I am on an intensive training course this week, part of my journey to become a fully fledged psychotherapist. I’ve already got over 600 hours face to face training, and am doing another 330 in 2011/12. And today someone asked me what my main model of therapy is. I scratched my head, unable to put into words a nice, neat little model. Everything that I do is guided by the client’s needs and there is no one model. But then I thought again: what guides everything I do, that which presides over my entire framework is yoga.
Yoga, especially when combined with psychotherapy, helps you develop a deeper connection to yourself and reconnect body and mind to release deep emotional and physical tensions. By combining Western talk psychotherapy (nlp psychotherapy, CBT therapy, self relations therapy) with Eastern tools of yoga, yoga therapy uses the wisdom of the body to heal the mind and the power of the mind to heal the body.
But we have to use a framework, a model to understand where the client is now and where he or she wants to be.
Framework – assessment
This may include an assessment of the gunas, the basic ‘texture’ of their personality, to determine whether someone is predominantly sattvi, rajasic or tamasic:
- Sattva (originally “being, existence, entity”) has been translated to mean balance, order, or purity. Indologist Georg Feuerstein translates sattva as “lucidity”.
- Rajas (originally “atmosphere, air, firmament”) is also translated to mean change, movement or dynamism.
- Tamas (originally “darkness”, “obscurity”) has been translated to mean “too inactive” or “inertia”, negative, lethargic, dull, or slow. Usually it is associated with darkness, delusion, or ignorance.
It will also include an intuitive assessment of the kleshas : which are the deep ‘afflictions’ (mental disturbances) that are driving a particular behaviour and causing this person’s suffering?
- AVIDYA, which means ignorance. Specifically, it means not seeing the truth (a-vidya). It is ignorance of the reality that transcends individual lifetimes and the physical universe. the other kleshas are related to avidya.
- Asmita (I-am-ness) is the identification of ourselves with our ego. We create a false self-image of ourselves that we believe is us, but it is actually not us (not our real self). This self-image can contain both external (I am poor) and internal (I am a bad person) false limiting beliefs about ourselves. We become trapped within these limiting beliefs.
- Raga (attachment) is the attraction for things that bring pleasure or satisfaction to oneself. Our desire for pleasurable experiences creates mindless actions and blind sighted vision. When we cannot obtain what we desire, we suffer. When we do obtain what we desire, our feelings of pleasure soon fade and we begin our search for pleasure again, becoming trapped in a endless cycle.
- Dvesha (repulsion) is the opposite of raga, is the the running away from unpleasant experiences (people, things), compulsive avoidance of suffering. If we cannot avoid the things we dislike, we suffer. Even thinking about unpleasant experiences produces suffering.
- Abhinivesha (will to live) is the deepest and most universal klesha, the most difficult to overcome, and remaining with us until our deaths. We know that one day we will indeed die, yet our fear of death is a deeply buried in our unconsciousness.
Where are we blocked?
I also consider what is going on energetically with someone. Where are we blocked? what are we neglecting or hiding from deep within ourselves? The chakras often hold the clue to this – a knot in the heart, or stomach. Someone can only connect to a neglected part of self (a buried trauma or emotion) if they have a strong enough ‘competent self’ to hold that neglected part. So chakra work can include strengthening of the inner self and building a connection to inner power. Then the work can begin on the darkness within – because in that darkness lies our real power. But it takes courage to connect to it and welcome it as part of ourself.
Overtly a yoga therapy session consists of a tailored yoga programme, designed to work therapeutically to restore your health, combined with psychotherapy (and our talking therapy has a very ‘somatic’ focus).
Each one to one session is a workout for the body and the mind that translates to benefits that clear out trauma and mental tension and make you a more positive person. Yoga psychotherapy uniquely combines the power of the mind with the wisdom of the body. Many of the psychosomatic symptoms of common illness and disease are found in the body, but it is in these very symptoms that the power to heal body and mind lies.
That is why we (usually) start with the body in yoga therapy. Using the body we can access the autonomic nervous system and rebalance the ‘system’. Then we use talk therapy to tap into the power of the mind (most the unconscious mind!).
A typical session involves working one to one on the mat with the yoga therapist, involving breath work (breath retraining), and doing a series of specially designed, assisted, restorative postures and talk therapy and self hypnosis techniques.