Pranotherapy: Book Review: The Origins of Polarity Therapy and European Neuromuscular Technique

This new book is a great exploration of one part of the history of manual therapy, particularly the story of soft tissue work and its presence within Dr. Randolph Stone’s Polarity Therapy. It tells the story of Dr. Dewanchand Varma (ca. 1861-1950) and re-prints his long-lost book The Human Machine and its Forces. Revival of this book alone is a hugely beneficial fascination, but Pranotherapy goes further by adding previously unpublished materials from Stone audio recordings and later (ca. 1970) notebooks as well.

A reading of The Human Machine offers great insight into the Polarity Therapy thread that goes back into the traditional philosophy and medicine of India. Varma’s language is very simple and direct as it reviews the Three Principles (Satva, Rajas, Tamas– also known today as Neutral, Yang, Yin) which are the foundation of Polarity Therapy. Varma emphasized Muscles and Nerves (and by association Connective Tissue, or fascia) as a key anatomical focus for improving energy flow in the body. Stone embraced this by including three charts (now found in Polarity Therapy Volume I, Book 2, charts 14, 15 and 16) from Varma in his 1948 book, The Wireless Anatomy of Man. As Pranotherapy describes, Varma was a primary source for what has today become known as European Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT).

Varma’s actual methods and technology are not much remembered today, though his claims about effectiveness are tantalizing. He makes a strong case for the significance of soft tissue as a conduit of life energy through its highly-conductive micro-matrix that reaches every part of the body. He used a cross-fiber firm touch for surface tension, and a deeper longitudinal (with the direction of the muscular fibers) touch for underlying fascial adhesions. Some of these methods are seen in today’s modern deep tissue massage. These methods are offered in many of Stone’s charts, though they are not generally taught as central themes of Polarity Therapy touch methods. For example, “Hall of Fame” Polarity maneuvers such as Five-Pointed Star, Path of Fire, Reflexology and Perineal release are described as more about connecting the circuits of the wireless anatomy than they are about releasing muscular or fascial adhesions.

All in all, this is a great read for Polarity Therapy teachers, students and practitioners. Kudos to Phil Young, founder of Masterworks International in England, for his scholarly achievement and detective work, including acquiring a great Foreword from the very highly respected Leon Chaitow, ND, DO, prolific author and nephew of an NMT founder.

Newly arrived, Pranotherapy is a very interesting addition to the Polarity Therapy bookshelf, showing a previously-under-appreciated source for Dr. Stone’s therapeutic ideas.

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