During a massage session, the client will naturally open up emotionally and spiritually, even in seemingly small ways.
Sensations of heat or pulsation in specific areas, deep exhalations and a sense of deep tranquility can open the door to an entirely new level of experience.
It is at this point where Polarity Therapy naturally merges with traditional massage techniques.
Polarity Therapy is an approach to understanding vibrational and energetic patterns, especially the manner in which they influence human potential, health and healing.
Polarity Therapy can be a lifestyle, a therapeutic system, a philosophy, a course of study in energetic medicine — or all of these combined.
Polarity Therapy is not one specific technique; it integrates many techniques into one template, allowing many different systems to work in unison. In essence, you might define Polarity Therapy as a unified theory of energy and human potential.
As with most energy techniques, there is scant scientific evidence to back up claims made of Polarity Therapy’s efficacy; however, a 2004 review, “Respite care for people with dementia and their carers,” indicated that polarity therapy reduced perceived stress in caregivers when compared with traditional respite care. The 2009 study, “A randomized trial of a CAM therapy for stress reduction in American Indian and Alaskan Native family caregivers” found that subjects who received polarity therapy “improved significantly” in stress, depression, bodily pain, vitality and general health compared with those who received an enhanced respite control condition.
Whether it is aromatherapy, flower-remedy-based counseling or emotional release bodywork, the chakra-based perspective and the five-element approach of Polarity Therapy make it a natural fit for every style of practitioner.
Simple techniques, such as the tummy rock, the head-hold known as the North Pole Stretch and the traction of the gentle toe pull, bring an energetic element to a traditional, structurally oriented session.
Polarity Therapy also offers massage therapists the opportunity to add simple, effective energetic movements and exercises at the end of a session. Polarity Therapy never competes with the practitioner’s own skill sets; it simply magnifies and enhances them.
To understand how Polarity Therapy came about, it is valuable to understand the educational and personal development of the system’s founder, Randolph Stone, ND, DC, DO (1890-1981), an Austrian-born physician, mystic visionary and philosopher who immigrated with his father to the U.S. sometime between 1898 and 1903. An avid reader, he traveled extensively in the U.S. during his teen years, learning English by reading the Bible. At one point, he intended to become a Lutheran minister, but ultimately he chose medicine as his career path. As an adult, he became a book collector and librarian for the Theosophical Society.
Due to these interests, Stone had the opportunity to explore and examine many systems of natural healing, including craniopathy, neuropathy, acupuncture and Ayurveda. While earning doctorate degrees in chiropractic, osteopathy and naturopathy, and maintaining a private practice in Chicago, Illinois, from 1914 until 1972, he traveled often to Europe and Asia, dedicating much time to studying great religious, mystic and esoteric traditions. Much of this exploration was fueled, in part, by his increasing hunger for spiritual knowledge as well as by his disillusionment with the medical and bodywork approaches of the day, which he felt to be excessively mechanistic.
In the 1940s, he deepened his commitment to the study of spirituality by accepting initiation into a system of meditation based in India. His dedication to this mystically oriented yogic path continued for almost 40 years, and he made frequent visits to India to study and develop his inner knowledge of this work. Though at one time, in the very early days of Polarity Therapy’s development, there was a close association between his personal spiritual path and his development of ideas concerning energetic healing, there was eventually a clear separation made by Stone between the two.
By the 1940s, Stone organized what he learned from his years of study and research into a series of manuals consisting of charts drawn by Harlan Tarbell and explanations by Stone of the meaning in each chart and its relationship to other charts. There is a general theme and certain key points that flow throughout the manuals:
• The universe consists of a complex system of interfacing energy fields. These energy fields are kept in constant motion by the magnetic pull of opposing poles and engage in constant pulsating from positive to negative poles and back again via a neutral position.
• Concerning the structure and function of human beings, these opposing energy fields are defined by relationship of the neutral source of energy (consciousness) and its positive and negative actions in the creation of human anatomy and physiology, as well as its eventual return to the neutral source.
• This constant pulsating creates fields and energetic lines of force. This energetic template, as it relates to the physical body and emotions, was termed “the wireless anatomy of man” by Stone.
• The crossing over of the two primary energy pathways creates five energy centers that influence every aspect of the human experience. These energy centers, or chakras, can be visualized as spinning wheels and are named accordingly to the qualities they possess: ether, air, fire, water and earth.
• Dis-ease is created by the presence of blocks and imbalances in the chakras and the pulsating energy fields and energetic lines of force influenced by these chakras.
As one becomes familiar with Stone’s ideas, one begins to recognize words and terms associated with certain theories in physics combined with terms common in Ayurveda and in various esoteric philosophies that relate to electromagnetic energy.
In fact, much of what he wrote more than 50 years ago comfortably reflects the ideas on mythology and symbolism made popular in recent years by cultural anthropologist Joseph Campbell.
In the application of his theories, Stone concludes all healing work, no matter what it might be, must on some level focus on re-establishing the energetic flow of the “wireless anatomy,” through balancing mind, body, emotion and spirit. This is accomplished through four main components:
1. Hands-on energetic bodywork. Stone evolved a form of energetic bodywork which used his understanding of how energy moves within the body to stimulate and balance this movement in the restoration of health.
2. Exercises. Based on this same energy model, he developed a form of energy balancing exercises, called polarity yoga, that are a self-help way of maintaining energy flow.
3. Nutrition. Stone stressed organ detoxification, maintenance and health building through liver cleansing and a wholesome nutritious diet. He also looked at the five elements as a means for balance of energy.
4. Attitude. How we think and approach our lives is essential to health and wellness.
The Torch Passes
In 1972, Stone retired from active practice and moved to California, where he continued to teach. He lived with his assistant and successor, Pierre Pannetier, ND, (1914-1984), in Santa Ana, California, before he retired to India at the age of 83, where he lived his remaining days in deep meditation. Stone died Dec. 9, 1981.
Pannetier, who continued to teach Polarity Therapy, is fondly remembered by many Polarity Therapy teachers for creating a template out of Stone’s ideas for polarity-based bodywork that has become known as the general session.
There were many other skilled Polarity Therapy teachers during the late 1960s and 1970s who never personally studied with Stone or Pannetier but were extremely valuable in passing along Stone’s ideas. The openness, elegant simplicity and accessibility of the ideas presented in Stone’s writings made this a natural occurrence, and the general feeling at the time was that Polarity Therapy was an open-source healing system.
Pannetier passed away in 1983, and a year later a core group of his students, advanced practitioners and Polarity Therapy school owners gathered to launch a national organization, the American Polarity Therapy Association, to support dialogue on Polarity Therapy and the continuation and expansion of the work.
An Elegant Technique
Part of what makes Stone’s vision of Polarity Therapy so elegant, and at the same time problematic for those dedicated to the work, is it is not as rigidly codified as other human-potential-based systems, such as Feldenkrais, shiatsu, Jungian Analysis or transcendental meditation. If anything, the Polarity Therapy template is like the hardware of a computer, a basic template into which a person can load an unlimited variety of software.
The upside of this is practitioners may apply Polarity Therapy principles in the context of flower remedies, homeopathy, massage, chiropractic, neuro-linguistic programming, craniosacral therapy, chakra balancing, yoga, breathwork and the myriad of ever-evolving systems of bodywork, energy work, movement education and counseling.
In the end, the goal remains the same: to locate energetic imbalance and serve the client in regaining physical health, mental clarity and spiritual balance.
About the Author:
Lewis Harrison is a registered Polarity Therapy practitioner, director of the Academy of Natural Healing and author of Hands-on Healing. He is a former member of the board of directors of the American Polarity Therapy Association and has been a polarity therapy teacher and practitioner since 1976.