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Polarity Therapy - Touch with Awareness

by Anthony Deavin(more info)

listed in polarity therapy, originally published in issue 133 - March 2007

Polarity Therapy is one of the extensive groups of ‘hands-on’ therapies which use touch to facilitate healing. It was developed by Dr Randolph Stone in the 1950s in the USA. He felt that something essential for healing was lacking, in his background of Osteopathy, Chiropractic and Naturopathy. The breakthrough came in 1945, through his coming into contact with Surat Shabd Yoga and the living master Maharaj Sawan Sing.[1] Dr Stone realised that he needed to work with the world of energy and the ‘subtle anatomy’ of the body, including Chakra and Energy pathways, and the life-force conveyed by cerebrospinal fluid. These insights are now common currency within the alternative therapy movement, but were not so during the time of development of Polarity Therapy.

Fig 1. The hands are placed simultaneously on two positions on the body, chosen to promote the flow and balancing of energy.
Fig 1. The hands are placed simultaneously on two positions on the body,
chosen to promote the flow and balancing of energy.

Dr Stone developed unique approaches to the use of touch which remain valid to this day, and make possible the extraordinary simplicity of Polarity Therapy. The energy perspective that he presented is so broad in its scope that current developments in bodywork can be incorporated with ease within the Polarity framework: Polarity is, indeed, the art of healing by touch.

The Unique Principle of Working with Polarity Therapy

The hands are placed simultaneously on two positions on the body (Figure 1), chosen to promote the flow and balancing of energy. We have created two poles using our touch: hence the name Polarity Therapy. The innate intelligence of the body, working with the touch and attention of the therapist and the energy from the therapist’s hands,[2] dissolves any obstruction to energy flow. The therapist experiences the flow of energy between the hands and the unmistakable relaxation of tissues under the fingers. At exactly the same time, the client experiences changes, e.g. relief of soreness, tightness and pain. It is important to appreciate that the therapist does not ‘do’ anything, except to offer touch and awareness. During the training in Polarity Therapy, students come to know how they, personally, experience the flow of energy. Common indications are: tingling in the hands, vibration, pulsation in the finger tips, ‘waves’ flowing through the arms and ‘just knowing’. We wait until the sensation is the same in both hands and any soreness or pain at the client’s contact points has dissipated. It is therefore easy to know how long to hold the hands in a particular position:  the practitioner’s experience of energy and the client’s body present all the information needed.

Types of Touch Used in Polarity Therapy

During a session of Polarity Therapy, different styles of touch will generally be used in order to facilitate the flow of energy. This variation in the use of touch is a particular characteristic of Polarity Therapy. We may work in the aura, as with Therapeutic Touch and Spiritual Healing, use a light touch, familiar to practitioners of Reiki and Craniosacral Therapy, employ movement in order to traction the tissues, as with Shiatsu and Massage, or employ deep pressure, as used in Acupressure and Reflexology. When employing movement, one hand will normally be held still while the other rocks the body, continuing until energy flows. The degree of deep touch used is such that the client is aware of pain or soreness, but not overwhelmed by it. Touch is maintained until the client experiences no residue of pain or soreness, while at the same time the practitioner experiences energy flow. When employing touch with movement or pressure, the practitioner always concludes with a light touch. This gives the body the time it needs to integrate any changes that have taken place.

Whilst maintaining Polarity contacts, e.g. between shoulder and elbow, the practitioner may become aware of spontaneous movement within the tissues. By attending to and following such movement, the whole arm, for example, may move vigorously for a while and then suddenly stop. This process of ‘unwinding’.[3] can occur with any part of the body and often results in considerable release from pain or stiffness. In such cases, the innate intelligence of the client’s body, through its connection with the touch and awareness of the practitioner, is able to resolve its problem, while the therapist simply observes from a neutral place.

When touch is very light, the experience can be very different from the experience of energy flow described above, e.g. pulsation in the finger tips. Especially when holding the head, it may feel as if the hands are slowly being pushed out and withdrawn by a kind of breath which Sutherland called “The breath of life”.[4] This is a subtle emanation associated with the cerebrospinal fluid4 which flows within the meninges of the central nervous system and corresponds to what Dr Stone called the “ultrasonic energy current of the Soul”.[5,6] (Figure 2).

Fig 2. From Stone R. Polarity Therapy. Collected Works. Vol 3. 1986
Fig 2. From Stone R. Polarity Therapy. Collected Works. Vol 3. 1986

The practitioner of Polarity Therapy develops an awareness of their client’s different energetic characteristics[7] and hence the nature of the touch needed to restore their energetic balance. For example, an ‘airy’ person, i.e. one with a light build and variable thought patterns, will generally need a very light touch to harmonize their mobile energy. The more substantial, slow type, on the other hand, may well respond to touch with pressure in order to release stuck energy patterns.

Energy and Ill-Health from the Polarity Perspective

Dr  Stone turned to the Ayurvedic tradition of India in order to describe energy. According to this tradition, energy has five qualities or elements: Ether (space), Air (movement), Fire (transformation, heat), Water (cohesion, fluid) and Earth (materiality, stability). Imbalance in one or more elements gives rise to ill-health, e.g. imbalance in fire may give rise to indigestion or poor eyesight; imbalance in air can result in nervousness, headaches and poor sleep, imbalance in water can result in excess mucus and obesity, and disturbed earth, a sense of a lack of ‘grounding’ and colon problems. Where ether is compromised, the person feels overwhelmed by events: there is no space, nowhere to turn.

Using this approach to describe the relationship between energy imbalance and health problems, we have to bear in mind that the disturbance of one element may affect another, e.g. the primary cause of indigestion (fire imbalance) is often nervousness (air imbalance). In such cases, we would need to treat air imbalance rather than fire.

Knowing Where to Place the Hands

An important aspect of the art of Polarity Therapy lies in identifying the two places on the body where the hands need to be placed. The presence of a sore, tight or painful place is the body’s way of telling us the contact point for one hand. For the other hand, there are several options for contact, some of which are described below. Note that when the hands are simply used to balance energy, there may be no sore, tight or painful place under either hand.

Examples of Relationships Used in Polarity Therapy

In Polarity Therapy there are many guidelines as to where the hands may be placed to deal with different conditions. The following are some examples:

Five Element Relationships
Each element has three special contact points on the body, any two of which may be used for balancing that element. These contact points are as follows:[8]

Earth    Neck; Colon; Knees
Water    Shoulders & Chest; Pelvis; Ankles & Achilles Tendon
Fire    Eyes; Solar Plexus; Thighs
Air    Shoulders, Kidneys & Colon; Calves.
Ether    Ether is in the joints.

Examples of using these relation-ships would be the release of sore points in a stiff neck by relating these to sore points under the knee (Earth), and the relaxing of tight thighs by relating sore points on the thighs to the navel – the solar plexus contact point (Fire).

Above and Below
Points located on each side of the body or part of the body, e.g. elbow, form a relationship. Using this information can lead to very effective treatment, which we may call ‘above and below’, e.g. headaches may be treated by placing one hand over the site of the headache and the other hand on the opposite side of the head. At the same time as the practitioner experiences energy flow between the hands, the client senses a decrease in the intensity of the headache. Another example would be calming the site of an injury, e.g. knee or ankle by placing the hands on each side. Often the shock from the injury will be released by dramatic jerking, followed by easing of pain.

The Part Contains the Whole
Dr  Stone discovered valuable therapeutic relationships by applying the principle that the part contains the whole. For example, if the whole body is superimposed on the foot, the relationship between body parts and points on the foot becomes clear, a fact well known to Reflexologists. The Polarity Therapist will contact the foot reflex, e.g. diaphragm reflex, with one finger and touch the corresponding part of the body, e.g. diaphragm under the ribs, with the other, waiting for energy flow and tissue release. Release of both body and foot reflex is generally faster using this method than the traditional method in Reflexology of working the foot reflex alone. Alternatively, the knowledge of Polarity contact points on the body can be applied to the foot, holding two points on the foot and waiting for release.[9]

By superimposing the cranium on the pelvis, Dr Stone discovered relationships between the cranium and the pelvis, e.g. the TMJ (jaw joint) relates to the hip joint, contacts which are used to release tight jaws and clenched teeth. The occiput relates to the sacrum so that contacting the back of the head and the sacrum with gentle touch is wonderful for balancing. (Figure 3).

Fig 3. From Sills F The Polarity Process 1989
Fig 3. From Sills F The Polarity Process 1989

Contacts for the Spine
Spinal problems can be eased, often dramatically, using Polarity Therapy. It should be noted that any improvements are not the result of manipulation in the manner of Osteopathy or Chiropractic. Any changes are due to the body finding a way to adjust itself, following the clearing of energy congestion. Problems with vertebrae may be cleared by contacting the coccyx with the finger of one hand, and holding any sore spinous process between thumb and finger with the other hand. (The sore spinous process is the body’s way of indicating which vertebra needs attention.) Sore places in the muscles running each side of the spine may be cleared by contacting the ischium (sitting bone) with one hand and the sore place with the other hand.

The Polarity Session

The Polarity Therapist will form a view as to how to begin the session from the client’s description of how they feel, information from their case history, the quality of the client’s auric field and pulses, observation of posture, and the presence of sore places on the feet and body as a whole. The session unfolds as the therapist uses appropriate contact points to clear sore places and balance energy, making use of client feedback to gain a sense of which contacts to make. The quality of a session is one of ‘following’ the information which is presented through the hands, general observation, client feedback and intuition. Often, disturbing emotions, images or memories are experienced by the client, released from the tissue memory during the body-work.[10] The Polarity Therapist is trained in a variety of approaches to help the client resolve such disturbing events from the past. Thus each Polarity session is a unique adventure which leads the client towards physical ease, energetic balance and stillness.

Case Study

Client: Mrs.DF, aged 42, married with no children, bouncy, lively and active and a delight to work with.

Symptoms, with indications for Polarity Therapy:
  • Knee problems, the left one locking when bending down, preventing movement. ‘Fire work’ possibly indicated, with hands on knee and navel;
  • Painful lower back. Pelvic and lower back holds indicated;
  • Gastric reflux with occasional vomiting. Digestive problems may indicate ‘fire imbalance’;
  • Cold hands and feet for many years. Lack of circulation to the periphery indicates ‘fire imbalance’;
  • Acne rosacea (cheeks with red flush). Excess heat indicates ‘fire’ imbalance;
  • Tennis elbow in the right arm. Presence of Inflammation, i.e. excess heat, indicates ‘fire’ imbalance.
The overall impression was that the Fire element was out of balance and needed to form the focus of treatment, at least in the initial stages. (Interestingly, D has worked closely with her diet and finds that curries (‘fire’) exacerbate her indigestion.)

Treatment:

D had 5 sessions of treatment over a period of one month. All sessions commenced by supporting the head with the hands in a ‘cradle hold’. (Gently holding the head provides the practitioner with the opportunity to ‘tune in’ to the client, to sense the quality of their energy, and to allow the neck to release any tension by ‘unwinding’.)

Key aspects of the body-work for each session were as follows;

Session 1. 23.02.06.
‘Fire work’: With one hand touching the navel, the other hand was placed sequentially on the groin, thighs, knees, ankles  and middle toe, until energy flowed between the navel and middle toe. This draws ‘fire’ energy from the navel area to the cold feet.
Session 2. 02.03.06.
D reported some improvement in her elbow and knees and that she needed to urinate much more frequently! She had felt really good. The session commenced with ‘tummy rocking’ to activate stagnant energy, followed by treatment of the knees with the ‘above and below’ technique. This resulted in ‘unwinding’ movements of the knee. Finally, the ‘fire work’ of session 1 was repeated, concluding with energy balancing: One hand lightly on the navel and the other on the forehead and then knees. Balancing  using light touch is important. It gives the body the opportunity to integrate any changes in energy flow, and the practitioner the space to simply ‘be’ with the client.
Session 3. 06.03.06.
D said her knees had been feeling good. In this session, the whole pelvis was treated by placing one hand under the sacrum and the other hand above. The pelvis ‘unwound’, relaxed, and energy flowed between the hands. Then followed ‘above and below’ treatment of knees, thighs, and right elbow. The right elbow ‘unwound’, giving off heat as it moved. Heat is often given off as tissues relax. This could prove beneficial for the inflammation of D’s tennis elbow.
Session 4. 16.03.06.
D said that her knees had been ‘great’, her digestion had been fine, and that her feet had not been cold at all! However, her hands were still cold. This suggests that ‘fire’ treatment is proving successful. However, circulation to the hands requires attention. Circulation to the hands was enhanced using ‘fire work’ in a similar fashion to work on the legs in Session 1: With one hand touching the navel, the other hand was placed sequentially to the armpit, top of the arm, elbow, wrist and middle finger. D noticed the hands feeling warmer!
Session 5.  20.03.06.
D arrived with sore legs and buttock due to carrying boxes in preparation for moving house. Firstly, the pelvis was loosened by ‘rocking’ at the hips. General movement of tissues is an excellent preparation for energy work. Sore places around the knees were released with one hand on the knee and the other touching the sitting bone (ischial tuberosity). The sitting bone may be used as an alternative contact to the navel, used in earlier sessions. There is always a choice of connections in Polarity Therapy: it is a question of ‘what works’.

The knees were also treated by placing the hands ‘above and below’, waiting for tissue movement and energy flow. The session concluded with balancing holds, using light touch on left shoulder and right hip and on right shoulder and left hip. This is a frequently used and effective balancing technique, appropriate whatever Polarity holds have been used.

Conclusion

In summing up the results of her treatments, D said that she was now feeling really good. Over the past three weeks she had felt healthier, with no indigestion , no bloating and more efficient elimination. She felt more supple, with no knee or elbow problems and was delighted with the outcome.

References

1.    Berger B.  Esoteric Anatomy. The Body as Consciousness. North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California. p207. ISBN 1-55643-224-0. 1998.
2.    Oschman J.L. Energy Medicine. The Scientific Basis. Churchill Livingstone. ISBN 0-443-06261-7. 2000.
3.    Upledger J. E. & Vredevoogd J.D. Craniosacral Therapy. ISBN O-939616-01-7. 1983.
4.    Kern M. Wisdom in the Body. The Craniosacral Approach to Essential Health. Thornsons, ISBN 0-7225-3708-5. 2001.
5.    Berger B. ibid. p158.
6.    Stone R. Polarity Therapy. Collected works. Vol. 3. Chart 1. CRCS Publications USA. ISBN 0-916360-48-2. 1986.
7.    Lad V. Ayurveda, The Art of Self-Healing. Lotus Press. ISBN 0-914955-00-4. 1984.
8.    Sills F. The Polarity Process. Energy as a Healing Art. Element Books. Shaftesbury, Dorset. ISBN 1-85230-052-3. 1989.
9.    Williamson J. An Introduction to Precision Reflexology. Positive Health. June 1998.
10.    Deavin A. Releasing Trauma through Bodywork, The Power of Awareness. Positive Health. August 2000. See also www.a-deavin. co.uk

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About Anthony Deavin

Anthony Deavin BSc PhD RPP RCST has a BSc and PhD in chemistry and research experience in the biological sciences. Anthony then studied Ayurveda (Indian Medical Science), qualified in Medical Herbalism, and lectured in Anatomy and Physiology and Pathology. Subsequently he qualified in Polarity Therapy and Cranio-sacral Therapy, and established a Training in Polarity Therapy. More recently, Anthony's focus has shifted to gaining the skills necessary to help his clients overcome the trauma, limiting beliefs and turbulent emotions which prevent them realising their direction and purpose in life. To this end, Anthony has qualified in Journey Therapy and Theta Healing and has studied many other methods, most recently Reference Point Therapy. Anthony now teaches Causal Healing, which integrates all the methods he has studied and practised into one unified approach. His clinic work combines Herbal Medicine, Polarity Therapy and Causal healing.

Anthony may be contacted by on Tel: 01737 842749; anthony.deavin@btopenworld.com   www.causalhealing.com

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