Yoga, Meditation and Psychotherapy
Yoga, meditation and psychotherapy come from disparate
traditions that customarily have been suspicious of each other.
Western psychotherapists worried that yoga and meditation fostered
regression and dissociation that would be harmful to one’s
psyche. Eastern practitioners did not understand psychotherapy’s
preoccupation with the self. Today, however, these techniques are
increasingly being used together as complements.
Hatha yoga or yoga, as it is known in
the west, is an ancient Indian system of physical exercise that,
combined with pranayama or breathing exercises, promotes
relaxation and body-mind integration. Yoga has been shown to lower
blood pressure and decrease stress-related illnesses. It is now
being studied in the treatment of substance abuse and anxiety disorders
such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Meditation involves the retraining of attention
from the outer world to one’s own patterns of activity. Buddhist
mindfulness, or Vipassana, focuses attention on feelings,
thoughts and sensations, teaching one to disinterestedly observe
one’s own coming and going. In the Buddhist view, emotions,
like physical sensations, can be controlled by the mind. The Vedas
also promote “detachment,” suggesting that all human
suffering stems from desire and ignorance about the true nature
of man, which is one with the infinite. Research in meditation is
showing its effectiveness, and it is now being studied in the treatment
of everything from ADHD to pain management, depression and anxiety.
also promotes the development of the observing ego, a part of the
psyche that disinterestedly watches the interaction of the id, the
locus of drives and desires; the superego, the internal moral judge;
and the ego, the part of the psyche that mediates between the id,
superego and the external world. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, a
different theoretical model of psychotherapy, also postulates that
psychopathology occurs as a result of cognitive distortions and
teaches people to become aware of their automatic thoughts. The
behavioral component of this therapy seeks to change an individual’s
response when distressed by shaping that behavior itself. These
therapies seek to mitigate neurotic self-centeredness, correct misinterpretations
and teach new more effective strategies to meet one’s needs.
In the past, different theoretical models of therapy were rarely
combined. Now they are not only combined with each other and medications
that treat depression and anxiety, but also with yoga and meditation.
Yoga, meditation and psychotherapy all seek to
promote self-awareness, liberation from fear, openness and the discovery
of the authentic self. Practitioners who combine these approaches
are debating how best they should be combined. Such discussion is
very exciting. It may turn out that when East meets West, we may
discover quicker, more effective treatments for mental pain and
suffering that will reach more people.
Ranu Boppana, MD is a Board Certified Adult and Child Psychiatrist in private practice in New York, New York. She is also a Clinical Instructor at the NYU School of Medicine and was included in the Consumer Research Council of America's "Guide to America's Top Psychiatrists 2007 Edition."
ABCDlady does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See
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