Polarity, Reiki and their ilk

by Hortensia 13 Replies latest social current

  • Hortensia

    I owned a massage school, taught massage for over 20 years, practiced massage for nearly 30 years. Massage/bodywork -- some folks who do bodywork don't like the word massage but I don't care. Bodywork sounds like car repair to me. It's all about educated touch.

    Now, here's the thing I came to understand during all those years of all kinds of bodywork, some related to physical therapy, some pretty woowoo stuff. I used to try to get students to understand this, but often they didn't get it. In bodywork, using maybe polarity as an example, first of all there's the thing you DO. You put your hands in specific places, move them in specific ways, with specific pressure, specific timing. That's the technique, it's what we teach in school.

    THEN, there's what comes next. The client reports changes, like maybe less pain, less anxiety, better sleep, better digestion, whatever. And the bodyworker can see/feel changes, such as softer muscle tissue, greater range of motion. The temptation is to say that the two are related - what you DO and what follows, in other words that polarity or whatever massage technique you are using has caused the changes in the client. BUT, you can't really say that based on one or a few experiences. You can maybe start to believe in the effects of the technique IF you can replicate the results, using the same techniques on different people, other people using the same techniques can replicate the results, and there is a large enough group of similar results to provide some basis for making the claim that bodywork can help with these problems.

    FINALLY, there's what you believe about it all. Do you think that you are achieving these results because you are moving energy around? What is energy, anyway? Do you think that you are achieving these results because people are touch-deprived and any skillful touch will help them? Maybe you think it's mechanical - relax these muscle tissues and you get this kind of range of motion? Maybe you think it has to do with the nervous system? Maybe you think you are channeling Jesus Christ?

    The thing that matters is learning the techniques well enough to give the client a good massage session -- good meaning they enjoy it and feel good afterward. For me, the rest is all subject to debate. It's hard to do scientific studies of something as subjective as massage, although tons of studies have been done. It's hard to make sure the study isn't flawed in some way. Still, I agree from my own experience that clients get some good physiological and psychological benefits from massage. I just don't think that all the benefits that massage therapists claim are really true. Also, who cares what the mechanism of the change is? I don't really, except I think that physiological changes are probably due to physiological causes, not mysterious things like qi/chi that can't really be defined or measured. To some people that matters a lot, and they either make up theories based on their understanding of how the body works, or they try to do some studies to figure it out.

    Oh well, does anyone besides me care? The amazing Randy cares - he's offered a big prize to anyone who can "prove" polarity works. What he means is that he wants some proof that what polarity practitioners believe about what they do is true, polarity theory in other words. Obviously people feel better after a polarity treatment, not all, but at least enough in studies to make it likely that the technique makes people feel better. But the theory on which polarity is based isn't very likely to be true. I think I make a couple of distinctions that the amazing Randy doesn't make.

  • Hortensia

    P. S. I'm a poll worker Tuesday, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. So, if any of you respond or discuss this, I won't be getting back to you until Wednesday. I'm going to bed early tonight. And I have the feeling anyway that it doesn't matter very much to anyone except me! But, dammit, I wanted to say it. Apropos of nothing, by the way, which is usual for me. Brain wanders off . . . starts conversations in the middle . . . and makes left turns without signalling.

  • crmsicl

    I'm taking this in. For clarification is Massage considered Polarity Therapy. I had to google that quickly so I think not.

    I do have some thoughts about this.

  • Satanus

    So, what brought this up:)


  • crmsicl


    Did anyone ever hear of Restorative Touch? There is a 4 year program at a "school" where they teach "woo woo" stuff.

    I went to my local Health Food Store one day and sometimes there is someone there who gives a neck/shoulder massage. This day there was a woman there who did not touch my body at all (she did hold the arch of my feet at the beginning and end), she put this magnetic card on my stomach and with my chakras as her guide she waved her hands above me to and fro, this way and that, seeming to shoo the bad stuff away. I was being open minded about it. All I can say is it was interesting. She said when I was done that my eyes looked brighter. Can't say I felt anything noteworthy.


  • cofty

    Interesting Hortensia, that sounds like a very rational approach to a subject where its often difficult to separate the therapy from the woo.

    Enjoy the poll work.

  • still thinking
    still thinking

    Marking...coming back later to read.

  • Dagney

    Hortensia, have you heard of "Bowen Therapy?" I don't know how it works, but it assists the body to heal itself, even structually. Great success with curvatures of the spine. Non invasive...I have never seen anything like it. I have even considered taking the course.

  • Open mind
    Open mind

    While you put a finer point on it than Randi, I still think he would be give your post a

    What's it like being a "heretic" in your chosen field? Have you always been able to see past the woo?

    I couldn't help thinking of one of my favorite Tim Minchin quotes while reading your words:

    Do you know what they call "alternative medicine"
    That's been proved to work?

    If you've never read or listened to his beat-style poem "Storm", you really should:



  • Hortensia

    Election is over by the way, had a great day even though it was a long one. Smallest turnout anyone has ever seen - I bet not more than 10% of the registered voters voted. Because the election was a big waste of money and time - voting on who will be state senator for a district that we are no longer in as of January 1.

    I liked your poem, open mind. I have had many conversations like that. Eventually I learned to just say, "isn't that interesting?"

    I remember once I went to an herbal trade show. Listened to the owner of a huge herb company go on and on about his claims that "studies show" the most ludicrous stuff. I stood up finally and asked him "what studies?" Oh, if looks could kill I would have been dead. It was great fun.

    When I first went to massage school I was extremely depressed and on my way out of the wtbts. Since I figured I was birdfood anyway, I jumped into all the woo-woo stuff with both feet. Lots of fun and very interesting, but it didn't take me long to see that it was long on bullshit and short on fact.

    Massage is an absolutely wonderful service, very helpful for many things (yes, I could show you the studies), but I hate to hear massage therapists talk bullshit about what they do. It's embarassing if you take your work seriously.

    And anyway, I think one of the best benefits of massage is simply that you get someone's undivided attention and skillful touch for an hour. How many adults ever get an entire hour of undivided positive attention?

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