Mary Grunvald thinks her boutique studio has just about the best view in Colchester’s Rehab Gym. A tranquil wooded area offers a visual escape from stress through one set of windows. Perpendicularly, a busy parking lot sets the stage for some prime people watching.
Her studio, called Empower Pilates and Physical Therapy, offers a similar contrast. A lineup of yoga mats and exercise balls face a small bed with floral sheets and a table holding an array of silver tuning forks. The former materials represent Grunvald’s work as a Pilates instructor and personal trainer. The latter reflect a relatively new service.
“It’s been a real progression, and it’s been reinventing myself,” Grunvald said. “I’m a holistic trainer with a physical therapy background … [and] I’m an everyday woman.”
Two years ago, Grunvald began offering biofield tuning, a type of sound therapy performed by waving metal tuning forks through the 6-foot biomagnetic field surrounding a client’s body.
Grunvald whacked a tuning fork on her son’s old hockey puck with force, turning the metal prongs in slow, purposeful circles as the sound reverberated through the room. She listened for static or catches in the tone.
“This is my 174-[hertz],” she said, noting some of her clients find the sound clunky and unpleasant. “[But] they love this one,” she continued, ringing a 417-Hz fork reminiscent of Tinker Bell.
The instruments can be held as far as six feet away from the body during the therapy but can sometimes make direct contact with the client. Grunvald demonstrated the technique on me using a weighted tuning fork.
She pressed the points into the sole of my right foot, allowing the sound to fade out. When the same steps were repeated on my left foot, the tone took slightly longer to quiet.
“There’s a little more energy on that side,” she said of my left. “I feel that.”
The concept of biofield tuning makes sense to Grunvald. She’s worked as a physical therapist since 1980 and said vibration has long been used to treat patients recovering from stroke, for example.
Plus, she said, sound has an easily observable connection to overall wellbeing.
“How do you feel if I scratch my fingernails on a blackboard? How do you feel when you hear a soothing song? It affects your body,” Grunvald said. “Sound has an effect, sound has a healing property.”
Grunvald has largely strayed away from traditional physical therapy lately, favoring biofield and personal training. Still, she said, she’ll never push a client to try something they’re not comfortable with and is always open to learning new methods.
She’s a big proponent of a new age foam device, too. Invented in Australia, the “Oov” looks strikingly similar to a goose and can be used to engage tough-to-target muscles and relax joints with minimal instruction.
“It’s been refreshing,” Grunvald said of the new techniques. “We don’t have to use [high intensity interval training].”
The founder of biofield tuning, Eileen McKusik, offers materials connecting the practice to spiritual and aura-based health. A “map of the body field” Grunvald keeps in her office circles distinct areas and offers short descriptions of emotions, like “relationship with mother,” for example.
Grunvald is receptive to that theory, but also can work within a more traditionally scientific perspective — talking nerves or electrical conduction.
If the tuning fork’s sound changes when waved over a client’s right hip, she might be inclined to ask about their exercise habits or suggest stretches to free up the area.
“We’re here to provide sound balance,” Grunvald said. “I’m not your shrink.”
Grunvald will take the biofield tuning on the road during a Colchester Recreation program starting on January 22 at 1:30 p.m. in the Bayside Activity Center. And while she won’t be able to offer one-on-one treatments in the group setting, she said participants are sure to feel the benefits.
Last year, she tried out biofield tuning from an even greater distance, offering sessions via Skype and Facebook’s Messenger app. Money collected from the virtual therapies went to the Semper Fi Fund, an organization Grunvald fundraised for as she ran her seventh Marine Corps marathon in October.
There are still a handful of clients who raise an eyebrow at sound tuning or look skeptically at the flock of Oovs Grunvald keeps at arms reach. To them, she offers an easy out: “Maybe next time.”
“I’m here to help but more to empower,” Grunvald said. “I’m not going to fix you. I’m going to empower you, teach you.”