Shmuel Tatz

Possibly The Best In NYC

When first meeting Shmuel Tatz at his office near Columbus Circle, I was a little nervous. As a practicing physical therapist for 40 years, Lithuanian-born Tatz has worked with Soviet Olympic athletes, the critically injured in Jerusalem and the Israeli soccer team- and that was just the first half of his career.

Since moving to New York in 1984, he has worked with musicians and prima ballerinas in Carnegie Hall along with rockers, actors and a handful of yogis, like Glenn Black who apprenticed with Tatz for 7 years. With such an impressive client list, Tatz felt to me like a bit of a celebrity in his own right. Was I qualified to interview him?

Entering his office is like stepping into the pages of a scrapbook about his career. The walls are lined with pictures of a smiling and jovial looking Tatz with various clients, some recognizable such as actress Kathleen Turner and musician Lou Reed, and some not. The three waiting chairs in the lobby are vintage Carnegie Hall auditorium seats, a nod to his previous office space in the historic building, and also an indication that clients don't spend much time waiting to see him.

The classical music playing from the piano in the next room helped put me at ease. His system, which he refers to as Body Tuning, is an art form in itself. He thinks of each body as a car and his hands as the tools of his trade. With each asana we perform or bag we sling over our shoulder, we are adding mileage to our bodies. Just as cars need tune-ups; so does the body. The faster you add "miles," the sooner you need a tune up.

Charles Matkin, who has worked with Tatz for over a decade, calls him a true craftsman. "He is constantly reading books and learning new techniques." He has studied numerous modalities of bodywork like Auriculo therapy, tai chi and reflex therapy, to name a few. For Tatz it isn't about getting his patients on a set regime of exercises, but about finding out what each body really needs and then giving that to them. That's what makes him so unique."

Tatz prides himself on the hard work that he puts into his craft. "When I look at you, what I can see with my eyes and feel with my hands tells me everything I need to know. Your words can often lead me down the wrong path, but your body always tells me the truth".

When he says this, my heart jumps a bit and I realize that this is what I'm really nervous about. Tatz has agreed to give me a mini-session and honestly, I'm afraid of what he might find.

As I sit in the chair across from him, he begins reading my body with his eyes. "I can see that your right elbow is swollen and larger than your left, but it's not the elbow that is the problem, it's coming from your shoulder. Your right shoulder is higher than your left". He then proceeded to gently manipulate my arms showing me the limits in my range of motion in my right shoulder and right wrist. He then used a small computer gadget about twice the length and width of an iPhone, to send electrical vibrations into the muscles and ligaments around my elbow.

Without hesitation, he then asked what else I would like him to look at. For a man who works from 8am-7pm 5-days a week, I felt a little guilty taking up his break time, but he didn't seem the least bit concerned. A lengthy 2-year tale of woe began running through my head, but I knew it was just the kind of wordy explanation he would find unnecessary