Ilan Lev - The Tendons Whisperer

Updated: Jan 30

February 6, 2011. By Elad Smorzik, Ha'aretz Newspaper

The death of his son drove Ilan Lev towards a change. The backache resulting from long hours at his office insinuated that his body wished to move. Some years later, the treatment´s method that he developed and is named after him sweeps more and more followers and is becoming the closely guarded secret of the Bat Sheva Dance Company´s dancers.

“My trick, as practitioner, is to find the best ways to cause the system to beat and to do its job”, explains Ilan Lev, founder of the special method named after him for the treatment of the body.

“When I move the body it is as if I send radar waves, and the control panel in the patient’s brain receives better layouts of the system and of what happens in the system. Failures originate in the ambiguity and in the lack of knowledge. And then, when it becomes clearer, knowledge is acquired and the body also has the possibility to repair the failure. As the body created the bone, the joint, the muscle, the tendon, the sinew and the communication among them, is also able to fix them, it is an easy job. Because the setting up book of our human body is found inside the cell, inside the DNA”.

Lev, a vital and smiling man that the day before yesterday celebrated his 72nd birthday, tells that he daily eats a steak (rare) and drinks a glass of red wine. For the last 20 years he has been involved in the field of treatment and in the development of a method designed to improve the human potential, and to remove limitations of functional difficulties.

The treatment takes place when the patient lies fully dressed on the therapy bed and the practitioner seats on his side and moves the patient’s limbs. By these movements, explains Lev, the practitioner speaks directly to the patient’s unconscious (similarly as in hypnosis) and creates something similar to a dialogue designated to solve circulation problems, to eliminate pain and to solve diverse types of injuries. Among his patients there are many dancers, sportsmen and musicians, among them the dancers of the “Bat Sheva” Dance Company and musicians of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra.

“Sometimes a person arrives for treatment and he is stuck, after a bad fall, with lumbar hernia or ligament injury”, he illustrates. “The usual common-sense would say that he should rest. But I say NO, because the living body -and nothing else- is the factor that fixes the problem”. He claims that when the body does not move after an injury, the body gets used to the idea that is stuck and produces “compensation of incorrect movement. In other words: is tangled, and in such disordered mess it is almost impossible to solve the problem.

In his opinion, the recovery of patients that followed conventional medicine, went through surgery and only then arrived to him was longer and more difficult: “when you provide the body with the opportunity of self healing, the body learns also from its own mistakes. Therefore, a knee with injured ligaments may become the strongest organ in the body.

Upgraded Feldenkrais

Lev was born in 1939, son of Austrian parents that left Vienna and settled in Kibbutz Gan Shmuel. As a young man he was very involved in sports, dancing and singing. In the army, he served in combat engineering and when discharged he moved to Ramat Gan with his wife then, and started to teach sports and music. He completed his B.A. in Economics while earned a living from casual work as an actor in theatre, movies and commercials. When finished his studies he started to work as an economist in the company “Koor”, then in the company “Teva” and eventually became the chief economist of the company “Osem”. His first wife committed suicide after two years of marriage. He remarried to the pianist Noemi Lev and they had four children. Their firstborn, Adi, served as a pilot in the IDF and 1981 was killed in a drill accident. The second son, Tomer Lev, is a pianist and music professor; the third son is the musician Nimrod Lev and the youngest daughter is Noa Lev, in the past was news broadcaster in Israeli TV and now is a psychologist. Not long ago, Lev divorced his second wife and now he lives in Tel Aviv with the violinist Shiraz Ben Yehuda (they met on 2006 while she studied his method) and with their ten months daughter.

“After Adi’s death, I needed to do something else, special, and I found the field of treatment”, tells Lev, and emphasizes that he always was inclined to help people and loved the world of movement. Another factor that drove him to this field was his difficulty to stay seated in the office during the entire day: “there was a stage in which I thought that I am dead”, he says. “The back started to ache, my buttocks burned, I was sad. I though that I would not survive another day. Because my body asked, demanded and loved movement”.

When he started to engage in the treatment, he was trained in reflexology and studied Feldenkrais during four years. “My teachers were six first class Feldenkrais graduates, whom were accredited by the very same Feldenkrais, this is how I received the doctrine of Moshe Feldenkrais from six totally different outlooks”, he tells. “This fact gave me the openness and understanding to the different and possible approaches, legitimacy to openness when treating, not to sanctify one single way and pattern.

Afterwards he studied with Zadenko Dumanzich, a Croatian master in the field of energetic treatment, and something new emerged from the combination of the knowledge acquired. “I did not search for something exclusive of my own” explains Lev, “I wanted to work with the tools that I acquired in order to help people. But I was not satisfied to perform duty – I felt it is important to help and I searched for solutions.

The characteristics of his treatment perfected and became more refined, until the people following the Feldenkrais method told him that he deviates from their discipline. “I tried to explain that I think it is upgraded Feldenkrais”, he says, “that if Moshe Feldenkrais would have been alive, maybe he would have changed because he developed along his entire life. The fact that he died does not imply that his course should stop. I achieved more exciting and effective things with his very same tools and principles.

Did you continue working as an economist at that time?

“Yes, and I worked like crazy. I stayed in the office until 7pm and at 7:30 the first patient was already waiting for me at home. Sometimes the patient arrived before me, he lied on the bed and waited, and I run as fast as I could, changed clothes as well as the mask, and here I am. Not a chief economist but a practitioner”.

He is a wizard

In 2004 Lev left “Osem” and dedicated all his energy to the treatments. In 2006 he dictated the first course for the training of practitioners according to the method that he developed; although he thought would be a demand among Feldenkrais instructors, actually most participants were his patients, especially dancers and musicians. Only after the course the method formalized and was denominated “Ilan Lev Method”, for a very prosaic reason: when asking insurance companies to cover the new practitioners they required a formal definition of their role.

The three first courses took place in his home’s living room (“I managed to bring in five beds and ten students”), but in order to broaden the scope the nine months courses were transferred to the Bikurei Haitim Center in Tel Aviv. Currently, takes place the fifth course, in which also participate foreign students –from Japan and the USA.

You are not afraid to take cases such as cervical hernia and cause damage?

No, because I do not promote the repair, but allow the system to identify what happens and do whatever is required, I ask the system permission to enter and how much, and where the system does not allow me to enter I will not enter. The system has all the knowledge required and this knowledge simply needs to be activated. In our culture we depressed all these things.

How does your agenda look? Filled to the brim

It is an outrage, but nowadays I have a great advantage because I can refer patients to my graduates. For me this is a great improvement and a relief”.

Lev started his love story with the “Bat Sheva” Dance Company at the beginning of 2000, when Talia Ladau -a former patient who at 18 years of age suffered from lumbar hernia- joined the ensemble and spread the message about the singular treatment. “The method allows the brain patterns to renew constantly”, says Landau, who some years ago left “Bat Sheva” and founded the dance company “Maria Kong”. “The method enables to use our tools and the surrounding tools in order to ask questions and to receive solutions”.

Also Yaara Moses, former dancer in “Bat Sheva” and currently in “Maria Kong” with Landau, was captivated by the method and even participated in one of Lev’s training courses. “He cured me from three injuries in my back” she tells, “his treatment method changed my life”. To me Ilan is a wizard”, says Eyal, currently “Bat Sheva’s” home choreographer and then a dancer in the Company that heard about Lev from Landau. I am a treatments’ groupie, there is no treatment left that I had not tried; and I can say that Ilan’s treatment is unusual. After the treatment you look, see, smell and hear differently. This is a sensorial treatment that touches the unconscious. You reach places deeply hidden”.

Eyal persists until today with the treatments, she tells that nine years ago when she was four months pregnant with her first child, her knee twisted during a show and she injured the ligament. “I went to the physiotherapist; he put me a splint and told me not to move for three-four months. And I can never keep still; I started crying, I called Ilan and did 13 treatments, day after day, I came to him with crutches. He hurt me like you'd never hurt me, such pain I felt maybe at childbirth. You feel that you put yourself in the hands of someone you trust 1000%, and after 13 treatments I began to dance again.

How would you describe Ilan’s contribution to your career as a choreographer?

“Often I am asked about inspiration, so I can say that this treatment is one of my inspiration sources”. I can tell about so many situations in which I go to treatment during a creative process and suddenly I discover my work through his treatment, new ideas pop up. I think that his treatment is very physical, but also very mental. He opens places and channels in the brain and releases lots of happiness and creativity”.

Lev tells that all the ensemble dancers that he treated at the beginning of their relationship with “Bat Sheva” succeeded and were accepted to the Company. “Then they told me that in the company they are a little suspicious and somehow disdain the dancer’s group that has a guru”, he laughs. But every time was the turn of another dancer injured and in need of treatment, “he told no one and came to me secretly”. Soon he became the official practitioner of the Company and until today the dancers come to him or to the practitioners that he trained.

Like LSD

Eldad Menhaim, Director of “Bat Sheva” Ensemble and currently an Ilan Lev Method’s accredited practitioner, tells that he followed with interest after being impressed by the treatment granted to Landau: “at some point I felt that problematic and critical injuries are not healed by the conventional treatment of orthopedics and physiotherapy, and with him they not just heal but the dancer also grows.

Menhaim tells that for many years was involved with Pilates and worked with physiotherapist, and emphasizes that Lev’s method was completely different. “It is almost at the verge of magic”, he says. Menhaim adds that there are many dancers that are “Gaga” (movement language developed by Ohad Neharim) teachers and also Ilan Lev Method’s practitioners. “I think that these two have a beautiful dialogue between them. They both refer very strongly to the work of the sensorial brain, to refine senses and capabilities from a skill that is not logical, but very physical and primordial, some kind of renewal of the body’s DNA”.

In this context, Lev tells that he heard one of “Bat Sheva” dancers say that his method and “Gaga” speak the same language. “The connection between Gaga and Ilan Lev methods is a brilliant connection” says Landau. “The balance between them, the flow between them. They do nor contradict each other, they can enrich each other”.

Also Neharim, that Lev treated him for many years (“the treatment enriched me, cured me and inspired me”), tries to understand the connection described: “when it is said that there is a common denominator, I think that they mean the small gestures, when the importance of the small gestures is in the flow -of the energy and also of the movement- as a reviving and healing factor. It is very significant for the body’s health”.

“I have endless fascinating stories about mental processes that people experience here” adds Lev. “At the most simplistic level, it is a known rule that every person that comes for treatment leaves happy. If given drugs he would have been happy, but these are drugs elaborated from within”

He describes one of the exercises composed by feeble movements and executed while standing: “if you do this one hour in the evening, you are in a trip as if intoxicated. If you do it during one and a half hour it is at LSD level”.

What is planned for the future?

There is the possibility to develop the system in different directions; I already had experiences in all of them. It is possible to create a course for the elderly, for pregnant women, for infants. There are clear ideas and practice, because they come from all the sectors. But I need time and people committed, I cannot do it alone. I suppose that next year probably there will be an international course”

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