For thousands of
years, Yoga has offered what Western therapists are seeking: a way to achieve
the total health of body, mind, emotions, and spirit. Yoga and psychotherapy provides
a unique comparison of modern therapy and traditional methods. Drawing upon a
rich diversity of experience, the authors give us detailed examples of how the
ancient findings of yoga can be used to supplement or replace some of the less
complete Western theories and techniques. Yoga and Psychotherapy is accessible
to the layperson, yet detailed enough to be of value to the professional.
Swami Rama, one
of the greatest masters from the Himalayas, is the founder of the Himalayan Institute.
Born in India, he studied in both India and Europe and received his spiritual
training in the Himalayan cave monasteries and in Tibet. His best-known work,
living with the Himalayan Masters, reveals the many facets of this singular
adept and demonstrates his embodiment of the living tradition of the East.
Ballentine, MD, is a leader in the field of alternative and complementary
medicine. A graduate of Duke University Medical School, he lectures extensively
in the United States and other countries. Dr. Ballentine is the author of
several books, including Radical Healing, Diet and Nutrition: A Holistic
Approach, which has sold over 100,000 copies and Transition to Vegetarianism:
An Evolutionary step.
PhD, received his education at Wesleyan University and at the University of
California, Berkeley. He taught at the University of Wisconsin Medical School
in Madison, Wisconsin, and has served as a consulting psychologist. In addition
to his Western training, Swami Ajaya has studied with various yogis in India.
He is the author of Yoga Psychology: A practical guide to Meditation and
Psychotherapy East and West: A Unifying paradigm.
Two and a half
years ago we were driving in a blue jeep station wagon, winding up and down the
mountain roads along the edge of the Himalayas. We had just come from a week's
retreat at a small, little-known, but "sacred" spot, hidden in the
pine trees of the mountain forest. It was accessible only by foot along a
five-mile mountain road. We had parked the jeep and climbed with backpacks to
this idyll of serenity, living in an earthen house, spending our days in quiet
Now we had
descended to the waiting jeep and were winding our way back to civilization.
The carburetor on our wagon was having trouble breathing in the high mountain
air. After choking intermittently for a few miles, it gave out completely. As
we sat in a ditch by the road waiting for the car to be repaired, we began to
talk about our common work as therapist.
Rudy had just
met Swami Rama and me a few weeks earlier. A year before he had given up a
professorship at a leading medical school to travel to India and learn the
ancient science of yoga. He came without knowing anyone and spent his first few
months in his adopted homeland learning Hindi and hatha yoga and becoming
emaciated. Soon after we met he began traveling with us. I had just been
initiated into the Order of Swamis a few weeks earlier.
Until now we had
been so absorbed in our new adventure that we hadn't thought much about the
worlds we had temporarily left behind. We were now, however, beginning our
descent to Rishikesh. In a week we would drive to New Delhi, take a plane to
New York, and a short time later find ourselves home again. Our thoughts began
to return to the work we had left. It seemed natural enough for us, during this
lull in our journey, to begin comparing the Western approached to Psychotherapy
to what we were learning of yoga.
I began to talk
about the way a yoga student relates to his teacher. Many young adults who find
a genuinely advanced teacher think of him or her as a new parent and become
less preoccupied with hang-ups relating to their real parents. These old
conflicts seem to become less important and fade3 into the background. I
suggested to Rudy that thinking of the more ideal guru as one's father might
shortcut the whole process of therapy. Instead of spending long hours reliving
one's childhood experiences he could just replace the expectations created
there by ori8enting himself toward the more constructive and supportive
expectations of the teacher. I suggested that one might thus shed all his
preoccupations and distortions related to his parents, severing the knot of his
neurosis in one swoop.
It was, as it's
been throughout our writing, characteristic of me to make broad generalizations
without thinking through their more subtle implications. Rudy, being, thorough
in examining the proposition, responded after some thought. It wouldn't really
help at all. You'd just develop a distorted concept of the teacher. You would
project your expectations onto him. In spite of his acceptance, you would tend
to see hem otherwise as very authoritarian, for example." This led us to a
discussion of the similarity between transferring distortions onto the guru and
the process of transference that occurs in the patient's relationship to his
therapist. We began to become aware of similarities as well as differences
between the way the Eastern teacher and the therapist help the patient or student
to become aware of his distortions and to give them up. This dialogue led to an
examination of a whole host of concepts that seemed to overlap in yoga and
It was not long
after this that Swami Rama began encouraging us to write a book together. He
had begun teaching us yoga Psychology more intensively during our remaining
stay in India and continued to work with us when we arrived back in the United
He had been trained
in yoga from early childhood and was selected at the age of twenty-four to
serve as the successor to Dr. Kurtkoti as the prestigious Shankaracharya on the
Gaddi of Karvirpitham in South India, one of the heads of the learned monastic
tradition in India. In order to compete with other scholars for this position
he had thoroughly learned the ancient texts and their many commentaries and
interpretations. As he grew up he was sent to study with many of the great
masters of India and even spent a number of years studying and teaching in the
Buddhist monasteries of Tibet. Swamiji was also thoroughly acquainted with the
many practical schools of yoga.
understanding of the long history of yoga psychology and experiences with the
practical application of yoga therapy is unparalleled. Furthermore, he had
studied modern psychology, Philosophy, and medicine extensively in Europe and
had earned an advanced degree in Psychology as well as a graduate degree from
medical school. Swami Rama had lectured and served as consultant at several
institutes and universities in Europe as well as the Menninger Foundation in
the United States. With this background he was able to guide us in our
comparisons of Eastern and Western psychologies.
We had not
realized that were would be a means of helping Swamiji bring the rich tradition
of yoga Psychology to the West, to help pull together his teachings and put
them up against the current Western psychology and psychotherapy that we had
In the two
summers that followed, including several nights where we worked into the dawn,
there were many consultations with Swamiji. Occasionally we'd talk until three
or four o'clock on the morning as Swamiji helped clarify a confusion in our
thinking. When we ran into dead ends or misinterpreted basic psychological
terms from the Eastern tradition, Swamiji would give us the correct
explanation, refer us to the proper texts, and we'd again revise our thoughts
understanding of yoga psychology does not come so much from our reading and
study as from our own experiences of growth through the use of yoga methods and
direct personal guidance of our teacher. Our retrospective observation of
Swamiji working with us and other students provided the deepest insights into
the methods of yoga therapy.
made its appearance on the stage of Western science only in the last century.
After developing elaborate sciences of the external world and conquering
nature, Western man has at last started to turn his curiosity back toward
himself. So has begun the exciting exploration of the inner being, his
behavior, his motivation, and that elusive something called his
"mind." In short, we have begun to look at ourselves and wonder,
"What makes us tick?"
has met with varying success. The ingenuity and the technology, which made
possible the conquest of the New World and travel to outer space, often seen
awkward and inappropriate as Western man steps tentatively and gingerly into
the charting of inner space. We have run through our repertoire of conceptual
and technological tools, sometimes with success, at other times with failure.
We have gone from the speculative metaphysical pondering of the mind and the
meaning of behavior to the minute reporting of sensory impressions, and
ultimately to the technologically sophisticated measurement of Physiological
processes and observable behavior. We have emerged with only patches of
understanding and insight. Our field of behavioral Science and psychology is a
crazy quilt of theories, systems, and methodologies rich in its variety but
disappointing in its lack of coherence. No matter which way we turn, we seem to
stumble over the same old obstacles: Where does Psychology stop and Philosophy
start? How can we distinguish between the normal and the "abnormal?"
How can we deal scientifically with a subject's report of his private
experience? What is the relationship between the body and the mind? What, for
that matter, is a "mind?"
There is an old Chinese
proverb: "Learn from the ancient ones, and learn from those of foreign
lands." Western science has at times followed this dictum, beginning with
the rediscovery of Plato and extending to the search of the modern
pharmacologist who stomps his way through the steamy jungles of Brazil in
pursuit of some witch doctor's herb that might combat cancer.
A bit of this
spirit can be sensed also in the field of Psychology. Some of the more intrepid
adventures have set out to investigate the effects of ancient ritual drugs like
mescaline and psilocybin. Others show area wakened interest in the aboriginal
inhabitants of America, not merely as objects of anthropological study, but as
men with an insight into human nature that might offer us some fertile ideas. Social
Psychologists are looking with some curiosity toward the Chinese communes,
while in laboratories from New Delhi to Topeka, Psycho-Physiologists are
hooking polygraphs to accomplished yogis in an attempt to gain some
understanding of those bodily process which go awry in Psychosomatic disease.
attracted particular attention in part because it appears to be one of the
oldest continuous disciplines studying voluntary physical and mental control
and the induction of altered states of consciousness. Interest has also been
due in part to the persistent rumors of outstanding physical and mental feats
attributed to the practitioners of yoga. Such rumors have also served, of
course, to attract those whose interest in sensationalism is stronger than their
interest in science. Only now, with the advent of electroencephalographic and
Psycho physiological instruments, are we becoming able to test to the
satisfaction of the scientific community the validity of some of those claims
made by the proponents of yoga. As a result of this serious re-examination of
the Indian yoga tradition, an intriguing picture begins to emerge.
Available historical data is a confusing
mixture of legend and recorded facts. Because of the antiquity of the subject,
many of the traditions and formulations were handed down orally for millennia.
The systematized discipline of yoga has apparently been practiced in
essentially the same form as today over some thousands of years. Estimates run
from one thousand to four thousand years and up. From the data available, it
seems clear that an unbroken chain of highly trained teachers and students have
devoted themselves intensively to the rigorous practice of self-observation.
Through such a systematic study of mental states and their accompanying
physical sensations, a methodical and accurate means of studying one's internal
organs and physiological processes gradually developed. In the usual sequence
of scientific events, observation led to the ability to predict, and this
ultimately led to the ability to control. With the advent of this mastery, it
did indeed become logical events that lead to psychosomatic illnesses. In this
fashion, the yogis became renowned for their health and resistance to disease.
The evolution of the discipline did not stop
there, however. To those with a bent possible to perform physiological feats
which seemed "miraculous," as well as to intervene in the chain of
physio-for exploring their mental processes more deeply, it became apparent
that this control over physical processes enabled one to eliminate many of the
physiological and sensory distractions that interfere with introspection. One
could, as it were, create his own "sensory deprivation" situation.
Furthermore, the control over physio- logical process enabled one to control
his metabolism and induce changes that would serve to further alter the state
of consciousness. At this point was begun the intensive and systematic study of
the altered states of consciousness, a study which has continued over many centuries
and attained a high degree of refinement. The understanding of mental and
physical processes gained from the vantage point of such heightened states of
awareness became the foundations of what is called "yoga science."
Such is the sort of history of yoga that one
can piece together from the available information. Controlled experiments done
both in the West and in India have begun to confirm this general picture of the
accomplishments and potential of yoga science. Systematic treatment of patients
suffering from physical or psychosomatic ailments with yoga asanas and science
of breathing and meditational techniques has produced objective evidence of
definite improvement. Research in America has yielded clear-cut data demonstrating
the effectiveness of certain meditational states in the easing of anxiety.
Psychophysiological monitoring during self-induced altered states of
consciousness has demonstrated that remarkable feats of autonomic control are
indeed possible and in certain cases such techniques have been mastered by
patients with psychosomatic illness with a remarkable degree of improvement.
The beautiful body
The Interaction between Body and
Ecology of Body versus Invasion by Germs
Biofeedback and Self-Control
Biofeedback and Yogic Feats
Breath and energy
Right and Left: A Universal
Swar Swarodayam: The Study of
Pranayama: Discipline of Energy Control
The mind: ancient and modern concepts
The Mind and Instincts
The Mind: The Internal Instrument
The Sensory-Motor Mind (Manas)
The Memory Bank (Chitta)
The Sense of "I" (Ahankara) Buddhi
The Higher Sheaths or "Bodies"
Buddhi: guide through the unknown
What Is Consciousness?
Consciousness as a Filter
Memory and Repression
The Unknown Mind
Models of the Unconscious
The secrets of sleep
Attachment and Anxiety
Research on the Reduction of Anxiety through Meditation
Scientific Evaluation of Higher Meditative States
Sleep and Higher Consciousness
Psychosis to mysticism: journey to the self
The Prototype of Attachment
Pain and the Process of Change
Psychosis versus Mysticism
The Evolution of Consciousness: Separation of Purusha from
The seven centers of consciousness
The Chakras: The Inner Playroom
The Root Chakra: Fear and Paranoia
The Genital Chakra: Sensuality and Sexuality
The Solar Plexus Chakra: Domination and Submission
The Heart Chakra: From Emotion to Empathy
The Throat Chakra: Nurturance and Creativity
The Third Eye: The Seat of Intuitive Knowledge
The Crown Chakra: The Highest State of Consciousness
The Chakras: Yoga and Psychotherapy
An Example of the Clinical Application of Yoga in
References and Notes
About the Authors
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