Polarity Therapy and Ayurveda

Ayurvedic Massage and Polarity TherapyPolarity is the art of balancing the life-energy. It has its roots in both the Western tradition of naturopathy and osteopathy and the Eastern tradition of Ayurveda which itself means the ‘knowledge of life-force’ in Sanskrit. It was a remarkable healer called Dr. Randolph Stone who developed this synthesis of East and West in the early part of the 20th century. His work as a naturopath and osteopath led him to realise that a purely mechanistic understanding of biological processes and structural manipulation did not bring lasting results. His search for the missing ingredient in the healing process set him on a life-long quest for the key to health and wellbeing. He travelled widely and was very impressed with the Ayurvedic and yogic teachings of India. There he found the link connecting Eastern and Western thought which is the concept of energy. He developed his understanding of vital energy with its fields and currents into a comprehensive system of healing which includes bodywork, yoga, nutrition and counselling.

The term Polarity comes from the principle that energy flows between opposite poles of positive and negative charges. This is represented all around us in nature by the polarities of solar/lunar energy, male/female etc. The human body is like a living electromagnet with the positive pole at the head and the negative pole at the feet. The physical body is seen as an expression of the inner subtle energies. The beam of spiritual energy enters at the crown of the head and changes frequency to form the five elements Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth through the step-down transformers we call chakras. A network of channels and pranic centres then distribute the life energy throughout the body. Dr. Stone had a gift for taking this esoteric knowledge and utilising it in a very practical hands-on way. He took the Ayurvedic Marma points therapy and integrated it with many bodywork techniques including osteopathic spinal alignment, craniosacral therapy and reflexology.

In a Polarity session, the practitioner seeks to bring into balance all levels of the client’s being – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. The key to this process is tuning in to the energy flow of the individual and discovering where it is blocked and how to get it moving again. A Polarity session usually consists of about an hour of hands-on bodywork which involves a series of both light and deep contacts to release the energy and allow it to re-establish a normal balanced flow. This process results in a deep relaxation for the client, allowing for a release of tension and chronic pain.

Dr. Stone said that our hands are our greatest healing tool when used with knowledge and intuition. The Polarity practitioner learns how to sense energy with the hands. We all have a natural ability to feel energy. I am always impressed by how quickly people pick this up in Polarity classes. Three types of touch are used – light, stimulating, and deep, or sattvic, rajasic and tamasic. The tamasic contact is used to release the denser blockages and the sattvic touch is used for balancing and distributing the energy.

Polarity Therapy requires the participation of the client in his/her own healing process. We often ask the client to focus on the point we are working on and to relax and breathe consciously into it to move the prana. When a blockage lets go it can often be accompanied by a release of held emotions and old thought patterns.. In Polarity we see emotions also as manifestations of the energies of the five elements and through the counselling process the client can gain a deeper insight into the cause of their illness or pain.

The understanding of the Five Elements is central to Polarity. Each element has its own frequency of energy, its own chakra and field of action in the body. The Polarity practitioner tunes into each individual and helps them harmonize their elemental forces on all levels. A Polarity bodywork session is an opportunity to discover in a tangible way how your thoughts and emotions affect your body

For example a client might be complaining of acidity and poor digestion, and the skin is red and inflamed. The bodywork reveals tension in the solar plexus and pain in the mid-back (the Fire chakra). An underlying pattern of frustration and anger emerge as the body releases its tension. These are all indications of a Fire imbalance. As the client explores the pattern, it is clear that the Fire element had become disturbed by old and unresolved resentments. Emotions are energy and when we block them we block the corresponding elemental energy. By becoming aware of how we lock our thoughts and feelings in our body we can let go and allow the elements to flow freely. This will then give a feeling of radiant energy and many symptoms will start to disappear naturally.

Polarity yoga is an integral part of the healing process. Prana is the name given by the yogis to the subtle life-energy which exists in all living things. Each time you breathe you cause the prana to move and bring energy not only to all the tissues and organs of your physical body but also your mental, emotional and spiritual bodies. The Polarity exercises are drawn from Hatha Yoga and Kundalini Yoga.

I began practicing Kundalini Yoga in 1973 when I met Yogi Bhajan, and in 1976 I went to the U.S. to do the teachers training course in Kundalini Yoga. This led naturally to studying Polarity and Ayurveda since the unifying theme between all these practices is prana – the life-energy in the breath. In Kundalini Yoga we combine the positive, radiant force of the prana with the negative force of the body, the’apana’, and this forms a psychic heat at the navel point which then circulates through the ‘nadis’ and chakras bringing physical healing and spiritual awakening. The caduceus diagram showing the solar and lunar energies intertwining around the central channel of the spine expresses this energy flow in symbolic form. This symbol is common to Kundalini Yoga, Polarity, Ayurveda and also is present in the West as the medical symbol and the staff of Hermes. When I teach Kundalini Yoga I find that the dynamic breathing practices very quickly give students a direct experience of this healing force.

In diet as well as in bodywork, Polarity blends western naturopathic methods with the Ayurvedic approach. Dr. Stone advocated following a naturopathic cleansing diet in order to help eliminate the toxins which accumulate in our tissues due to improper diet and way of life. The cleansing diet is especially helpful during a series of sessions since toxins are released as a result of the bodywork. Polarity emphasises the importance of living food which still has the prana in it, and Dr. Stone was one of the original promoters of wheat grass juice and sprouted seeds. A cleansing regime comprises living purely on fresh juices, raw fruits and vegetables (or sometimes steamed depending on the person’s constitution.) It can also include a ‘liver flush’, as well as the ‘intestinal broom’ which consists of grated raw carrot, beetroot, and cabbage. This is alternated with a ‘health-building diet’ which is based on the Ayurvedic approach to food.

When selecting foods one has to take into account that each individual has an innate ‘constitution’ – vata (air/ether), pitta (fire), kapha (water/earth). Foods can be classified as having the vibration of one element or another based upon such factors as taste and the level of the earth’s magnetic field at which they grow. Overcooked foods are to be avoided, being tamasic and devoid of prana.

Towards the end of his life, Dr. Stone held seminars to share his vast knowledge not only with chiropractors and osteopaths but anyone who wanted to study his unique system. It was in New York in the late seventies that I came across the Polarity Wellness Centre. What attracted me to Polarity was the comprehensive nature of the practice. It seemed to pull together the many strands of healing and yoga that I had studied up to that point and weave them into an all-encompassing model of life-energy and the healing process. Not only is Polarity a professional qualification in itself, but because of its eclectic nature, it also has a way of blending with and deepening other aspects of the healing arts such as massage, craniosacral, psychotherapy, homoeopathy etc. Polarity is a healing journey in itself bringing personal growth and a new lifestyle and way of seeing the world.

A new training programme for Polarity Therapy will be starting in Autumn 2011. Contact Rex on 01792 371421.