-Pete Townsend, The Who
There are many ways to touch. In medicine, “touch” has been replaced with “palpation”, as in palpating the liver in a physical exam. One of my mentors, an Osteopath/Chinese Medicine doctor who practiced Energy Medicine, lived in a monastery as a young man and was trained to see auras by the monks. I watched him barely touch any of his patients, yet, they all walked out of his office in vibrant health.
There are many ways to touch. When I was in my early thirties, working and taking pre-med courses as prerequisites for medical school, I went to see a gynecologist referred to me by a patient. He was an Israeli doctor with a busy Beverly Hills practice. Before we exchanged any words, I began sobbing uncontrollably and, seeing me so upset, he jumped out of his chair and came around his desk to sit beside me. He then put my head on his shoulder and held me in a deep hug, rocking me like a child in distress. In today’s world, he might be sued for doing this.
“Why are you crying,” he asked, looking at me with great concern.
“I’m pregnant,” I said.
“Are you sure,” he asked, “How do you know?”
“I’m sure,” I said, “I just know.”
During that visit, he never left my side, but continued to ask me questions, finding out about me, my life and my circumstances. He was also the first medical doctor I had seen with books on Nutrition in plain sight and who, instead of giving me a prescription for a pharmaceutical drug, gave me a script with a list of supplements.
In contrast, the last two “primary care” physicians I had been assigned to by my insurance plan, came into the room during my first visit and walked straight to the computer, reading my history from the computer file. They not only didn’t touch me - they didn’t look at me.
There are many ways to touch. I fell in love with bodywork the first time I was touched by a Rolfer. For those who don’t know, “Structural Integration Bodywork”, better known as “Rolfing” after its founder, Ida Rolf, was popular during the 1970’s. I first went to see a Rolfer to find relief from low back pain and discovered an approach to going deep into the body with great sensitivity. From this work, I experienced an openness and sense of freedom that was new to me, as emotions stored in my tissues were exposed and released. As I began to live in my body, I wanted to learn more about the process and share it with others.
There are many ways to touch. I had similar experiences when I was introduced to an Iyengar Yoga teacher and began taking classes with him. This special careful, deep type of Yoga Therapy also gave me an education about the human body that was powerful and, at the same time, individualized. It was this work that allowed me to go from walking with a cane to walking again without support after a traumatic hiking accident I experienced about ten years ago. Without this knowledge and understanding of the body, from Iyengar Yoga and deep bodywork, I’m not sure I could have recovered as well from the many broken bones I endured.
Although Ida Rolf and Yoga Master BKS Iyengar never met, their stories, style and work are stunningly similar. Iyengar also understood the body’s plasticity and became known as a healer and, similar to Ida Rolf, his children and students have lovingly carried on his brilliant work. When I learned that Ida Rolf had healed doing Yoga after suffering broken ribs from being kicked by a horse, I understood how her work had developed and why, in my own work with patients, I have put them together. After the horse kicking incident, she found no relief from going to medical doctors until finding a Yoga class; I, fortunately, have also had the benefits of both. Rolfing and Iyengar Yoga, using the deep exploration of the plasticity of connective tissue, movement and touch are amazingly similar.
Functional Medicine has emerged from the frustration of doctors and patients who are missing the experience of true healing that can only happen if the person is touched, heard and seen - in every way. Coming out from behind the desk, looking and touching, hearing stories and establishing relationships in order to discover the true cause of an illness and the person there in front of you is the definition of true healing. There are many ways to touch- you deserve the very best.