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Yogic Psychotherapy
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Yogic Psychotherapy

Emotional suffering has overwhelmed humanity since time immemorial. No wonder that individuals through the course of human civilization have been desperately searching for methods to ameliorate psychological distress. With rapid modernization and social-cultural changes over the last two centuries, the prevalence, complexity and intensity of mental distress increased manifold. Towards the end of the 19th century, contemporary psychotherapy started developing in the west with the aim of helping people deal with psychological disorders and has been growing since then. At the moment there are several forms of counselling and psychotherapy being practiced across the globe. While there are some differences between the various schools of thought in how they understand, conceptualize and treat mental problems, the underlying philosophical assumptions about human nature are quite similar.

Western psychology views man as a supreme marvel of evolution having a well-developed mind as compared to all other living organisms. However, it concludes that this mind is prone to irrationality, conflicts and deficits because of genetic, neurochemical and adverse life experiences. The goal of contemporary psychotherapist is to understand these factors deeply and help the client to think rationally, resolve intrapsychic conflicts and recover from deficits so that the person develops a healthy ego and the mind can function at its optimal level. It is assumed that when this happens, the suffering becomes manageable and the individual is able to find some happiness and meaning in his life. Clinical experience has shown that although the suffering does become manageable, it is never completely gone. Further, there is always a risk that either the person may have a relapse or suffer from a new disorder.

In contrast to this, yoga was developed in ancient India by different seers and sages to help man unite with the Divine and experience perfection at all levels. There are different systems of yoga, the prominent ones being ashtanga yoga, bhakti yoga, hatha yoga, integral yoga, jnana yoga, karma yoga, kriya yoga, kundalini yoga, raja yoga and surat-shabad yoga. These different systems represent diverse creative pathways to approach and have a union with the Divine. Some people are able to experience the heights of consciousness through one method, while others benefit from a different path and there are others for whom a combination works out to be the best.

Treating psychological disorders had never been the end goal of yoga, but only a stepping stone in the evolution of consciousness. According to yogic thought, we suffer because of our flawed psychological make-up that keeps us away from realizing who we really are. All of us have the Divine element lying dormant within us, but we remain cut off from this permanent bliss. When all the fluctuations and illusions of the mind are removed through practice, detachment and surrender, the individual consciousness gets united with the supreme consciousness. Then the Divine element manifests within us and we become the pure consciousness. This consciousness is free from all kinds of suffering and full of bliss, harmony and perfection.

In order to help people become free from suffering and evolve to the epitome of perfection, contemporary psychotherapy needs to be united with yoga. Pulkit Sharma is a clinical psychologist and spiritual therapist who practices yogic psychotherapy wherein he integrates contemporary psychotherapy with yoga. He sees contemporary psychotherapy and yoga on a continuum. When someone has a fragile ego and mind, contemporary psychotherapy can be of great help initially in strengthening it. But once reasonable strength has been achieved, the work should be not terminated, but the person must be introduced to yoga. Through yogic work the ego needs to be dissolved and the mind awakened to the higher self within. Only then a person can be cured of all past, present and future suffering.

Also, there has been a recent confusion over what is yoga as many practitioners are teaching isolated techniques including postures, breathing exercises, kriyas and meditation. According to Pulkit Sharma, although each technique even if practiced in isolation has considerable benefit, it is not yoga. We must remember that yoga is a multi-layered discipline and for the purpose of self-realization and evolution of consciousness, it needs to be understood and practiced as a whole.

pulkit sharmaThere are many people who continue to grapple with psychological disorders and suffering despite taking years of psychiatric and psychological treatment. It is time that these contemporary disciplines open up to the time-tested and perfect method of yoga so that they can enrich themselves and provide a better support for people.

 
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