It feels important to say that in my mission to bring more and more refined psychological concepts into the world of yoga, that I am actually not teaching anything that is not present in the ancient texts, anything not already embedded in the primary teachings of yoga itself and anything we haven't learned from the effective cosmology charts of different lineages.
If you study Hindu myth, the same teachings of psychological concepts are there. And I dare say these concepts existed in the ways of yoga before the therapists and neuroscientists started catching on. Freud, Jung, Perls, Bowlby, Siegel and the like, all the heavy hitters, they didn’t invent things. They showed and have continued to show in a different way and in a different language what it is the yogis were saying for years and years.
Also, we have seen an evolution in the world of psychology. Much of Freud is outdated for where we are now in our cultural conception and modern conventions. We are all built on someone else back and this is surely true in the psychology world. Although much of Freud we may toss, we also have built major understanding for each other and ourselves because of his crazy ideas.
This too is the case in yoga. Each stream and method built in response to or out of connection with another. We are always comingling, mixing, evolving. We know both theoretically and experientially that when we experience inertia or we are constantly stuck on one channel or one way of being we develop neurosis.
Options allow for health. They force our discernment.
The fusion or rather I should say, overt connection of yoga and psychology gives more options one either side of the same coin. Imagine making a penny worth more than one cent. This is what I am up to. It is what many of us are up to. We are increasing the worth and value of both systems as the call for integrative evolution quickens.
Far too many people turn toward psychology in the great void of loosing our mythic consciousness. If we go after our minds and leave our mythic allegories, our faith, our devotion, and our practices behind, then we are just as lost as when we only live in spiritual naiveté. We know in our modern western culture we cannot simply yoga our sins away. Rather yoga becomes the tool or the method through which we can both observe what is and create change. Productive witness function and a healthy humble mind are keys to making accurate discernments as well as lasting changes. Similarly, if we leave the body behind we may never access the breadth and depth of wisdom actually contained within us.
I want to assure my fellow yogis that all those yamas and niyamas, all those paths to samadhi, they are still revered in the psychology world. They just come under other names like emotional regulation, mindfulness, distress tolerance and the like. For me I believe it is more about making these processes sacred to the yogi overt to the modern human being rather than allowing them to appear as purely magical yogic experiences.
The blending of yoga and modern psychology may afford us the understanding that the seeming magic and miracles of yoga are not chance or happenstance. They are real. They can be repeated. They can be used in overt ways to facilitate huge change at the personal, interpersonal and intrapersonal levels.
My hope is that the yogis and therapists alike feel less and less threatened by one another. Without some kind of body-based ritual, sorry therapists, your work will, dare, I boldly say flop. Your clients should have faith in something much bigger than themselves, or you, for that matter.
Faith is a marker of psychological health.
Without the rich understanding of the mind and our behaviors, we are too easily swayed. We too easily succumb to the perils of spiritual practice including bypass and manipulation as well as inefficacy. Spiritual practice as well as body-based practice does not excuse behaviors in the daily-life realm. We have evolved too far for that to be enough. The realities and practicalities of modern western life are now out of the bounds of what the sutras say. Psychology concepts can help the yogis reinterpret and re-attune to the truths of the age-old texts. We may find these teachings more applicable, and hence more meaningful to our current times.
Yoga has always been the evolution of a revolution. Why should it be different now?
Lastly, I have to confess as both yogi and therapist I still do agree with Patanjali. Above all, when all else fails, pray to God.