(Originally published in "Bridges," the newsletter of the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine, Spring 1993.)
As a scientific inquiry in health care is increasingly attuned to a holistic context, greater appreciation for integrative approaches to body, mind, emotions, and spirit has evolved. One result is the development of new "specialty" fields such as psychoneuroimmunology. Many of these newer approaches to health care are reflective of the ancient medical wisdom throughout many cultures, with a core idea being an energy-based understanding of healing and transformation. Polarity Therapy is one of these approaches, having a well developed theoretical foundation combined with a broad spectrum of techniques used to facilitate client growth.
A significant body of literature suggests that changes in the human energy field are responsible for both degeneration into disease as well as healing, recovery, and personal psycho-spiritual development. Becker & Seldon (1985) and Kiewe (1989) provided excellent compendia of the empirical research on the human energy field.
While substantial documentation of the human energy field exists, too little is currently known about the mechanism for movement of energy in the body. Eabry (1993) summarizes recent studies suggesting biogenic magnetite may be an important factor in energy currents in the body. Kiewe (1989) theoizes that subtle forces may be at work as well.
Polarity Therapy has a comprehensive understanding of energy dynamics in the body and therapeutic interventions in those dynamics. Stone (1986) provided a detailed description of both the theory and techniques in Polarity Therapy based on a lifetime of experience and exploration in energy-based medicine. Sills (1989) further clarified and explicated the model. Metz (1992) demonstrated the alignment of Polarity Therapy principles with those of quantum physics.
Origins. Randolph Stone, DO, ND, DC, (1890-1991) developed Polarity Therapy based on an integration of Western medicine with the energetic concepts integral to Eastern medical systems. Dr. Stone traveled widely, studying many of the tradtional and indigenous practices of healing. He became especially versed in the ayurvedic medicine of India and the Hermetic science of the Mediterranean area, and was generally familiar with Chinese medicine and other traditional systems.
Stone began to notice commonalities among these various healing systems and realized that all of them were founded on the idea of life energy. While different names exist for this energy (e.g., chi, ki, prana, life energy) and its specific actions are often conceptualized differently between cultures, the fundamental importance of life energy is paramount in most cultures.
Core Concepts. Dr. Stone combined this emphasis on life energy with his Western medical knowledge of anatomy and physiology, and natural therapeutics. His osteopathic background integrated the importance of the body's cerebrospinal fluid system, fascial membrane, nervous system, and structural anatomy in their relationship to energy dynamics in the body.
Energetically, Stone drew concepts most strongly from Ayurveda. Ayurveda, in Sanskrit, means the science of life. Many important concepts in Ayurvedic understanding are now known to be the same principles as those in the disciplines of field dynamics and quantum physics.
A primary notion is that energy has three states: a positive, outflowing aspect; a negative, receptive aspect; and a neutral, integrating aspect. If we examine any system in the universe, we will find these qualities present. These three states of energy set up a charged field dynamic, which in turn creates the principles of energy movement.
This field dynamic is repeated throughout the human body countless times in a range of large to infinitesimal patterns. The interaction of these fields gives rise to various currents of energy flow, which in turn support the physical structures of the body and their movement.
Another concept which is fairly universal among indigenous cultures is that of the five natural elements. These might be referred to as archetypal elements, because they describe the basic qualities of matter and consciousness. The five elements are Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether. The first four are manifest elements, while Ether is space, or the ground in which the other elements interact. One may notice the decreasing density implied in the progression from Earth through Ether and the correlation with Western science's states of matter (i.e., solids, liquids, gases, and plasma).
Polarity Therapy is a way of working with these various qualities of energy, the polarized energy fields, and the principles of energy movement as they manifest in the body. Polarity Therapists recognize blocked or flowing energy and work to restore life energy to optimal patterns in the body. Balancing a client's life energy is done through holding a series of polarized contacts throughout the client's body. Through the action of the polarity, or field dynamic established, energy moves. Energy changes its quality, or concentration, and begins flowing more openly throughout the system. The increased balance of life energy can lead to changes in the structure of the body, physiologic functioning, emotional status, mental state, or even attitudinal/spiritual shifts in a person.
While Polarity Therapy is similar in practice to most other forms of energy-based healing, such as Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, and laying on of hands, it is my impression that Polarity Therapy has a much more detailed theoretical basis. This allows comprehension of why the energy is doing what it is doing, and thus allows greater specificity in the therapeutic process.
Polarity Therapy Training. Professional practitioners of Polarity Therapy practice within a body of knowledge codified in the Standards for Practice document of the American Polarity Therapy Association (APTA, 1989). All courses of study in Polarity Therapy which lead to becoming a registered practitioner are based on the Standards for Practice.
The Standards for Practice summarizes a wide spectrum of concepts and techniques, including theory and principles of Polarity Therapy, anatomy and physiology (both orthodox and the energy model), polarity bodywork, communication and facilitation skills, energetic nutrition, self-help exercises and stretching postures for energy balancing, as well as guidelines for clinical supervision, business management, and professional ethics. Students of Polarity Therapy must complete specific studies within each area. Polarity bodywork and energy balancing techniques are inclusive of many other disciplines. For example, cranio-sacral therapy, reflexology, and myofascial release are all specific compoenents of Polarity Therapy. The APTA supports a student-centered learning process which is competency based.
Clinical supervision is an essential part of each training program. This allows instructors to guide the student's process of interacting with clients. Supervision fosters refinement of student's abilities with assessment, evaluation, treatment planning, clinical procedures and technique. Supervision builds confidence and supports the student in ones evolution toward being a practitioner.
Certification may be awarded through training programs (e.g., Certified Polarity Therapist), however, the only currently recognized credentials in the field of Polarity Therapy are registration as a professional practitioner with the American Polarity Therapy Association (APTA) or one of its sister associations around the world. APTA has set the standard for all Polarity Therapy associations, leading the way with its Standards for Practice, Code of Ethics, and Standards for education. Other Polarity Therapy associations model this lead. The American Polarity Therapy Association is the recognized professional organization providing support to its members, setting standards for professional competency and ethics, and promoting dialogue and research on the principles of Polarity Therapy.
Continuing education in Polarity Therapy is supported through APTA's national and regional conferences. Also, specialized seminars by masters of Polarity Therapy occur around the country.
Multiprofessionalism is common with Polarity Therapy. Many polarity practitioners are members of other allied health professions. The APTA membership includes medical doctors, nurses, psychologists and counselors, physical therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, and naturopathic doctors in addition to those for whom Polarity Therapy is their sole practice. Part of the reason for this eclecticism is that health care providers recognize greater effectiveness with clients doe to energy balancing.
It is conceivable that Polarity Therapy could provide a unifying model for the many forms of energy-based healing. Because Polarity Therapy is based upon the natural dynamics of energy systems, it can easily provide an integrating focus through which we can perceive the movement of life energy as it seeks balance.
1. American Polarity Therapy Association. Standards for Practice. Boulder, CO (1989).
2. R.O. Becker & G. Selden. The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life. Morrow: NY (1985).
3. S. Eabry. "Biogenic Magnetite in Humans." Energy: The Newsletter of the American Polarity Therapy Association. Boulder, CO (1993).
4. H. Kiewe. "New Paradigms of Life, Energy, and Polarity Therapy." SP: Montreal, Quebec (1989).
5. R. Metz. "Application of Magnetic and Polarity Principles to Life Energy Systems." SP: Santa Rosa, CA (1992).
6. F. Sills. The Polarity Process: Energy as a Healing Art. Element Books: Rockport, MA (1989).
7. R. Stone. Polarity Therapy: The Complete Collected Works of Dr. Randolph Stone, volumes 1 & 2. CRCS Publications: Sebastopol, CA (1986).
For further information contact the American Polarity Therapy Association, 122 N. Elm St., Suite 512; Greensboro, NC 27401; 336-574-1121, USA www.PolarityTherapy.org
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