Therapeutic Bodywork

Modern Neuromuscular Techniques, 3rd Edition, edited by Leon Chaitow

Modern Neuromuscular Techniques book coverFully updated throughout, this popular book explains the history, rationale, and detailed descriptions of the class of soft tissue manipulation methods known collectively as Neuromuscular Techniques (NMT). Complete with accompanying website, which includes film sequences of the author demonstrating the techniques, this book will be ideal for bodyworkers and acupuncturists in Europe, the USA and beyond.

Contains a new chapter on Thai Yoga massage, and its association with NMT methodology:

Thai Massage and Neuromuscular Technique (extract)

In his book ‘The Human Machine and Its Forces’ published in 1937, Dr. Dewanchand Varma says: ‘We have discovered that the circulation of the nervous currents, slows down occasionally because of the obstruction caused by adhesions; the muscular fibres harden and the nervous currents can no longer pass through them. We have demonstrated effective and positive methods designed to restore nervous equilibrium which promotes the healthy circulation of blood, so that new tissues begin to be built up again’.

Based in Paris, Dr. Varma practiced a form of soft tissue manipulation which he called ‘Pranatherapy’. This was derived from Ayur-veda, the traditional medical system of India, Dr. Varma’s homeland. His system was to become one of the sources of what we now know as Neuromuscular Technique (NMT).

Stanley Lief, who had trained in America as a chiropractor and naturopath, heard of Dr. Varma’s work and travelled to Paris to receive a series of treatments from him. Lief was so impressed by the results that he persuaded Varma to teach him his system. With the help of his cousin and assistant, Boris Chaitow, Lief further developed and refined the techniques and coined the name ‘Neuromuscular Technique’.

When I studied NMT in 1995 with Leon Chaitow, Boris Chaitow’s nephew, I was intrigued by the way in which aspects of Neuromuscular Technique resonated with Thai Massage, a system I had already been practicing for three years. Around the same period I also discovered the work of Ida Rolf and experienced its practical application in the form of ten sessions of ‘Rolfing’. These two influences began to inform my understanding of Thai Massage which, back in the nineties, was taught as a practical work with very little theory.

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A Myofascial Approach to Thai Massage (extract)

Thai Massage east meets westPracticing Thai Massage is not an alternative to vipassana training but it is a good place to practice vipassana. As Goenka says, vipassana is intended as a way of living. As masseurs we can practice working with more sense of our own body in relation to our patient. As masseurs we should aim to know exactly what it is we intend to do so that we move with certainty and grace. As we work we can accept that we will be distracted by our own thoughts – perhaps our attitude or opinions about our patient, perhaps the ordinary things we forgot to do. This is inevitable, but we can always return to the present, by turning to the sense of our body in movement and our sense of contact with our patient.

We are using our body to work with our patient’s body. When we make contact, whether with our hands or elbows or feet or knees the contact should be clear, sensitive and aware. Our patient is reading us throughout the massage. They are deeply aware of where we touch and, more to the point, from where we touch. It is a relationship of trust and our patient will not trust us if they are aware of our hesitations, clumsiness or incongruence. As we communicate our clarity and certainty to our patient they give their body to us and give up their habitual tensions.

For a masseur it is a wonderful aim to work towards a sense of selflessness and to search for the qualities in our work through which every patient feels utterly cared for, accepted and loved. We can communicate these qualities through our touch and our presence. We may by moments ourselves feel touched by ‘metta’ and realise that metta is not something we can do. It is a sensation that can flow through us but only if we relax.

Extract from A Myofascial Approach to Thai Massage. Click here to read the whole chapter.

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Listening as non-intervention (extract from Master’s dissertation)

Perhaps the metaphor used to describe this memory of or tendency to health is unimportant.
What is important is the capacity of the healer to create an environment and a relationship of
limitless possibility in which the patient’s own memory of health can manifest itself in its
own way. This relationship must be free from judgement and reaction to what is trying to
emerge. This depends on the therapist’s ability to be present to what is and to listen to and
receive the client without judgement especially from the level of his own unconscious. In many ways this is contrary to the myth of the ‘wounded healer’, currently popular in the healing profession. This myth derives from, among others, Chiron a centaur in Greek mythology who, despite his skills as physician, is unable to heal a wound in his own knee. This myth is used to point to the vulnerability of the healer:

“The therapist as ‘wounded healer’ stays connected to their own pain and is not as easily seduced by inflation or the client’s need or conviction that the therapist be ‘sorted out’, ‘together’, or beyond pain and conflict. ” (Eiden & Lude 1996: 10)

“…the doctor who acknowledges ordinary human vulnerability, and who does not affect
to have all the answers to the patient’s problems, is adopting this ‘wounded position’…”
(Bennet 1984: 127)

Being open, inclusive and free from judgement does not imply having all the answers nor
necessarily open the therapist to seduction from inflation. It does not even deny the therapist’s
right to his own pain. It does, however open the therapist up to not knowing and this not
knowing allows for anything to happen, including miraculous and incomprehensible moments of healing. Perhaps one of the best terms to describe this way of being as a therapist is ‘negative capability’, a term coined by John Keats to describe William Shakespeare.

Of it, Keats says: ‘Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after facts and reason.’ (Casement 1992: 223)

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Craniosacral touch and the perception of inherent health (extract)

journal of holistic healthcareWhen I bring my hands in relationship to my patient I have no doubt that they are reading my intentions and assessing whether or not I am fit to share their story. If my intention is to apply my techniques my patient will do his or her best to humour me. If my intention is to relate to my patient at the level of their inherent health and intelligence an altogether different process takes place. Now my techniques are subtle invitations to talk. When the patients body accepts to tell its story all I need do is keep quiet, listen and follow the story as it unfolds. Although I use the term craniosacral to describe my work I wonder if the master therapists to whom Ron Kurtz referred had not themselves intuited the same truth.

To them, at the core of the patient there is no real problem. To me at the core of the patient there is inherent health.

Click here to read the whole article in the Journal of holistic healthcare