What Is It?
Polarity therapy is a method of healing based on the concept that life-giving energy permeates every part of the human body. This force is thought to be governed by opposite “poles” of positive and negative electromagnetic energy–hence the therapy’s name. When a person’s energy becomes misdirected or blocked due to stress, trauma, or other factors, disease is believed to result. Peak health can be achieved when opposite poles are balanced and the flow of vital energy can proceed unimpeded.
To bring the body’s energy into balance, polarity therapy combines various therapeutic techniques from Western and Eastern medicine. These include bodywork, nutritional counseling, yoga-type stretching postures, psychological counseling, and energy medicine concepts such as acupressure and chakra balancing, borrowed from ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions.
Polarity therapy was developed in the Unites States in the late 1940s by Dr. Randolph Stone (1890-1981), an osteopath, naturopath, and chiropractor who had a deep interest in Eastern medicine. After reading Mysticism, the Spiritual Path, Volume II by Lek Raj Puri, Stone became convinced that energy could be harnessed for healing. He began a course of spiritual study with the Indian author and spent his life developing this method of healing. Stone’s book Health Building: The Conscious Art of Living Well, originally published in the 1940s, remains a classic in the field of polarity therapy.
How Does It Work?
Polarity therapy addresses the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of an individual, suggesting that energy blockages in one area are reflected in all.
To treat these blockages the therapy uses four different approaches: Bodywork: Polarity therapists believe that touch affects the flow of energy because the hands, like the rest of the body, have an electromagnetic charge: The right hand carries a positive charge and the left a negative one. Depending on how the therapist’s hands are placed on a person’s body, energy flow can be stimulated or slowed. The therapist works on soft body tissues and energy points, using one or more of three degrees of touch: neutral (very light), positive (stimulating), and/or negative (deep).
Nutritional counseling: Diet is also an important part of polarity therapy and a practitioner will often suggest modifications in a client’s nutritional regimen to support the energy balancing done during the bodywork portion of the therapy.
The polarity diet is typically vegetarian, with no meat, fish, poultry, or eggs allowed. The specific plan recommended, however, will depend on the nature of a person’s health problems. Someone with a chronic condition might be advised to begin with a detoxifying diet to remove any accumulated harmful substances from the body and to stimulate the free flow of energy. If a condition is less serious, certain foods might be added or eliminated based on the Five Elements concept of Ayurvedic medicine. In this regimen, the choice of foods depends on the key element ruling an individual’s personality type–ether, air, fire, water, or earth–and whether that element is weak.
Stretching postures: Polarity therapy also incorporates a series of yoga-type postures designed to release stagnant energy, improve energy flow, and restore balance among the Five Elements. Often the postures are combined with vocal expression to further stimulate the flow of energy. The exercises need only be done for a few minutes each day to be effective.
Psychological counseling: Dr. Stone believed that mental and emotional stress are just as damaging to energy flow as structural problems and poor diet. During polarity counseling, the therapist listens and offers support as clients go through emotional issues at their own pace. The counseling is intended to release hidden emotional traumas that may be blocking energy flow, to establish positive attitudes, and to enhance self-esteem.
What You Can Expect
Your first polarity therapy session will probably be almost completely devoted to taking a detailed history, with equal attention paid to your biography and your health concerns. The therapist will ask you about any previous medical problems in addition to learning about your diet and exercise habits, your home and work life, and your general mental and emotional health. You will then be visually examined by the therapist for any structural imbalances, and the practitioner will perform a gentle hands-on evaluation of the energy flow in your body. If there is time, osteopathic or chiropractic manipulation might also be performed.
The hands-on evaluation and bodywork will be done on a massage table. Wear comfortable clothing (preferably made of light cotton), since you will not be required to undress unless you want to. Polarity bodywork is not massage. No lotions or oils are used, and the work involves primarily light touching. Sometimes, the therapist will hold his hands over your skin without touching it, and rarely, the therapist will use deep touch. The purpose of polarity bodywork is to release any energy blockages and to complete the energy circuits, not to massage the muscles. Therefore, no two sessions will be completely alike, since the work will depend on your current needs.
Polarity therapy sessions usually last about an hour. Most people require one treatment a week for six to eight weeks. While bodywork is done at every polarity therapy session, nutritional counseling, diet and exercise advice, and emotional counseling are given only when needed.
Polarity therapy is a nondiagnostic holistic health technique. It is intended for use as an adjunctive therapy, not a primary form of treatment. Many people use polarity therapy as a preventive strategy, believing that blockages in energy flow can occur before actual medical conditions begin to manifest themselves. While no authoritative studies have been done on the risks and safety issues associated with polarity therapy, it has generally been found to be a very safe and gentle technique. Those who visit polarity therapists tend to use the therapy for back pain, chronic headaches, chronic fatigue, digestive complaints, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritic pain, respiratory problems, and stress-related illnesses.
Polarity therapy has also been employed for postsurgical wound healing, to decrease adhesion formation, and to help patients regain range of motion in their muscles and joints after surgery.
How To Choose a Practitioner
There is no licensing of polarity therapists in the United States. However, professional training is available through special schools or from individuals who follow standards set by the American Polarity Therapy Association (APTA). Currently, 155 hours of coursework is required to begin practice as an Associate Practitioner, with 460 additional hours required to achieve the status of Registered Polarity Practitioner.
To find a qualified polarity therapist in your area, ask your primary care physician for a referral or contact the APTA in Boulder, Colorado. Some individuals practice primarily polarity therapy, while others practice it as an adjunct to another offering, such as chiropractic, massage therapy, osteopathy, or psychological counseling. You might want to interview at least two polarity therapists before making your decision, since you will want to feel comfortable with the therapist you choose.
Under the guidance of a qualified professional, polarity therapy is considered safe for most individuals.