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by David Maggiotto
December 24, 2009

Hands-on is a term often applied to a learning process, but in Carl Carvalho’s case, it best describes his expertise.

In September, the 11-year Hastings resident opened Human Bodyworks Massage Therapy and Healing Arts Center at 32 Main Street, offering a range of alternative medical treatments and services.

Shortly after hanging his shingle downtown, he was elected vice-president of the Hastings Chamber of Commerce.

As the name suggests, Human Bodyworks offers treatments beyond massage therapy. Carvalho is trained to administer CranioSacral and SomatoEmotional therapies, both of which are manual treatments designed to balance the body’s more esoteric systems. The center will offer various “healing arts modalities,” which are practices not often associated with Western medicine, such as engaging a Shaman (a traditional Native American doctor) to bring wellness to clients.

“I want to offer a platform for people to explore healing,” Carvalho said in a recent phone interview. He received formal training from the Swedish Institute in New York City. He received his New York State massage license soon after graduating in ’03. Carvalho had previously studied shiatsu and traditional Chinese medicine at the Ohashi Institute, also located in New York.

Growing up in New Jersey, Carvalho “always had an interest in alternative medicine.” Professionally, he chose a different path, having purchased a storefront printing business called Duplications Unlimited in midtown Manhattan in 1990. Carvalho is still president of the company, thought his brother has been managing the business for the past decade.

Carvalho’s interest in alternative medicine intensified in 1993. He and his wife, Adina Ruskin, were vacationing in New Hampshire when they came in contact with a Native American herbalist. At the time, Carvalho was dealing with a variety of emotional and physical problems, and through herbal remedies — or tinctures — Carvalho found relief. “I worked with him for three years and it completely changed my life.”

While Carvalho concedes that “you can’t do without Western medicine,” he believes there are problems with a field that relies too heavily on “drug therapy.”

“If a doctor runs lots of tests and still can’t find anything wrong, people start seeking alternatives.” he said. He noted that the herbal remedies that he feels corrected his problems “restored the body’s balance,” which is a theme that runs through Carvalho’s various techniques.

One treatment designed to achieve this balance is CranioSacral Therapy (CST). Developed in the last century, CST restores balance in the brain, spine, and protective coverings of these body parts. This is achieved through locating the flow of the cerebral spinal fluid throughout the body and releasing blockages so that “nerves can flow naturally.”

Carvalho studied CST at a branch of the Upledger Institute in New York City. In addition to working with adults, he has practiced the technique on babies to relieve their colicky tendencies. Unlike Swedish massage — which involves long gliding strokes on bare skin — CST applies very gentle pressure and patients remain clothed during the procedure.

Another practice intended to gently release tension deep in the body is SomatoEmotional therapy. Carvalho believes that emotional trauma is not limited to the brain and can be stored in tissues throughout the body. SomatoEmotional therapy unshackles this stress. “A lot of times this release happens spontaneously,” Carvalho said. “Someone may have lost a loved one recently, or gotten into a car accident… as therapists we need to be prepared for anything that comes out.”

The techniques of different manual therapies can overlap and are not always mutually exclusive. Carvalho likens his extensive training to “tools going into a tool box.”

The building at 32 Main dates from 1886 and most recently housed the Secrets Gallery. Carvalho will also maintain Human Bodyworks as a gallery for local artists. Currently the Hastings residents Ed Young, Vicky Youngman, and Claudia Stoltman are showing their work there. The gallery space ties into the center’s theme of general wellness. “Art evokes emotion and people feel better by looking at artwork in a gallery,” Carvalho said.

Human Bodyworks will also host spiritual group rituals such as meditation circles (“really just a group of people being quiet”) and Native American healing circles. Carvalho said Native American healing practices could involve the channeling of departed loved ones and dance movement hypnosis. He hopes to begin hosting a conversation series with “masters from various spiritual paths.”

Raised Catholic, Carvalho now considers himself a non-denominational Spiritualist. His wife is Jewish, and their family — daughters Sophia, age 9, and Elianna, age 4 — celebrates Christmas and Hanukkah. Carvalho meditates regularly, and has studied the Eastern spiritual philosophies, such as Buddhism and Hinduism. “I accept everybody’s message, because the core message is the same,” Carvalho said.

While some of his therapies target specific ailments — such as digestion, respiration or emotional stress — other treatments are more indulgent that curative. Foot rubs and full-body Swedish massage sessions are available for $55 for 30 minutes and $95 for an hour.

The layout of Human Bodyworks contains three treatment rooms. Carvalho rarely uses the entire space at once, and he invites other healing practitioners looking for space to rent to contact him. Human Bodyworks and Healing Arts Center is located at 32 Main Street in Hastings. All visits are by appointment, and Carl Carvalho can be reached at (917) 445-1767, or by email at Carl@humanbodyworks.com. More information is available online at Humanbodyworks.com.