Mary Jo Ruggieri believes heath care really is recession-proof. Despite the economic downturn, clients at her Columbus Polarity Center have kept their commitments to physical and emotional health. Ruggieri thinks that's because people are making health a priority amid other personal cutbacks.

Mary Jo Ruggieri believes heath care really is recession-proof.

Despite the economic downturn, clients at her Columbus Polarity Center have kept their commitments to physical and emotional health. Ruggieri thinks that's because people are making health a priority amid other personal cutbacks.

And plenty of people, especially those now searching for a new job, are showing increased interest in training at a sister center also run by Ruggieri, the Ohio Institute of Energetic Studies and Bodywork.

Both have been based in the concept of polarity therapy since they were founded in the mid-'90s, according to Ruggieri (the polarity center also offers massage therapy, reiki and Rolfing, among other services).

On a basic level, "polarity" means "balance." And polarity therapy is the pursuit of balanced energies in the body, which alleviates stress and pain, though techniques rooted in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.

Polarity therapy dictates that stress and pain buildups in the body are direct causes of disease, Ruggieri said. She compares them to accidents on a highway, causing a traffic jam of energy in the body's energy flows.

Between clients' complaints and their own observations, bodywork practitioners resolve energy blockades by putting pressure on points in the clients' hands, shoulders and feet.

"We can hold our hand over a part of the body and tell where the tension is," Ruggieri said.

In the polarity center, individual sessions take place in private rooms on padded tables, with soft, quiet music playing. People with pains and strains and those undergoing chemo or other treatments benefit most from polarity therapy sessions, Ruggieri said. But they see plenty of otherwise healthy people, including athletes.

"We coach them to work on stress," said Ruggieri, who coached members of the Ohio State women's synchronized swim team to the Olympics in 1988 and '92. "We can see things happening before they happen because we look at patterns and energy."

At the Ohio Institute of Energetic Studies and Bodywork, people can study to become registered polarity practitioners certified by the American Polarity Therapy Association, and train for other holistic health careers. It's registered with the Ohio State Board of Career Colleges and Schools.

Holistic health care practitioners have close partnerships with others from psychologists to chiropractors, and the network needs to be even stronger as the health care field continues to take on more patients, Ruggieri said.

"We really want to be the key center for holistic health care," she said. "If we can't work with someone within our scope of practice, we'll consult and get the right doctor."