Illustration by Goro Sasaki
Polarity Therapy:"Going Wireless"
This method will become one of the premier wellness modalities for the 21st century, and it will behoove all massage therapists to learn it.
By Eileen DeLise Kennedy
Think about the last time you fell and scraped your knee, or got a nasty paper cut. Did you deliberately set out to heal yourself? Recall the time a coworker walked into the room, and you felt drained or energized and couldn't understand why. The answers lie within and without! You were experiencing "life energy" in its universal and infinite wisdom!
Polarity therapy is a holistic healing system that works with this "life energy" in all its forms, using a comprehensive system of bodywork, exercise, nutritional guidance and verbal counseling.
The goal of polarity therapy is to realign and unite body, mind, spirit and emotions into harmony and vibrant health.
The characteristics of the human energy field have been known for centuries. For example, the term "polarity" refers to the universal pulsation of expansion/contraction or repulsion/ attraction, known as yang and yin in Oriental medicine. The understanding of the universal "life force" is known as "chi" in Oriental therapies, while in Indian Ayurveda it is known as "prana." Although this belief has been the basis of Eastern medical tradition for thousands of years, modern Western scientific research is now just beginning to understand and embrace the belief that energy is the source of all life.
Polarity therapy is on the cutting edge of this revolution, bringing the study of energetics into the everyday realm. The American Polarity Therapy Association (APTA) is now advancing polarity therapy as one of the premier wellness modalities for the 21st century. According to APTA President LaRose Daniels, "The time for bringing polarity therapy into contemporary health care is now. APTA is quickly gearing up to be able to meet the challenges of making inroads into the medical world so more physicians and their patients can benefit from this work."
APTA is opening its doors to the public, specifically, the scientific and medical communities, and many other related professions in energy healing. Polarity is now being taught in medical schools, hospitals, colleges and technical schools. Massage therapists, psychotherapists, occupational therapists and chiropractors are also adopting the techniques.
The more recent and intensified interest in polarity therapy stems from its increasing success in preventing or treating such conditions as stress, arthritis, frozen shoulder, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, trauma resolution and back pain. Even athletes are using polarity to achieve and maintain peak performance.
The Father Of Polarity Therapy
Polarity therapy was developed by Randolph Stone, D.O., D.C., N.D. (1890-1981). During his 91 years, Stone made the study of polarity therapy his passion and life work. His search led him to the Eastern healing arts, such as acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine and yoga. He studied every major natural healing art, earning a doctorate in osteopathy, chiropractic and naturopathy. He practiced for more than 60 years, all the while experimenting with many diets, exercise programs and therapeutic methods in a constant search for the most effective ways of achieving and maintaining health. Stone, living proof of his health ideas, actively traveled and taught into his old age with energy, inspiration and enthusiasm.
Seven books published between 1947 and 1954 synthesize the application of Ayurveda, naturopathy, chiropractic, osteopathy, CranioSacral¨ Therapy, hermetic philosophy (the study of the elements with the intention of making gold) and quantum physics.
All of Dr. Stone's health concepts are based on the living energy currents that can be directly experienced and altered through the diets, exercises and bodywork protocols described in his works. His view of health encompasses all dimensions of a human being: the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. The principles acknowledge that nourishing and expressing the soul is as important as nourishing and exercising the physical body.
"Health is not merely of the body," Stone writes, "It is the natural expression of the body, mind and soul when they are in rhythm with the One Life. It is not merely a question of physical fitness, but rather is a result of the soul finding free expression through the mind and body of the individual."
History Of The American Polarity Therapy Association
Following Dr. Stone's retirement in 1974, at the age of 84, many of Stone's students continued to research and apply his teachings. By 1984, a core group of advanced practitioners gathered to launch a national organization, the American Polarity Therapy Association (APTA), to support the continuation and expansion of the work. The annual conference of this relatively new association immediately became a key forum for the exchange and dissemination of new understanding, a role that continues today greater than ever.
In 1989, APTA published the Polarity Therapy Standards for Practice, creating a consensus statement of the scope and content of polarity therapy, and setting the foundation for the certification of students and establishing a code of ethics.
Polarity Therapy Model
Dr. John Beaulieu, N.D., Ph.D., registered polarity practitioner (RPP), founder and director of the Polarity Wellness Network, and BioSonic Enterprises, Ltd.ª, states, "Polarity therapy is based on the premise that we are fields of pulsating life energy made up of specific frequencies known as the five elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth. Each element relates and flows in a balance of positive and negative attractions arising from a neutral center."Figure 1: The Egyptian Caduceus or the Staff of Hermes: The Insignia of the Ancient Physicians.
So how can the polarity model best be described in terms of human energetics? The human body has an energy system similar to a magnet, having positive, negative and neutral poles and currents that flow through them. Subtle electromagnetic fields and currents are present in every cell, tissue and organ, and function to organize, vitalize and sustain all living things. This life energy expresses itself not only in our physical bodies, but also through our thoughts, feelings, personal relationships and everyday experiences.
When these currents are flowing, without significant blockage, we are functional, healthy and our thoughts and emotions are in alignment with our soul's truth (the source). When the currents are blocked, when our thoughts, emotions and body are out of alignment with the energy necessary to meet a life challenge, when we have moved away from source, energy imbalances appear in the form of physical pain, emotional distress and disease.
Currently, Western diagnostic tools, such as the EKG and EEG, which monitor the activity of the heart and the brain, respectively, are the closest we come to measuring these energetic or electrical currents in the body. Polarity practitioners use their hands to scan the body and energy currents surrounding the body in order to identify and release blocks and restrictions. They effectively "jump start" the system, much like charging a battery or switching a circuit breaker. The polarity model sees the body's imbalances as an opportunity to invite an alternative paradigm into our consciousness. Stone writes, "Obstacles are God's design to make a man with a spine."
Polarity therapy empowers the client to identify the genesis of the pain or discomfort and to venture within for truth, substance and balance. A practitioner may offer self-help exercises or nutritional counseling to complement bodywork or energetic communications. Ultimately, the goal is to release energy so that a "self correction" to normal flow patterns occurs. Polarity therapists invite their clients to consider new life choices that were not evident before.
The Wireless Anatomy
The energy anatomy model of polarity is highly comprehensive and specific. The shape and form of the energy model can best be described and understood by the ancient Greek or Egyptian symbols of the Caduceus or Staff of Hermes (see Figure 1, Page 64). The "Ultrasonic Core," the "energy current of the Soul," is the name given by Dr. Stone to the central shaft of the Caduceus. The two wings represent the two cerebral hemispheres in the brain, and the globe at the end of the shaft is the pineal gland. The intertwined snakes on either side of the shaft represent the currents flowing in the Caduceus in a positive (Pingala), negative (Ida) and neutral (Sushumna) fashion.
Polarity therapy's conceptualization of the pathways of energy in the body is referred to as the "wireless anatomy." Six centers along the spine (called chakras), starting from the head and winding downward toward the coccyx, transform spiritual energy into lower levels of vibration. As they spiral outward, they create the physical body (see Figure 2, Page 68, and Figure 3, Page 72).
Stone linked five chakras and the five areas of the body they refer to as five elements. Each of the five elements--ether, air, fire, water and earth--vibrate at a specific, energetic frequency and relates to a general quality, sense, function/emotion and body. The elements flow through the body in electromagnetic waves, traveling from positive (+) through neutral (o) to negative (-) poles. Ether is the "holding pot" that creates space for all the other elements. Air polarizes in the shoulder (+), kidneys (o) and ankles (-). Fire resides in the forehead (+), solar plexus (o) and thighs (-). Water corresponds to the breasts (+), pelvis (o) and feet (-). Earth rules the neck (+), bowels (o) and knees (-). Practitioners work to unblock stagnant flows by connecting the energy between each pole, using a series of five protocols, one for each element. With an understanding of how the various elements connect, the therapist can identify areas of the body where blockages may exist, and create pathways to the free flow of energy.
Figure 2: This illustration shows the subtle prana currents in the human body and their chakras, as whirling primary functional centers of energy.
Application Of Polarity Therapy
Polarity therapy helps develop balance by promoting the flexibility, spontaneity, creativity and clarity necessary to meet the challenges of everyday life. A polarity practitioner learns a triad approach to therapy: bodywork specific to each of the five elements; exercise/nutrition; and verbal guidance to evaluate and balance life energy.
Polarity bodywork involves gentle rocking, stretching and pressure-sensitive touch based on energy flow. Touch may be neutral and gentle (Satvic), positive rocking to expand outward (Rajasic) or deep and dispersing (Tamasic).
The synergies of the elements and triune approach to therapy can be exemplified by an example from my own polarity practice. A client may come in feeling fatigued, lacking in energy and complaining of shortness of breath. While creating an environment of safety, consciousness and recognition, I will begin by taking a brief client history. Then I will scan his or her body with my hands, both on and off the body, with the client fully clothed. As a polarity practitioner, I am trained in subtle listening, sensing energetic boundaries and being fully present, respectful and supportive to the client, in order to maximize the body/mind connection.
In this case, I may link difficulty breathing to the air element, and lack of energy to the fire element. Since I know that air is necessary to ignite fire, I may work various meridians along the air and fire lines in order to release the energy and reestablish the flow. I might also summon the client's own inner resources by engaging him or her in energetic dialogue to help him or her identify why he or she might feel blocked.
My suggested nutritional plan may include more fire foods, such as grains, legumes, rice, etc. I would introduce a few self-help exercises to release the diaphragm and get the energetic juices flowing. As a massage therapist and polarity practitioner, I routinely complement traditional bodywork with polarity to balance clients energetically. The two modalities work beautifully together!
In a telephone interview with Mary Jo Ruggieri, Ph.D., RPP, founder and director of the Columbus Polarity Center and Columbus Polarity Therapy Institute, and former Olympic coach for synchronized swimming, I learned how she actively integrates polarity therapy into a medical model in her work with cancer clients. Ruggieri also teaches alternative medicine seminars to first-year medical students at Ohio State University Medical School, and polarity therapy and integrative medicine at Hocking Technical College and the University of Utah.
"Our future in energy medicine is in realizing that our current medical tests wait until the problem can be seen only in our physical body--blood tests, Pap tests, chest X-rays and brain scans. By the time we detect cancer in our bones, it is already a major problem. Why wait until a disease manifests on a physical level? Why not prevent it?" Ruggieri states.
"By becoming aware of different characteristics of energy pulses and patterns in the body, we could map the way diseases alter these patterns and discover the problems on an energetic level before it manifests on the physical level," she adds.
Ruggieri paints a vivid picture of how the holistic medical model and energy medicine can coexist synergistically: "Imagine coming out of surgery with soft music being piped into the recovery room, vitamin C added to your intravenous drip while your massage therapist or polarity practitioner begins slowly working specific points on your sore feet. Add a gentle aromatherapy scent, designed to help you wake up without feeling nauseous, and you have an idea of what is coming in the future," she says. Mary Jo Ruggieri, Ph.D., RPP, founder and director of the Columbus Polarity Center in Columbus, Ohio, prepares to begin a polarity session on a client.
In her work with cancer patients, Ruggieri assumes a multifaceted approach to healing. She compares the cancer journey to preparing for an Olympic event. "What is the difference between the two?" she says. "There is no difference. In both cases you are talking about lifestyle changes, nutritional education, exercise and bodywork. In both instances you are going for the gold, and winning! It takes courage, commitment and focused energies to achieve optimal results. It's all about coaching, teamwork, nutrition, meditation, bodywork, energy balancing and keeping focused and on track."
A combination of polarity protocols designed to move the lymph, balance the sympathetic/parasympathetic system, relieve gas and constipation are used; stress reduction and structural integration are also key. Working with a team of doctors and nurses to set up an optimal program for each patient, Ruggieri has seen very effective results working with patients before, during and after their treatment cycles.
Ruggieri continues, "We see many breast cancer clients who benefit from water and air balancing. If I see someone who has had a mastectomy or lumpectomy, I may be dealing with a woman with thoracic lock or frozen shoulder. I will use the lymphatic protocol, or I will work the brachial plexus."
Illustration by Goro Sasaki
Polarity Therapy:"Going Wireless"
This method will become one of the premier wellness modalities for the 21st century, and it will behoove all massage therapists to learn it.
By Eileen DeLise Kennedy
Lymphedema is a problem in women who have had surgery and the removal of lymph nodes. "As soon as the patient is wheeled out of recovery, they should have their massage therapist or polarity practitioner working the reflex points on the feet," she says.
Ruggieri described the remarkable case of a client with prostate cancer who opted for a holistic approach to healing, using energy medicine, meditation, visualization, nutrition and exercise before considering surgery. George embarked on a journey of self-healing in his quest for the gold. When he ultimately chose surgery to remove the cancer, surgeons could find no trace of the tumor! "It's all about empowering the patient to take charge of his or her own healing process," she says. "In every case, there are three constant variables that enter the healing model: Repair, Regenerate, Rejuvenate."
Another component of polarity therapy is movement and yoga. According to Maryland-based Paula Phillips, RPP and APTA newsletter editor, "Polarity exercises are easy stretching postures combining sound, breath and self-massage."
"The exercises work with the flow of energy in the body, and help connect the participants by moving or contacting key areas that relate to one another in important ways," she adds.
Phillips has been a polarity practitioner for more than a decade. She began her studies in energy healing while working as a public relations director at a college in Washington, D.C., and commuting on the Washington beltway from her home near Annapolis, Maryland. "I like to give this background to let my students and clients know that I have firsthand knowledge of the kind of modern lifestyle pressures that drive many people to complementary and alternative medicine providers," she reflects.
Job stress led her into dance classes and then teacher training in SynergyDance, which included 300 hours of studying polarity therapy through theory, hands-on work, movement and music in one integrated course taught by SynergyDance creator Charmaine Lee, RPP, of Washington, D.C. Phillips was so revitalized by her experiences that she made a midlife career change to become a polarity practitioner. Figure 3: This is a composite picture of the pattern forces of the body and their wireless circuits.
Since that early training, she has expanded and integrated her knowledge and use of the healing power of sound and movement into her polarity practice, which is currently based in the spa at Full Circle Acupuncture and Healing Arts in Annapolis. She teaches polarity energy exercises in group classes and to individual clients as a way to get in touch with their bodies and become aware of the flow and balance of energy, which can also be affected by hands-on healing techniques.
Phillips adds, "To me, polarity therapy is a distinctive modality that challenges practitioners and clients alike to take responsibility for their own health and happiness. Sometimes that means exercising more; suprisingly, sometimes it means reducing physical activity. More is not always better! I try and help people feel the spine, feel the flow of cerebral spinal fluid, feel the chakras that may be over- or undercharged or pleasantly toned. Then, as they go through their work and play, they can begin to choose more healthy activities."
Phillips never encourages her students to work through the pain, as this is harmful and illogical. The beauty of polarity exercises is that it works with the body's electromagnetic currents to improve the flow and balance of energy in a very pleasing manner.
"We can improve circulation, respiration, blood pressure, muscle tone and even tissue health with these restorative exercises. Many of my clients have been professional dancers, musicians and artists. They can't afford to reduce output, but they can and need to improve efficiency of movement. Take out the resistance factors caused by stress and a defensive posture, and you've got a lot more energy to work with during the day," she says.
Phillips notes that polarity exercises are particularly distinctive in that they improve relationships between the brain and body, the head and hips, the feet and related organs, as well as the spine. In working with brain-injured patients at the Center for Neuro-Rehabilitation in Annapolis, Philipps found measurable improvements in clients after even a single group polarity yoga session done in chairs! The ability to balance the nervous system with Dr. Stone's postures was key to overactive and depressed body types. Phillips observed that the head/hip contacts improved left/right brain coordination and the head-to-heart contacts helped bring everyone into the group in a friendly, supportive atmosphere that did not exist at the beginning of class.
Another component of polarity therapy is based on a model of nutrition that views food as energy, and develops an ongoing, ever-changing and creative nutritional awareness rather than a rigid set of rules. In contrast to nutritional systems that measure specific components, the polarity diet is based on the energetic properties of food. Foods that are beneficial to cleansing and rebuilding are key to this diet.
Polarity therapy has a strong dimension in verbal support for clients. Polarity communication is based on the assumption that "right thinking" is the cornerstone of good health. Verbal processes involve understanding and feeling our emotions, taking responsibility for our lives and creating life-enhancing thoughts. The polarity principles of contraction and expansion, or yin and yang, a universal human experience, may support healing in numerous areas, including conflict resolution. Specific touch and verbal tools that support the nervous system and healing are invaluable in dealing with posttrauma symptoms, which engage "fight or flight" responses.
Anthony Deavin, Ph.D., RPP, of Surrey, England, has a background in chemistry, herbal medicine and research experience in the biological sciences, and conducts polarity practitioner training in the United Kingdom that deals extensively with trauma work. American Polarity Therapy Association (APTA)
Polarity therapy is a rapidly growing profession and comes under the guidance of APTA, the body that accredits and sets the standards for the profession of polarity therapy. As a governing body, APTA has a code of ethics and a national board for certification. Located in Boulder, Colorado, the APTA office offers many resources to the polarity world. APTA holds annual conferences that are open to anyone interested in energy healing, featuring cutting edge lectures and workshops for massage therapists and other health-care professionals. APTA offers CEU credits in Category A, provided through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB).
Whether you are a practicing physician, massage therapist, chiropractor, nurse, physical or occupational therapist or other health-care practitioner, the polarity therapy field holds much room for inner growth and professional advancement. APTA now offers NCBTMB credits for coursework. To learn more about polarity therapy, contact:
American Polarity Therapy Association
2888 Bluff St.
Boulder, CO 80308
"In polarity therapy, we recognize that the harmonious flow of energy within and around the body is essential for health. For polarity practitioners, the safe release of trauma is a key concern. We seek simple, effective ways to integrate this release within the context of whatever bodywork we are doing," Deavin says.
"With some therapies, if there were an emotional release during the session, the practitioner would seek to bring the client to a safe place and then refer them to an appropriate therapist to deal with the emotional problem or issue. In polarity therapy, the time when the emotion is present is recognized as a time of potential for healing. For this reason, we would aspire to resolve the issue while the problem is within conscious awareness," he continues.
Deavin focuses on the importance of practitioner training to create a safe environment for trauma release. He introduces the concept of "tissue memory," or how the body retains memory, on the cellular level fairly early in his training classes. His students are introduced to the concepts of listening and stillness, and the techniques of focusing, trauma energetics and journey work.
Deavin concludes, "The bottom line is safety. The students have an awareness of the delicacy of the human being and its life process, and will do no harm."
Polarity therapists sometimes combine touch while working with the energy vibrations of sound in their practice. Beaulieu, the pioneering developer of BioSonic Repatterning, comments: "BioSonic Repatterning is an energy approach to healing, and its practitioners are trained to evaluate and balance the human energy field. They use sound-based modalities, which include the use of different music, tuning forks, voice, rhythms and mantras to balance energy."
Polarity and BioSonic Repatterning use the same evaluation methodologies. Bealieu makes the point, "Polarity practitioners focus on touch and BioSonic Repatterning practitioners focus on sound for the same outcome. The two areas work together. For example, a polarity practitioner may use both touch and tuning forks to balance the energy field in alignment with his or her energy evaluation. In this sense, BioSonic Repatterning is a sonic modality of polarity."
Polarity practitioners are certified by the American Polarity Therapy Association (APTA), the governing body for polarity therapy. A Registered Polarity Practitioner (RPP) must have 650 hours of classwork, plus clinical experience hours. They are highly skilled and trained practitioners with knowledge of, and training in, anatomy and physiology, theories and principles of polarity, polarity bodywork, communication, energetic evaluation, energetic nutrition, stretching postures, and ethics and standards for polarity practitioners.Paula Phillips, RPP, combines polarity therapy movement and yoga in her practice.
An Associate Polarity Practitioner (APP) is an associates certification with 155 hours of training, plus supervised clinical work. All polarity practitioners must adhere to the American Polarity Therapy Association's Standards and Bylaws in order to practice.
Eileen Kennedy, M.A., NCTMB, APP, has been active in the health-care industry since 1979, with advanced degrees in information science and business. She earned her certification in therapeutic massage in 1996, and is nationally certified in therapeutic massage and bodywork. Kennedy is certified in Swedish massage, pre- and postnatal massage, infant massage instruction, cancer and mastectomy massage, and geriatric massage. She is also a nationally certified associate polarity practitioner. Kennedy practices in Short Hills, New Jersey, and Union, New Jersey. She can be reached via E-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Special thanks to Paula Phillips, who provided supportive documentation, contacts and encouragement in the preparation of this article. Thanks to all contributors to this piece, and to the American Polarity Therapy Association for research assistance.
Figures 1, 2 and 3: Used with permission from the American Polarity Therapy Association. These images are from Randolph Stone's Polarity Therapy: The Complete Collected Works on this Revolutionary Healing Art, published by CRCS Publications, Sebastopol, California, 1987.