How to Play Now and Avoid Paying Later

Recently I met two people who were of great interest to me. One, an eleven year old girl, the other, a 63 year old man. The young girl has been actively engaged in physical training as a competitive athlete for 4 or 5 hours a day since she was 5 years of age. She has not been able to walk without pain for the past four months. The gentleman has been physically active since his teen age years. He now walks like a very old man.

The young girl’s doctor has suggested cortisone injections. The man has already had several surgeries for his tendons and bones. Neither client can imagine life without being active for at least several hours a day in organized physical activity.

It is true that we humans must move, move, move. We need to improve our endurance, our flexibility, strength, coordination and balance. But, the question is: how much do we have to improve our physical abilities? The answer is that we need to be carefully measuring this with a professional who knows the norms, that is how strong and flexible the muscles need to be, how much mobility there needs to be in the joints. Someone who knows how to help us improve our physical body, but who, understanding the cost of overdoing exercise, will tell us, for example, that there is no reason to run every day for three hours, which may be good training for a marathon but for which we will pay the price with musculo-skeletal or vascular problems later. Strength training for hours a day, or excessive yoga practice can also lead to joint problems and replacement surgeries, witness what happened to Jane Fonda. We see super athletes who have heart attacks and this is why in many cases, the emotional desire to compete, to jump higher, to be more flexible, run faster can have many unpleasant side effects.

In classical physical training, for every hour of physical activity, the athlete needs 10 minutes of rehabilitation, or ‘body tuning.’ Just as every car after 5000 miles needs to have adjustments, the same goes for athletes, dancers and musicians. After 5 hours of practice there needs to be one hour spent on tuning the body to prepare it for the next day’s activity. Olympic athletes hire professionals who work with them every day doing tuning and rehabilitation. In contact sports it’s almost impossible to avoid contact injuries, but in sports like running, dancing, bicycling, or yoga, in most cases there are no contact injuries. The injuries are from repetition. And, once again, just as mechanics check and reevaluate the various systems of our cars after many miles of wear, so, too, must we regularly consult professionals who can evaluate the wear and tear on our muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints and help us minimize the damage with a tune up.

Neither the 11 year old nor the 63 year old had the benefit of that advice. The child’s trainer did not suggest such an approach. The surgeon who did the gentleman’s several surgeries did not suggest how to take care of himself to avoid future problems. The best piano teacher who has a brilliant student sees a competition winner. He does not have it in mind to take care of that student’s psycho-physical condition to avoid future problems. A coach may see in a gifted student a future Olympic champion, but may not take good enough care to see that the student pays attention to his/her physical instrument in order to avoid problems later.  Don’t expect from your trainer, coach or teacher suggestions about keeping the body in tune. In my 40 years of body tuning, only a few professionals who saw students trying to do things that strain the body, recommended a professional who could help them avoid the consequences.

I am so happy right now that more and more people are searching the internet and evaluating the best practitioner for their physical problems. I see piano players, yoga practitioners, musicians, dancers, famous, wealthy, poor…all who suffer with body ailments. I treat each patient, each body with the same amount of time and expertise that I have gained in a varied practice over the years. And to each I try to give the same message: Take care of your body today for a comfortable life tomorrow. Treat it with respect and do not overstress it. For every 4 or 5 hours of activity, you must spend one hour of rehabilitation and tuning.

I keep hoping that people will learn something from me and keep themselves from having bigger problems as time moves on.

Announcing a New Program for the Study of Body Tuning!

After a week of fasting and meditation, I found that I had many insights, one of the most important of which is that I want to share my professional experience with people who are interested in studying the art of body tuning.

Over the years I have received countless emails and telephone calls asking to study with me, to learn from me, asking if I have written a book on body tuning. The decision I have made will make it possible for those who wish to learn what I have been doing for many years to do so.

Age or profession is not the deciding factor. Anyone with interest is welcome. You do not have to be a physical therapist or a body healer to do this work. You can be from any walk of life. To be interested in the practice is all that is needed.

There will be no ‘classes.’ A program of body tuning study will be designed for each person. You can be with me for one hour and up to 2000 hours. If you are already a physical therapist, it may only take 500 hours for me to teach you what I do. If you are a massage therapist, perhaps 700 hours. Should you be a psychologist or an accountant, then it would take 2000 hours to learn the art of body tuning. To put that in perspective, to learn the practice of Feldenkreis, it would take a student 3500 hours; to learn the Alexander technique, 4000 hours; Rolfing, 2000 hours; Massage Therapy, 1000 hours; Shiatsu, 300 hours; Yoga, 200 hours.

Not all of the work you will do will be with me. The ‘faculty’ in this venture will include the practitioners of the Body Tuning Studio, Viktor Jeriomenko, Valery Kovalenko and others to whom I will refer you. The more education and knowledge of body work you have, the fewer hours you will need to study with me. Of the 2000 hours, you may be studying with massage therapists, or with Feldenkreis practitioners, or acupuncturists. If I have determined that you need to study anatomy, I will refer you to classes that teach anatomy. If I see that you are not sure of yourself, I will refer you to a psychologist to talk about your insecurities and to help you become stronger and more secure in your own practice. We will decide together how to expand your knowledge of how to help and heal the body.

In the course of your study with me, you will observe for 10 or 20 hours and then have a session on the table to have the personal, hands on experience of what I teach. Later on in your study, you will start to practice body tuning under my supervision.

At the end of your 2000 hours I will no longer be your teacher, counselor or supervisor, but your colleague.

You can begin immediately if you choose, or let us know when you would like to have your first hour of study with us.

The cost of your study will be determined in consultation with me when I know what it is that you wish to study and how long you can commit your time.

If you are interested in learning the art of body tuning, please email your credentials and tell us what you wish to study or call the office at (212) 246-7308.

I look forward to hearing from you.

There Are No Accidents!

From time to time I am going to have some of my clients tell of their experience with the care they have received in our Body Tuning Studio. If anyone would like to contribute their story, please contact the office and let us know. It is not necessary to post your name if you wish to withhold it. It is your direct experience with our physical therapists that is important. Here is the first.

“I found the BodyTuning Studio by ‘accident.’ An ‘accident’ that turned into one of the most important things I have ever done for myself. As I was having lunch at a restaurant near Carnegie Hall with a friend, a young woman sat down at a table next to us. She looked very peaceful and mellow and she struck up a conversation with us. After a while I mentioned that she looked so relaxed and calm and she told me she had just had a physical therapy session with Shmuel Tatz at Carnegie Hall.

I said: “Carnegie Hall? I didn’t know there was a physical therapist there. I really need one.” She told me about the Body Tuning Studio and how wonderful her experience there was. I told her that I had been to so many physical therapists and though they had helped me some, I always found myself in pain in not too long a time after the sessions were done.

So, first I sent an email to the Studio asking if they dealt with my particular problems, which are many. I have back problems, arthritic knees and hip and degenerating disks in my neck that cause me a lot of pain from time to time. I received a short note back saying that they could definitely help me. So I made an appointment. I count that day as the first day of the rest of my physical life as it was a turning point for me in my ability to find relief from long standing pain and impairment. The therapy was unlike any I had ever experienced in a physical therapy office.

Since that time, I have had sessions with Shmuel most of the time, but have also had many healing sessions with Viktor and a few with Valery. I am tended to no less than 30 to 40 minutes at each session, depending on the nature of my problem. Following the hands on therapy, I am given various modalities which are soothing and relaxing since at times the therapy can be somewhat painful, but a good kind of pain that means progress and more movement in my joints. That day I may experience some feelings of discomfort but it never lasts and when it leaves me I am aware of being more flexible than I had been before I had the session.

Although I have been given many exercises to do at home, if I miss an office visit I can tell the difference in the way I feel, the way I walk and carry my body. So, I try not to miss any sessions that are not absolutely necessary. I truly do not know what I would do without Shmuel and Viktor and the BodyTuning Studio, and that includes the kindness of Irina, who greets me so warmly and is always so helpful and knowledgeable about my particular insurance claims.

As long as they will have me, I will be a regular visitor to the Tatz Body Tuning Studio because it means a happier and healthier life for me.”

Name withheld for privacy.

The Nature of Physical Therapy

The other day a client of mine told me a story. Her housekeeper had fallen in the home of one of the people she works for. She fell on her right side, shoulder and arm. She didn’t think she had been hurt because she was able to finish all her work and continued to work for the rest of the week, but in increasing discomfort. When her pain level was too difficult to manage, she went to Bellevue Hospital and saw an orthopedist who took x-rays and pronounced no bones broken but probably a lot of muscle bruising and tendonitis. He injected her shoulder with cortisone. It did not help her. She then went to a chiropractor she had been told about who took more x-rays and told her that no bones were broken and to get a shoulder splint and wear it. She did but the pain increased. She then went to another chiropractor who sent her to a different hospital where the physician told her to take off the splint and to get some physical therapy because it was necessary for her to move her arm with proper instruction as how not to harm herself further.

This is a story repeated over and over in my office. There is a tendency in modern countries for injured people to believe that only an MD can treat an injury. It is my opinion that if physical therapy were sought as a first resort, many injuries would have less recovery time.

I applaud the work of dedicated physicians to their specialties. But the truth is that doctors receive no training in physical therapy. Nowadays, there is some training in medical schools in alternative methods of healing, but as far as I have been able to determine, no training or credit hours in physical therapy per se. Following Medical School, doctors spend at least four additional years in hands on training in their specialties, but that training still does not include the art of physical therapy.

Many people do not realize how well trained physical therapists are in diagnosing and treating all kinds of injuries. Of course they refer to physicians when they suspect there is something more at hand than the injury described by the patient. But too often physicians prescribe rest or injections for an injury when the more advantageous treatment would be gentle and then greater manipulation along with proper exercises designed to strengthen and heal.

The Education and Training of Physical Therapists

The education and training of physical therapists is lengthy. (See the United States Department of Labor’s website)  It includes science courses such as biology, anatomy physiology, cellular histology, exercise physiology, neuroscience, biomechanics, pharmacology, pathology, radiology/imaging, as well as behavioral science courses, such as evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning. In addition to classroom and laboratory instruction, students receive a great deal of clinical experience. Their training nearly equals the number of years it takes doctors to gain proficiency in their particular fields of interest.

Before entering an accredited Physical Therapy program many students have already completed an undergraduate degree. They can then study for a Master’s Degree or DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy.) All graduates must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination and fulfill State requirements to obtain licensure, after which they are able to practice in hospitals, outpatient clinics and/or private offices. Most full time physical therapists work a 40 hour week.

Many States require continuing education as a condition of maintaining licensure. However, all physical therapists are expected to continue their professional development by participating in continuing education courses and workshops.

Physical therapists also carry personal liability insurance as do other health care professionals.

How to Find the Proper Physical Therapist

But knowing all of this, there still remains the problem of finding the proper physical therapist for you. A recommendation from a trusted friend can be helpful, but I will give you some guidelines for finding the help you need.

  1. The physical therapist should have a minimum of 10 years of experience in private, solo practice and should spend a minimum of 30-40 minutes, hands on, with you.
  2. Don’t be impressed with the look of the office or the convenience of the location.  What is important is the therapist’s knowledge of how to work with your body. The best physical therapist talks less, explains less and asks the minimum. His expertise is in finding in your body what you are not aware of and trying to fix it.
  3. The physical therapist should know all about various modalities and manual techniques such as laser, ultrasound, short wave diathermy, non invasive electrical stimulation and also Alexander, Trager and Feldenkreis. Not necessarily to use all of them, but to choose the right ones for you condition. Then he must teach you how to behave with your body to minimize the damage you may be doing with every day activities.
  4. Most important of all is how you feel. Ask yourself: “Do I like this touch?” Some pain that you may experience is not necessarily bad, but you must decide: “Is this right for me? Do I feel better?” If your answers are no, then you must find another therapist. However, give yourself at least 4-6 sessions with the therapist before deciding whether to continue or not. If all your answers are yes, and you are satisfied, then you are in the hands of a professional who has the training and ability to make your life a happier one, hopefully free of pain, with increased mobility and a more positive outlook on life.

Every health practitioner wants to help you. But nobody knows everything. You need to feel in your body that your choices are leading you to the shortest way to recover from discomfort, pain and tension in your body. For today and tomorrow.

Acupuncture

An article by Lesley Alderman in the New York Times (May 8, 2010) under the heading of Patient Money, concerned the practice of acupuncture. It tells the story of a patient who went to an acupuncturist to help with getting pregnant. She did conceive her child but it was unclear as to whether it was the acupuncture that helped or just the urgings of her gynecologist to keep on trying. The article went on to say that there are great numbers of people turning to acupuncture for help with all kinds of conditions ranging from infertility, chronic pain, depression to symptoms of menopause and helping with anxiety before surgery.

The website of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine urges that people first consult a medical doctor and not an acupuncturist to obtain a diagnosis. Though acupuncture can have a positive effect on the body, serious conditions require Western Medicine’s evaluation first. Sometimes antibiotics are necessary for a cure, sometimes a serious condition can require surgery.

Acupuncture still can be a beneficial adjunct to traditional Western medicine. Conditions like chronic pain, arthritis, musculo/skeletal problems and others can respond well to acupuncture. Sometimes doctors even refer their patients for acupuncture. The problem has been that it usually is an out of pocket expense. To receive a license to practice acupuncture in New York State, over 4000 hours of course work must be completed, then over 600 hours of clinical training and work on over 200 patients. And then of course, national certification examinations are required. However, most insurance companies still do not pay for acupuncture sessions.

I have used acupuncture in my practice for many years. For me, personally, the practice of acupuncture has evolved into ‘physio-puncture’ which I find more beneficial to the way I work with patients. It is using the same points that acupuncture uses, without the needles, and it works exceedingly well. That said, Dr. Valery Kovalenko, a member of our staff, uses traditional acupuncture with his clients.

If you wish to find out how you can receive acupuncture as part of your care in our practice, please call our office for more information.

What is “Body Tuning?”

Body TuningBody Tuning is the name I have given to what I do as a physical therapist.

Because I have been involved with music and musicians over many years it has made me realize how much physical therapy is like tuning a beautiful instrument. For instance: a piano tuner comes with his bag of tools, but before he begins to work on the piano he asks the owner of the piano what she or he hears from the instrument that does not seem quite right. Then he sets out to discover on his own what the problems are. He plays, he looks at the strings, he tests, and with his various tools he tries to make the piano sing again, thereby making the owner extremely happy.

That is exactly how my practice of ‘Body Tuning’ works. My tools are my hands.

When you come into my studio I ask you to tell me your complaints, that is, what you feel are the problems with your body…something in your muscles, skin, tendons, bones, something inside that bothers you, some pain or discomfort. Then, my job is to ask your body for the answers to what is wrong.

Usually people who come to me have talked to several health practitioners. If you are in my studio then those conversations have not solved your problems. It is my task to then ask your physical body what is wrong, and if I don’t find the answers, I’m going to look at the different tests you’ve had…your lifestyle…your behavior…your habits.

But first I want to talk directly with the problem. I look at your body. I see its appearance and how it moves. Second, I try different passive movements with your body. I try to move your skin, your connective tissue, your muscles, your bones, your ligaments, to see how the mechanics of your body work.  And I listen to the noise…the sounds that the joints and muscles make. My hands feel and my ears listen and tell me what is wrong. This ability has come after many years of study and practice. Just as getting to play in Carnegie Hall involves ‘practice, practice, practice,’ so does learning how to tune the body. From simple body movements to deep manipulation it is like knowing how to play fortissimo on the piano without killing the piano. Working on the body deeply with expertise can accomplish solutions with perhaps some pain, but it is good pain. It is constructive and not destructive.

Body tuning is looking at, listening to, and helping the body restore itself and its ability to sing once again.

What is “Body Tuning?”

Body Tuning is the name I have given to what I do as a physical therapist.

Because I have been involved with music and musicians over many years it has made me realize how much physical therapy is like tuning a beautiful instrument. For instance: a piano tuner comes with his bag of tools, but before he begins to work on the piano he asks the owner of the piano what she or he hears from the instrument that does not seem quite right. Then he sets out to discover on his own what the problems are. He plays, he looks at the strings, he tests, and with his various tools he tries to make the piano sing again, thereby making the owner extremely happy.

That is exactly how my practice of ‘Body Tuning’ works. My tools are my hands.

When you come into my studio I ask you to tell me your complaints, that is, what you feel are the problems with your body…something in your muscles, skin, tendons, bones, something inside that bothers you, some pain or discomfort. Then, my job is to ask your body for the answers to what is wrong.

Usually people who come to me have talked to several health practitioners. If you are in my studio then those conversations have not solved your problems. It is my task to then ask your physical body what is wrong, and if I don’t find the answers, I’m going to look at the different tests you’ve had…your lifestyle…your behavior…your habits.

But first I want to talk directly with the problem. I look at your body. I see its appearance and how it moves. Second, I try different passive movements with your body. I try to move your skin, your connective tissue, your muscles, your bones, your ligaments, to see how the mechanics of your body work.And I listen to the noise…the sounds that the joints and muscles make. My hands feel and my ears listen and tell me what is wrong. This ability has come after many years of study and practice. Just as getting to play in Carnegie Hall involves ‘practice, practice, practice,’ so does learning how to tune the body. From simple body movements to deep manipulation it is like knowing how to play fortissimo on the piano without killing the piano. Working on the body deeply with expertise can accomplish solutions with perhaps some pain, but it is good pain. It is constructive and not destructive.

Body tuning is looking at, listening to, and helping the body restore itself and its ability to sing once again.

The Body Whisperer

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

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.

Stay Tuned

Shmuel Tatz PTBecause 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.

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!

Continue reading “The Body Whisperer”

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.

Continue reading “Tune Your Body”

Professional Performers: Christa Ludwig, Alexandra Danilova, Isaac Stern

Located in Carnegie Hall, Shmuel Tatz’s studio is in the center of New York’s artistic community. And with good reason. Many of Tatz’s clients are virtuoso performers whose work places unusual stress of their bodies. This is the kind of stress Tatz has honed his Body Tuning methods to relieve.

Isaac Stern is one of the many violinists who has benefitted from Tatz’s help over the years. “Not only is Shmuel an enormously gifted, highly trained experienced physical therapist,” says Stern, “he is also knowledgeable in the unique needs of artists who so often have problems that are caused by professional work.”

Whether it is the musician’s repeated motion of bowing a violin, the singer’s breathing techniques or the dancer’s wear and tear on muscles and joints, all performing artists demand a lot of their bodies.

“My instrument is my body, and I need a healthy body to be able to sing,” says Crista Ludwig, one of the world’s great sopranos who performs internationally. When she is in New York to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, she makes a point to visit Tatz for Body Tuning.

“My back is always the first to go,” she explains. “The breathing I do as a singer involves holding my breath when letting the tone out and slowly breathing with it. If I have a long phrase to sing, holding my breath can make my back very stiff. On top of that, if I am nervous it always goes to my back.

“Shmuel has very special hands,” she adds. “He always goes deeper than massage and really works with the joints. When I am with him I can feel where the problem is. He relieves my tension and as a result my voice always gets better.”

Another thing Tatz has taught her is the importance of exercise. “We singers are always shrinking because we don’t move,” says Ludwig. “We sit in planes or in taxis or we stand on stage, but we don’t do any kind of sport. Shmuel really knows the right exercises for each age and body weight.”

The importance of taking good care of you body as you get older cannot be over-stresses, says Tatz. In the performing arts this is particularly true of dancers for whom endless hours of training ultimately takes its toll. Alexandra Danilova whose career as a ballerina has spanned much of this century and some of the most famous ballet companies worldwide, including the Maryinsky in Russia, the Diaghlev in London, and the School of American Ballet in New York where she taught for many years, works with Tatz for just this reason.

“When you dance you must look after your muscles,” she says. “One cannot neglect a little pain, you must take care of it and learn exercises to do to stay healthy.”

Danilova continues to live by this principal in her retirement and goes to Tatz once a week for Body Tuning. “I still work on my whole body,” she says. “I don’t want to stop or I’ll get stiff.”

“Shmuel really appreciates dancers,” she adds. “He knows the way their bodies work.” Ballet, she explains, has many parallels with Yoga. Exercises such as the pontes de bras and adagio come directly from Yoga. The reason Body Tuning is so effective for dancers, she says, is that it too is based on Yoga and therefore is a natural extension of the exercises dancers do in Ballet.

For Ludwig and Danilova Tatz’s work shows a particular sensitivity to the art. But Body Tuning for both has not just been physical therapy and massage to relieve pain or stress. Working with Tatz, they say, has taught them important new ways to think about movement. This influence has enabled them to work by them selves on using their bodies in a way that is more relaxing and, in the long term, more healthy. “Because I have a bad back it is often painful to move,” says Danilova. “But Shmuel has found a way to help me stand up straight. I have to say to myself ‘I am the queen.’ It feels a little strange every time I say it, but it really helps me to balance. If I don’t say this when I get up in the morning I find my self falling into a droopy position, saying this reminds me to hold myself up.” Ludwig says Tatz has changed her sense that exercise needs to be done quickly. “Every time he shows me exercises he always reminds me to do them slowly. I can always hear him say it, ‘slowly … slowly.’ Now that I have realized the importance of this I am dissatisfied when working with anyone who is not Shmuel.”

Both Danilova and Stern agree. Tatz’s highly developed technique and sensitivity to performing artists is unparalleled. “It is not only too rare to find this combination,” says Stern. “He can be an invaluable aid to any performing artist.”

HEALTH CHRONICLE
by Alice Nadine

Alternative Treatments Can Benefit Musicians: Body Tuning

The physical problems of musicians, particularly injuries due to misuse of the body, have received considerable attention in recent years. Most of the interest has been focused on resolving injuries that already exist, rather than on preventing these injuries. A recent discussion with Shmuel Tatz – a rather remarkable Manhattan-based physical therapist and physical education specialist – provided some important perspectives on these subjects.

Tatz has worked with hundreds of musicians during his career, including such artists as Isaac Stern, Yehudi Menuhin and Vladimir Ashkenazy. He has also worked with countless ballet dancers, and with people who work in other fields. When asked how the average musician’s case compares to that of a dancer or a person who works outside the arts, Tatz pointed out that “everything we do in life can lead to physical problems. It’s just a question of when in life the problems begin. For a dancer, the problems usually start between the ages of 15 and 20; for a musician, between 20 and 30; for someone who has a desk job, between 30 and 40.”

Why this discrepancy? “Dancers have problems the soonest, because they demand so much from their bodies that they abuse themselves. Mussicians, on the other hand, are often taught early on to ignore their bodies. Frequently, when a teacher or parent discovers that a child is musically gifted, the child will be discouraged from engaging in normal physical activities, such as sports. This is very bad for physical development. It can prevent the child from acquiring the strength, flexibility and endurance that serious instrumental study and performance require. It may also set the stage for problems later on.”

A knowledgeable, attentive teacher should recommend that a student’s parents allow normal amounts of physical activities. In addition, teachers’ understanding and awareness of what may turn out to be physical misdevelopment in their students, coupled with referrals for physical therapy when required, can go a long way towards reducing these problems in childhood and afterwards.

“Unlike a ballet dancer, musicians generally require only normal strength and flexibility, to perform at a peak level,” Tatz said. “What is surprising is how many musicians don’t have even normal mobility. Often, the development is uneven – an arm is too flexible in one direction and stiff in the other, and therefore unstable.” Specific physical training is not the norm among musicians. “In fact, musicians are frequently taught to disregard the body, to be result-oriented – only the musical product matters, no matter what kind of physical deprivation or damage is required to achieve that end. In general, people are taught to see a health practitioner, such as a physician or physical therapist, only when they are already sick or injured. In my opinion, that is waiting too long. People need to seek out physical educators and medical doctors who are willing to help someone who is healthy to stay that way, so that certain avoidable problems can be prevented from ever occurring.”

What about adult musicians who are already suffering from physical problems? Tatz uses a unique approach called “Body Tuning” in his work as a physical therapist. “The body is an instrument that needs to be kept in tune, just like a violin or an automobile. When a musician comes to see me, I try to address not only the specific problem he is having, but also more general aspects of movement and posture.”

Tatz’s Body Tuning draws on a diverse combination of Eastern and Western disciplines. One component of his approach is “manual medicine” – hand-on physical therapy, a discipline to which he ascribes European and Australian origins. Manual medicine served as the focus of his studies in Israel. His earlier studies in Russia dealt with the use of “therapeutic modalities” such as laser therapy, microcurrents, ultrasound and magnetic therapy. “Russia is 15 to 20 years ahead of the West in these high-tech applications,” Tatz explains. “These approaches have caught on in the West only during the last ten years. In Russia, electrical modalities and magnetic therapy were already in use in the 1950s.”

Tatz also incorporates disciplines from the Far East, such as yoga, Tai Chi, energetic healing and acupuncture, as well as Western adaptations such as the Alexander and Feldenkrais techniques.

When working with a patient, Tatz begins by trying to establish a spiritual rapport. “I want a musician to feel that I understand what it means to be a professional musician, that I know how much energy and passion go into making music, and what the physical demands are. If a pianist, for example, knows that I understand his art and way of life, he will trust me to help him to take proper care of his body. This trust is the most critical aspect of my work with the patient.” After a personal connection has been made, Tatz begins by testing the mobility in the patient’s joints, the flexibility and strength of the muscles, and the condition of ligaments and tendons.

The second step is to help loosen tight joints or muscles through hands-on manipulation of parts of the body. Next, Tatz shows the patient exercises that can be done on one’s own to increase flexibility and strength in the areas that need improvement. “I start with the specific problem or injury, but in the back of my head I am always thinking of the patient’s general health. Once the particular problem is fixed, I go on to do a more general tuning, as a mechanic would tune up an automobile after replacing a defective part.

“Afterward, I might make some more general suggestions. These suggestions could deal with general physical health, including diet (in which case I have sometimes referred patients to a dietician)m and physical presentation on stage, which is extremely important for performers, but which teachers often neglect to address. The way in which a performer moves on stage is a crucial factor in establishing a connection with the audience.”

The last step in the process is finding out what kinds of physical activity the patient enjoys. According to Tatz, finding a physical activity that someone really enjoys is the best way to ensure that the patient will continue to exercise effectively. Continued exercise is critical, because it is “only when a musician can fully enjoy playing his instrument.” And that is, after all, the kind of enjoyment that musicians seek.

Allegro: Associated Musicians of Greater New York
By Richard L. Simon and Adam C. Fisher