Integrating Polarity Therapy in Yoga

This paper focuses on the way in which Eric Gomes, a Flemish physical therapist and yoga teacher, integrated the principles of polarity therapy in his own Hatha Yoga courses. Gomes (1935-) was one of the pioneers of yoga in Belgium. In 1971 he started his own yoga center in Ghent. A few years earlier, in 1968, he had heard about the existence of Randolph Stone’s Polarity Therapy and decided to read his work. Later he also followed a training at the Institute for Polarity in Zürich, where he obtained the degree of therapist in 1987.

Polarity Therapy originated with Randolph Stone (1890-1981), who was born in Austria, but moved to the US in 1909 where he studied osteopathy, chiropractic, naturopathy, naprapathy and neuropathy. He developed his own natural health care system, called Polarity Therapy, which seeks to balance the electromagnetic currents in the human body. Stone published several books on his method. His successors founded the American Polarity Therapy Association (APTA) and by now several international associations exist as well.

In my presentation I will first outline the basic principles of polarity therapy. In the second part I will focus on the way in which Gomes sought to integrate polarity therapy in his own yoga courses. According to Gomes, this method changed both his yoga practice and teaching. Although polarity therapy was originally developed as a physical therapy for individual clients, Gomes shifted its focus by applying it on a psychological level in his collective yoga classes. In this paper I will discuss why Gomes thought it was useful to integrate this method in his yoga classes and how he did so. This part of my paper will be based on interviews with Gomes. Finally, I will situate this example in the larger context of therapeutic applications of yoga in the modern world.