Shmuel he insisted on demonstrating his treatment right there on the floor.”

We usually talk about music, because Shmuel loves it and he goes to many, many concerts. He’s very knowledgeable and strongly opinionated about who he likes and who he doesn’t and why. He comes and hears me with the New York Philharmonic perhaps once or twice a month, and he comes to practically all my chamber music concerts. He doesn’t like too much new music, but at my last concert at BargeMusic I played a piece written for me and my piano trio by my brother, and Shmuel said he liked it. It was only written last year, so very contemporary – I was happy that he could appreciate it.

We’ve long been friends and he sometimes comes to us for dinner or festivals such as Passover. We have a tradition on the first of January of an open house; all our friends come with their instruments and we play chamber music, accompanied by food and wine. He’s been to that several times and he even surprised me once and revealed e can pay the piano.

The Strad
Interviews by Matthew Rye

Shmuel Tatz: The Divine Touch

Shmuel Tatz PT PhDHeadlined as the “Therapist as Shaman” by The New York Times, Shmuel Tatz, P.T., Ph.D., is a physical therapist providing relief for his clients when they have been unable to find it elsewhere. Located on the eighth floor of the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York City, Tatz is the star of his own show, the Tatz Studio—a healing arts studio—attracting numerous celebrities, classical musicians and prominent business personalities throughout the world.

Practicing his unique system of Body Tuning and physical therapy, Tatz has treated such glitterati as renowned composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, singers Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed; actors F. Murray Abraham, Elizabeth Berkley, Elaine May, Marlo Thomas, and Kathleen Turner; Mets baseball star Mookie Wilson; world-class violinists Sir Yehudi Menuhin and Isaac Stern; prima ballerinas Nina Ananiashvili, Alexandra Danilova and Susan Jaffe; German soprano Christa Ludwig; Bach specialist Rosalyn Tureck, and TV personalities Peter Jennings and Jane Pauley.

Isaac Stern, who had seen Tatz for two decades, described him as a genius. “Not only is Shmuel Tatz an enormously gifted, highly trained and experienced physical therapist, he is also knowledgeable of the unique needs of artists who so often have problems that are caused by professional work over the years.”

More impressive than his illustrious client list is the list of ailments he has been able to treat. His Web page lists almost 100 of them, everything from back and neck problems, sports and occupational injuries, stress- and tension-related problems, age-related stiffness, to neurological and orthopedic disorders. He also participates in the integrated treatment of depression, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, allergies, acne, insomnia, osteoporosis-the list goes on and on. Despite his extremely busy schedule, Tatz never makes himself too important or preoccupied to personally return phone calls and answer all questions with earnest sincerity.


At 58 years young, Tatz possesses an uncanny ability to assess the physical situation of his clients solely by scanning their bodies, and, as if by divine guidance, his hands intuitively know where to begin the healing process. Tatz is hesitant to attribute any of his healing abilities to anything other than hard work, dedication to his craft and years of experience. In today’s glitzy new-age health world, his impeccable integrity, Yiddish sense of humor and earthy hands-on approach is refreshingly real and tangible. Nothing about his treatments are so ethereal that a layman cannot directly experience the impact.

“I tell people, that if you have come to my office to tell your story, you are in the wrong place. If you have already been to 10 places and you have told everybody your story and you are still here, so everything you are telling me I don’t need to know. I need to know what you are not saying. Now, on the table!! With my hands I’ll figure it out.”
It is rare that any client leaves the Tatz Studio without a marked physical improvement. His goal is to reeducate detrimental patterns in the body and teach the client new ways of living and using muscles. Through treatment and education, Tatz restores health and balance and seeks to wean the client away from outside intervention.

Using a cross-modality of different techniques, Tatz combines the best of Western medicine with the more energetically based practices of the East.

“Every patient who comes to me is experiencing pain or discomfort at a different level,” he explains, “and in order to assist each one appropriately, I must have a large repertoire to draw from. One modality is not enough to help every person who walks in the door.”

Some of the modalities he utilizes are: Auriculo therapy, shortwave diathermy, magnetic therapy, sound therapy (ultrasound), light therapy (ML 830® Laser), electrical stimulation and manual therapy, as well as Postural Integration®, tai chi, lyengar yoga, reflex therapy and hydrotherapy.

For clients who come from out of town for Tatz’s special Body Tuning® techniques, he recommends treatment twice a day for one week, once in the morning and then again in the early evening. Eighty-five percent of his clients suffering from acute pain are relieved after five days. He also treats clients who are hospitalized after an operation and need some fine-tuning. “Like a car after an accident, the body has parts replaced and then needs a tune-up. Especially if the patient is lying in a hospital bed for too long, the body becomes uncomfortable. The neck and back become disjointed and need some adjustments.” Tatz suggests body tuning twice a week for these cases.

Tatz’s therapy office resonates with European flavor and is staffed with mostly other Russian practioners. Marina, his receptionist, Russian as well, greets patients with, “Allo, how can I help you?” Tatz laughs about this. “You can take the boy out of Brooklyn, but you can’t take Brooklyn out of the boy.” He may have found success in America, but he is still a Litvak at heart. Fluent in six languages—Lithuanian, Russian, Yiddish, Hebrew, English and German—Tatz is proud to assume his Hebrew name and honored to have the opportunities that American freedom has availed him. “There is no question that America is the goldene medina,” Tatz adds. “Americans are very lucky and don’t even realize it. Their biggest problem was the War of Independence and life has been a honeymoon since then. In Europe, people today are still fighting about existence.”

Fiercely independent, Tatz realizes he needs to be at the top of his field in order to succeed. He is hesitant to make referrals unless he is absolutely certain that the referring physician is top-notch and trustworthy. He always encourages his clients to thoroughly check out doctors who are recommended by other doctors as “friends.” The idea of kickbacks infuriates him, so for the most part he operates as a sole proprietor. “Americans are naive. If you go to see a doctor with a big degree from Oxford or Cambridge and he has a British accent, what does this mean? You need to ask questions.”


Shmuel Tatz PT

Born in Lithuania in 1946 to two Jewish Holocaust survivors, a secular father and Zionist mother, Tatz knew from the age of 5 that his destiny was to live in Israel. Lithuania, at that time, was not a friendly place for a Jewish family and Tatz reminisces that he was reminded in the streets a few times a day that he was a Jew. “My father was a partisan and my mother escaped from the ghetto and they met in the woods in 1944. They each had had previous spouses and children when they met, but all known family members had been killed.”

Life behind the Iron Curtain was extremely limited and even the mention of immigration before the early ’70s was a violation resulting in a sentence to Siberia. So when immigration did finally start to open up, Tatz applied and had to wait two years before receiving his visa. With much encouragement from his family, Tatz immigrated to Israel in 1973 to build a new life, with his family planning to follow after him. “My mother was a very strong Zionist—she was Shomer Hatzair—and we always had talks about Israel in my home.” Tatz’s mother was the only one to actually follow him to Eretz Yisroel, as his father passed away in Lithuania and his brother continues to live there till this day.

Tatz spent the majority of his time as a young man in Lithuania learning how to work with his hands as a healer. He remembers conversing with his father that the only thing he could take with him to Israel were his hands, so this is where he should invest his time and money. After training as a dancer, Tatz transferred his interests and studied for four years to become a medical exercise physician. He later moved to Moscow to study medical massage and in the early ’70s, he worked on the bodies of Soviet Olympic athletes.

“The Eastern European techniques at the time I was in college were much more advanced than their counterpart schools in the West.” Tatz continues, “However, there is one thing that cannot be taught in these schools and that is how to touch. Impossible.” Tatz contends that like learning piano, or any other instrument, touch can only be taught one on one. So Tatz found himself a good shaygetz hands-on healer and followed him arouna Russia to learn the trade.

Upon moving to Israel in 1973, Tatz received a full scholarship from the Sochnut to study traditional physical therapy at Wingate Institute in Tel Aviv. Tatz recounts these times as some of the happiest in his life.

“Many of my old teachers in Israel were immigrants from Germany, trainea in the Eastern European traditions of touch therapy, while the young teachers in Israel were from America and brought the hi-tech therapies like ultrasound. So this was the combination of the highest standards of training available.”

He also had the opportunity to study acupuncture, tai chi and yoga as well as Feldenkrais technique with the native originator of the modality, Moshe Feldenkrais. His first job out of Wingate was working with critically injured people in Jerusalem at Hadassah Hospital, and later he moved on to become the physical therapist for the Israeli soccer team, Beitar Yerushalayim.

Tatz smiles. “Every Jewish mother wants her son to become a doctor or a lawyer. I just didn’t have the talent for these professions. So, my cousin recommended that maybe I would enjoy physical therapy, since it involves a lot of ergonomics and movement. And since it’s a little bit like medicine, my mother would be happy, too. So I have been practicing this profession for almost 35 years and I still enjoy it and learn every day.”

Tatz’s superlative talents transverse many worlds. While concurrently working with the Israeli soccer team, Tatz opened up a private practice in Mea Shearimthe ultra-Orthodox section of Jerusalem. “I still remember my address, Shifteh Yisroel, shloshim vashmona,” he smirks.

“My office there was a three-ring circus. At the same time I was a Shabbos goy running with the soccer players on Shabbos, I was treating yeshiva bochers sitting and learning all day. The soccer players would come to my office in their shorts and the bocherim would come with their Gemorrahs. I will never forget this in my life. I had the honor to treat the Gerer Rebbe, the Slonim Rebbe, and many other talmidim chachamim. These people are always leaning over their books, learning and thinking, and this creates tremendous tension in the neck and back.”

Because Tatz spoke fluent Yiddish, all the most prominent rabbis and rebbetzins came for treatment (in Orthodox tradition, a woman cannot touch a man, but a man can touch a woman as her medical practitioner) and his popularity blossomed amongst the am kashei oref-the nation of stiff-necked people. As a result, numerous articles were written in Israeli newspapers about Tatz’s healing services amongst Israel’s most religious.

Tatz was also a tremendous advocate of physical activity in the yeshivas. He introduced baseball, soccer and basketball to many of the boys. “I saw in the color of the boys’ faces that they had zero physical activity, that their musculoskeletal system was in terrible condition, and that this brings other health problems.” Tatz admits that he received his Jewish education working in this ultra-Orthodox community. “On the holidays, the rabbis would give me wine, kosher brachas and invitations to their homes.”

An attractive young classical pianist, Golda Vainberg, also a fellow Litvak studying at the Rubin Academy of Music in Tel Aviv, once came to his office in Jerusalem. She had been suffering from tendinitis and was unable to play. After only one month of treatment, she was back to her piano and shortly afterward they married. Lucky for Tatz, Vainberg referred to him many of Israel’s finest classical musicians, as well as some of her fellow students at Juilliard. Yehudi Menuhin, Midori, pianists Bella Davidovich, Leon Fleisher, Richard Goode, Mstislav Rostropovitch, Isaac Stern and Rosalyn Tureck came by word of mouth, hearing about Tatz and his intuitive sense of the inner life of a classical musician. When Vainberg received a scholarship from Israel to study at Juilliard in New York City, the Tatzes packed their bags and in 1984 headed west.

Arriving in New York, Tatz had a difficult time reestablishing his practice. He had much experience and knowledge, but no license. One of Tatz’s friends suggested that he establish his practice as an unlicensed (he has since become licensed in New York) “body tuner.” Tatz continues, “Alexander did it, Feldenkrais did it, so I figured, why not me? So let’s make a name that sounds more musical-how ’bout, ‘Body Tuning®’? Now that’s geshmack,” he laughs. Two of Tatz’s patients, Isaac Stern and James D. Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank and then chairman of Carnegie Hall, got him an office there. Twenty years later, Tatz continues to practice his body tuning in this same studio.

“Some people say I have a gift. I only know that I put my life energy into my work and I truly want to help. When somebody puts their hands on you, you can tell if this person wants to help or they are using their hands as if this was just their job.” There is a Jewish saying: “Those who bless, too, shall be blessed.” And after visiting Shmuel Tatz, they feel that they have been blessed with the divine touch.

Lifestyles Magazine
By Leslie Russel

The Best of Both Worlds

Alternative and traditional approaches can be incorporated into a physical therapy career

From inside his clinic in New York City’s Carnegie Hall, Lithuanian native Shmuel Tatz, PT, works his wonders on the likes of renowned composer Andrew Lloyd Weber, ABC news anchor Peter Jennings, violinist Isaac Stern and prima ballerina Susan Jaffe, as well as a full roster of “regular” folk.

They come seeking relief from performance-related injuries: pianist and writers appear with neck and shoulder strains; dancers with hip, knee and back pain. But more than half of Tatz’s clients have more standard ailments, such as arthritis, slipped disks and Parkinson’s disease.

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An Unusual Therapist

In previous articles I have reported on exceptional wellness programs and what contributed to their effectiveness. I’d like to add a most unusual health practitioner to this group.

His name is Shmuel Tatz and his patients consider him to be a remarkably talented and sensitive hands-on therapist. He is first and foremost a licensed physical therapist – but with a range of skills and knowledge that has grown and matured from years of study and experience – topped off with the confidence of a master and a proud dedication to his craft.

Tatz is no ordinary physical therapist, limited to the modalities that consumers have come to expect. His menu of therapies includes magnetic therapy, manual therapy, light therapy, sound therapy, shortwave daithermy and auriculo therapy to name a few of the treatments he employs. Tatz was trained as a physical educator in Lithuania, then migrated to Israel and studied physical therapy. Since 1985 he has been helping his clients in a comfortable and carefully designed studio at Carnegie Hall. So it’s natural that among his statisfied patients are performing artists that include Lou Reed, Kathleen Turner, Peter Jennings, Mstislab Rostropovich, Eli Wallach, Yehudi Menuhin, Isaac Stern.

Before coming to see Tatz for help, the typical patient has already seen 2-3 physicians, 2-3 chiropractors, and an acupuncturist, says Tatz. The question arises then: Why have so many so-called therapists failed to diagnose and remediate their long endured health condition(s)? How has Tatz succeeded in providing the harbor of last resort?

These questions provoked a strong emotional response from Tatz – tingled with a hint of animosity toward the health insurers in particular and at the system that prepares people to become physical therapists. Both, he says prevent the development of maximum competence and severely restrict the employment of modalities and equipment so freely and expertly employed in the Tatz Studio.

Tatz feels that patients cannot be healed by a physical therapist that after four years of special training goes to work in rehab program or some doctors office. In his opinion, what future therapists need goes beyond the issuance of a license to practice.

Like Md.’s, physical therapists should broaden and sharpen their skills while working under the supervision and tutelage of a master physical therapists like Tatz. It takes a ling time, says Tatz, to develop the sensitivity and skills required to learn the art of palpation and other hands on skills that enable a physical therapists to become a capable diagnostician and healer.

Tatz points out the dampening effects if health insurance programs that set the rules for the use of “approved” modalities as well as the incompatible payments to physical therapists. To Tatz they (the health insurance industry) are business, business, and business. According to Tatz, the insurance company tells the physical therapists what he is allowed to do, how many times he can see the patient and how much he will be reimbursed for his services. “He (the therapist) is a human being … he has to pay rent and electric bills. Can you imagine a physical therapist gets $20 for a treatment? Do you know what this office costs me for one hour? How can a physical therapists run the business?”

What Tatz would like his profession to do is to extend the learning time period for physical therapists after licensing. That would require a post graduation apprenticeship for 3-5 years with an experienced physical therapist then employment for six months with other successful physical therapists. Then and only then is the physical therapist ready to go solo. Finally, the physical therapist opens his own practice in a “small room” and works independently, under no obligation to any health insurance company. This would enable him/her to devote one hour for every patient. This, says Tatz, is how he did it when he started 25 years ago.

Since Tatz has received a great deal of commendable publicity (articles, TV, radio), I expected that members of his profession and organizations representing physical therapists would have invited him to speak at their conferences and conventions. Given that Tatz incorporates other modalities such as chiropractic and massage, I asked him if he has received entreaties from schools that train chiropractors and massages therapists. “Nobody invites me. Why should be invited? I don’t have nay connections with organizations. I’m not interested in politics. I’m interested in helping people.” People, he said, call him for treatments; schools and professionals, none.

In addition to poorly prepared physical therapists there are patients who go from therapist to therapist and don’t get better. Why? Tatz tells the story of a patient who suffered from health condition for 15 years without relief during which she had gone to five chiropractors, four acupuncturists and a massage therapist. Numerous treatments: but no one bothered to educate her on how to sit and get out of a chair. This, Tatz says, is like physician giving pills. This lack of patient education is one reason why Tatz is now working on his doctorate in physical education.

Tatz expects his patients to actively participate in the healing process. This, he says, is essential to maintaining good health and increasing the quality of life. Tatz teaches his patients how to move their bodies in a variety of life situation and expects them to do the exercises at home to support the therapies he is providing. He also doesn’t hesitate, when appropriate, to recommend a yoga program or another specialist to meet the patient’s need’s.

While I understand what motivates Tatz to adopt the “Lone Ranger” approach to his practice, it is a choice he has made – and for him it may be the best choice. Despite his arguments about he need for post school training and apprenticeships for physical therapists, and the unfairness of health insurance policies, other organizational arrangements are evolving as conventional and integrative medicine narrow their differences. We have learned about the advantages offered by programs with a multidisciplinary staff, working together and sharing their knowledge and experience. Ultimately, this should benefit the patient who, depite the talent of a single individual therapist, will require the combined wisdom of a team approach. What comes to mind are two programs I observed and wrote about in previous issues of “To Your Health”: Olive Leaf Wholeness Center and The Center for Health and Healing. While health insurance does cover some of the costs at these centers, it does not appear to appreciably diminish the overall quality of care.

As reflected by the many patients, who gladly put their faith in this highly gifted professional, surely there is room fro Shmuel Tatz’s in the world of health care. But given that Tatz represents the upper level of exemplary therapists, and given that the system that produces physical therapists is not about to change any time soon, the creation of a healing environment where therapists can exchange information with knowledgeable members of their team, is worth critical study. This said, some of the sensible changes in the education and placement of therapists that Tatz proposes deserve a serious study and debate. Also, his condemnation of restrictions imposed by private and public health insurers needs better publicity and active consumer advocate pressure on government to change a very flawed system that robs patients of greater treatment potential and therapists of a decent return fro their services.

From April L.

I was injured from an accident in 1996, I tried many therapists but pain persisted, in addition to the pain I could not move reach or lift anything. The constant pain was disconcerting to say the least.

Someone who heard of his wonderful ability to focus on problems led me to Shmuel Tatz.

After one visit I felt some relief. I saw Shmuel 2 times a week for 4 weeks. His amazing fingers found problems I was not aware of – such as stomach difficulties and other parts of my body that I never realized were related to the distress my body was suffering.

I now have total mobility, can lift, stretch and am feeling great. In addition to this my sinuses have cleared from the magnetic therapy Shmuel uses.


From P.S.

I had a broken foot that was treated by an Orthopedist who by the way could not believe the progress I made with Shmuel so quickly.

I saw Dr. Tatz 2 times a week for 2 months. I think the aspect of the healing that was most beneficial was the way he manipulates the area and his ability to concentrate on the painful and disturbed areas of the body.

I am totally fine now and recommend Shmuel to everyone who needs help.

After the publication of the article title “An Unusual Therapist”, we received many letters. Therapists Shmuel Tatz responds to some of your questions:

Do you do massage?

In physical therapy massage is called soft tissue mobilization. It is a big part of my practice. About 25-35% of most treatments is massage.

Do you do adjustments?

In physical therapy adjustments are called manipulations. They are the same as adjustments with a major difference. Adjustments can sometimes be traumatic for the joints. By applying mobilization, which is small intra-joint movement, there is usually good improvement, which avoids the need for adjustments.

Is yoga a part of your practice?

Everything I do when I am teaching people how to move is based on yoga tradition.

Do you sell magnets?

I use high tech electronic magnets. The machine costs many thousands of dollars and is only for professional use.

My pediatrist has advised a bunion operation. Can you help me with this?
I can help both before and after an operation. Ideally i would trat you before and avoid the operation altogether.

Do you treat Parkinson or MS?

The first day after a diagnosis of Parkinson, MS or any other neurological condition, a physical therapists should be contacted for an intensive course of treatment.

Do you treat migraines?

I have success 85-90% of the time.

I live far away and have acute sciatic pain. Does it make sense to travel three hours to Manhattan?

It is possible to do physical therapy twice a day. You ca stay in the city and work intensively for a couple of weeks and expect 90-100% improvement.

How do I find a therapist in my neighborhood?

Try to see an independent practitioner not primary affiliated with a hospital or insurance company, and who is working in solo practice. After the first treatment, listen to your body, think about what the therapist did and if there is a physical improvement continue.


To Your Health!
by Milt Chaikin

Physical Therapy – Body Tuning!

Body Tuning is the most profound development in healing in decades.

Dr. Shmuel Tatz does not use physical therapy machinery of any kind in his therapeutic approach. He uses touch. His hands touch with a gentleness that can only come from a true instinct and awareness of what is going on in the body. It’s a fact he is more in touch with a patient’s body than the patient. He is aware of the body’s language and what it conveys. By conversing with the body, reading balances and disharmonies, he can fine tune it. He feels the bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons evaluating what is needed and then gently reeducates the body into a more harmonious balance. “The first step is to feel the problem.”

As one patient explains, “My personal experience with Dr. Tatz was rather remarkable. When he first touched mu stomach I wondered what he had in mind. Almost immediately there was a sensation in my spine. As he very gently and ever so slowly maneuvered my head up and down and from side to side (similar to Feldenkrais movements) he softly muttered “lengthen your neck” as a healing mantra. He later explained that he was teaching my body to work with its innate wisdom to heal itself. The morning after my session I woke up with no pain. This was a first for me in a very long time.”

His work is a compilation of many modalities. His system may not be readily evident but one look at his face, when he concentrates on the body, reveals his genuine ability to pick up one needs. As he explained, he feels that our bodies tell us what exercise program will help rather than do more harm. (Perhaps one needs someone lie him to set up the correct program.

He, correctly, asserts that one cannot heal or touch another person if we are not in perfect harmony ourselves – centered and emotionally sound. This attitude comes from a healthy soul who is truly in touch with his need to be a focused whole person. There is totally relaxed countenance that Shmuel Tatz possesses that immediately makes you relax and go with the flow.

He sees a limited number of clients a day as he knows one can only give from what there is to draw from. The urgency to make oodles of money is not uppermost in his mind as he considers his clients part of his family.

He uses magnetic pulse therapy as part of his treatment regimen. As Dr. Tatz explains, “Physical therapists know the positive effects of magnetism on the body. Scientists have developed a machine with different programs so we can adjust for every situation. We put electrodes on the body for example on the hip joint for about 15-20 minutes to provide a very mild relaxation sensation and the pain decreases. Physical therapists can do reflex therapy.”

Originally from Lithuania, Shmuel Tatz studied Western physical therapy in Jerusalem. In the 20 years he is practicing in the United States he has broadened his scope of learning considerably.

To Your Health

An Interview with Shmuel Tatz, Body Tuner

With this column Chamber Music introduces a series of short articles about the ways by which various musicians are trying to overcome the problems that came between them and their audience, ranging from the many manifestations of performance anxiety to the actual physical pathologies that can affect them with pain, debility, and even atrophy.

Here, Barry Lenson talks with Shmuel Tatz, a New York City resident who calls that he does, Body Tuning.

Mr. Tatz and pianist Vladimir Feltsman

Mr. Tatz and pianist Vladimir Feltsman

On the eighth floor of Carnegie Hall, in New York, is a studio with the sign on the door that reads, “Shmuel Tatz – Body Tuning”. I knock and enter. Inside, I sit down in a small waiting room. The walls are covered with dozens of photographs of well known performers (e.g. pianists Bella Davidovich and Vladimir Feltsman, violinist Isaac Stern, dancer Merrill Ashley) each scribbled with a few testimonial words of thanks.

After a minute or two, Mr. Tatz enters and settles comfortably into a chair across from me. unlike other practitioners of “methods” I have met, he does not seem to move according to any visible technique or system, or to sit with any artificial posture. He just seems comfortable to be in his body. He excludes energy and extraordinary limberness.

Having ascertained that Mr. Tatz is himself a music and dance lover and his wife is a classical pianist, I start our discussion in typical journalist fashion: “What physical problems do you observe most frequently in instrumentalists?” But he quickly takes the conversation into another direction entirely – a philosophical inquiry into why people seek health care, and the mistakes they make in going about it.

Mr. Tatz: Today, we have over-use syndrome, repetitive motion problems. You are telling me these problems didn’t exist fifty years ago? Of course they did- but today, we have these new names. A musician goes to an expert who says, “Aha! You have such and such a syndrome, and the correct treatment is this”.

Barry Lenson: What is wrong with that approach?

ST: Sometimes the people with the most money get the worst treatment. They ask, “Who is the top person in the field of this problem?” And they go to the person, and may be the treatment works, and may be it doesn’t. There is a Russian expression, “I don’t need a hundred rubles, I need a Hundred friends”. Friend gives you advice, referrals, and ideas- there ‘s far more value in them then in money. You have to make inquiries, find the treatment that is right for you. You have to listen to what different people are telling you, and trust you instincts. Then you must believe. Nobody can decide for you what treatment to choose. Money won’t solve the problem.

BL: So you are saying that going to specialist is not always the best solution for a particular problem?

ST: Not always, no. When you have a problem with a joint in the pinkie, let’s say, you go to a specialist an he takes a close look. [Here Mr. Tatz does an imitation of a specialist, focusing his eyes closely at his own pinkie from half an inch away.] This specialist, perhaps, does not look at the bigger picture. May be the problem lies with the shoulder, elbow; or neck.

BL: So, the problem felt in the elbow or the wrist may be caused elsewhere in the body?

ST: Absolutely. when violinist, for example, experience problems with his shoulder, I often find that those problems come from the hips. [Mr. Tatz stands and imitates first a violinist who is tight and stiff in the body and arms, and then a violinist whose relaxed arm movements seem to emanate from a low center of gravity and free hip movements.]

BL: Why are so many musicians developing physical problems today?

ST: It’s a question of talent. Sometimes someone is a wonderfully talented musician, but has no natural understanding of the body- there’s abuse, too much practicing, the body is out of tune. So the person thinks, “I’m week, I need to do more.” Within a few years, very big problems arise.

BL: In your approach, how do you diagnose where the difficulties lie?

ST: I look at two things in the movement of the joints-accessory joint movement, and intra-joint movement.

Mr. Tatz uses my left hand and demonstrates. First, he has me band my hand as far inward toward my forearm as I can, and then he bands my wrist a little further, using his own hand. That extra range of movement, he explains, is accessory movement. Then he grasps my left hand at the palm, holds my index finger in his other hand, and moves his finger around within the knuckle joint – not in bending movements, but in back and forth and sliding circular movements. This non-flexing movement with in the joint, he explains, is intra-joint movement.

ST: I look at both the quality of the motion, and he range. A problem I find in the joint may later develop in the soft tissue- muscles, tendons.

BL: What type of treatment do you give? Do you manipulate the joints, like a chiropractor?

ST: The thing that matters most is that the person understands the problem, agree with the diagnosis of how he or she has been using the body improperly. Then I need only to show what exercises to do. I don’t manipulate or exercise – you do it. If you see results and I see results, you keep doing the exercises. If not, we try something else.

BL: So it’s not a question of making dozens of appointments with you, to get checked weekly on progress, or something like that?

ST: Why do that if the results are coming? You don’t need a baby-sitter. Most musicians have discipline anyway.

BL: Could you demonstrate some of the exercise you use?

ST: Yes. First, there’s throwing the rock into the river – very important for violinists.

[He takes a playful stance and mimes the action of lobbing a small stone into the river. The movement is loose and gentle, utilizing not just his arm but his back, hips and legs.] And then, for pianists, there’s “going outside on a very cold day”, as in Russia. [Like a cold man clapping himself on the back shoulders to fight the cold, he gives himself a rapid, body-smacking hug with both arms, then repeats the action several times, alternating the positions of his arms (first left above right, then right above left). The movement is very big and energetic. I try it too. It’s fun and it loosens my back and shoulders.]

BL: What do you call what you do? Some kind of physical therapy or chiropractic?

ST: I call my system Body Tuning, just as my sign says on the door.

BL: Tell me about your training. How did you develop your approach?

ST: I was trained .in physical education and medical exercise in Lithuania, where I worked principally with athletes. Each sports team had one physical therapist on staff. My assignment wads a soccer team. Later I emigrated to Israel and studied to become registered physical therapist. I worked in hospitals and with all kinds of problems.

BL: When did you begin to work with musicians and dancers?

ST: In Jerusalem, a young pianist came to me with arm problems. She had gone to an Alexander Technique specialist who told her to stand more erectly. (He imitates someone sitting very erect). When that didn’t work, she went to Feldenkrais teacher, who told her to be more fluid and flexible. (He imitates someone making exaggeratedly round and fluid movements). Now, I’m not saying that different methods are wrong. You just have to be aware that everyone is going to tell you something different. The physical therapist will say that your muscles are week and need to be strengthened. The chiropractor will say that you have a subluxation, that you need opening up. The medical doctor will prescribe a pill, the surgeon will want to remove something. It’s a mistake to go from one religion to another. Listen first. Then decide for yourself. The thing I do differently is to lead people to understand and accept the physical things they may be doing wrong. I have experience with such things, and if the person understands the problem first and is willing to work to correct it, the situation can usually be improved. I don’t say I achieve one hundred percent success in one hundred percent of all cases, but I have seen remarkable things.

In the words of the body-tuned

From a client’s perspective, how does Shmuel Tatz works? I decided to speak with two string players who have sought his help for quite different problems. Their names are not used because one of them requested anonymity.

Client A, a violinist who plays a ballet ensembles and orchestras, had experienced tightness and pain in her upper back and shoulders for years. Previous treatments brought a little relief … and she tried nearly everything, including acupuncture, Alexander Technique, hypnosis, chiropractic, massage, relaxation techniques and a regime of physical therapy that included treatment with heat and ultrasound. She finally found her way to Mr. Tatz. “The difference is quite amazing”, she said. “He seems to have an intuitive perception of the body, to combine technique and artistry as if he were a musician himself. I do have a chronic problem, and it’s not going disappear entirely. But he has brought me more relief than I believed possible”.

Client B, a violinist, first went to Mr. Tatz with an unusual ailment – she had bent over to pick up her case, and felt sudden and intense pain in her back. Not able to take time off from her schedule in orchestras and opera orchestras, she went to the Tatz Body Tuning studio when she heard he could get her up and running again quickly. “After the first treatment, I felt dramatically better,”, she says. “The treatment is mostly hands-on. What does he do? At first, he moved my arms, leg, neck, to see how flexible they were. He can push with his fingers, sense what is inflamed, and work on it. I can’t begin to tell you what his system is, but I know I feel fantastic. I walk down the street, and I see that my shoulders, which used to be up around my ears with tension is gone, even without his having told me to drop my shoulders or anything like that.”

Chamber Music
By Barry Lenson