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Yoga and Psychology
by Donna Davidge

To me, Yoga and Psychology are in many ways closely related and in other ways inherently different. My teacher, Yogi Bhajan, is an Indian man/yoga master who holds a PhD in Psychology. What is the reason for this? Because yoga is very much about the workings of the mind, observing our mind, altering the ways of thinking and behaving that do not serve us in becoming more pure and healthy and loving.

In kundalini yoga we are taught that mantra is the yoga of the mind. The sound we create in mantra directs the mind, requires focus, at least initially, and is meant to help displace the busy thoughts that careen through our mind every moment of every day.

The mind has different aspects. In kundalini yoga three aspects of the mind are so important to our over-all being that they are included as three of the ten bodies that energetically make up the whole of who we are.

The positive mind is that which allows us to believe that all things are possible. It gives us optimism, faith, belief and motivation. Yet it can trick us. If we believe too megalomaniacally in our greatness this is not to our advantage. “ ‘Enough is better than too much’ (a French proverb) is a good way of expressing the hazards of being totally in the positive mind. People who think they are too big to do little things are perhaps too little to be asked to do big things.” (Anonymous).

The negative mind is that which protects us from doing things that may not be wise or may hurt us. Too much of the negative mind holds us back from our potential, leading us in the direction of fear, suspicion and paranoia. 

Then there is the neutral mind. Ah, the neutral mind! This is the mind all serious and/or contemplative yogis aspire to. In this mind lies acceptance. When something we view as bad occurs in our life, we simply accept it and the same for some wonderful positive amazing experience. We simply accept what is, gracefully and graciously, as we know all life ebbs and flows. The good precedes the bad and the bad precedes the good. We are not emotionless human beings yet we accept the feelings as they come, not denying or judging, nor becoming commotional over the feelings.

This awareness and training of the mind, which also is reflected in how we approach our physical practice of yoga (Aggressive? Lazy? Nurturing? Listening? Committed?) - is this not psychological?

Yet yoga, unlike therapy, does not emphasize talking about your problems, rehashing them in your mind with others. As Yogi Bhajan says, would you bring your toilet into someone's living room? Then what makes you think that they want to hear your crap, your complaints about your lot in life? He has even gone so far as to say that for many people therapy is only an opportunity to magnify your problems since speaking about anything only enhance the power of it. This then requires thinking before we speak, being sensitive to others, learning to listen and be compassionate rather than solely wrapped up in our lives and problems, as real as they may be, and to deal in a healthy way. Let me say I am still working on all this too. It is a lifelong practice, but as you see the results it becomes such fun learning about yourself and others.

Since our mind and body are linked by the breath, yoga provides a useful tool to improve the mental clarity which helps us become more effective for ourselves and others, helps us listen to the wisdom of the body and increase awareness of the mind and body. We can control the mind with use of the breath and in so doing shape our everyday experience of things.

With many yoga practices emphasizing only the physical, we lose the gift of practicing the mind, critical to yoga and critical to life. Breath control is mind control so start this awareness by simply sitting still (not so easy if the mind is on speed control!) and comfortably, spine straight. Observe the flow of the breath through the nostrils. Slow and deepen the breath, observe your thoughts without judgment. Just become aware. Awareness first. Then we can begin to change that which isn't serving us in our mind.


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About the Author

Donna Amrita Davidg
, owns and operates www.sewallhouse.com a small personalized yoga retreat in Maine, since 1997, and also maintains a teaching practice inNew York City in the winter months. Teaching yoga since 1985, she is 500 Hour E-RYT with Yoga Alliance as well as a certified Kundalini Yoga instructor with 3HO. Donna (Amrita) has two dvds for home practice and has written articles for Fityoga, Medical Tourism and is the yoga columnist for Inner Tapestry, a New England publication. Sewall House has been featured in Instyle, Travel & Leisure, Yoga Journal, Shape and other publications.


Please check out her website to sign up for their third Yoga/Italy trip Oct 22-29. Deposits are due by Feb 15, 2011.




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