Daily Archives: May 7, 2014

Yoga vs. Psychology or Yoga as a Psychology?


Today I passed my National Counselors Exam, the last step I needed to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. That process took a good part of a year after receiving hundreds of hours of supervision. This test required me to know all the major psychology theories from psychologists like Freud, Perls, Rogers, Skinner, and Ellis. It required me to know statistics and testing design. It also required me to know about group counseling dynamics, career and lifespan developmental theory. There was a nice dosage of ethics questions in there too.

Just about six months ago, I passed my Introductory II certification for Iyengar yoga. Because I was dumb enough to work on both certifications simultaneously, it made me reflect many times on which one is more difficult. Both certifications require one to be current in their field and adapt to constantly evolving changes. Both certifications require a code of ethics that require one to give beyond what is asked of them.

To reframe the question of which one is harder, what would happen if I just stopped studying for my psychology test? I would probably still be a good mental health counselor and may require an occasional refresher course to get my CE credits. What would happen if I stopped doing or teaching yoga? I would get jettisoned back to square one in no time fast! So yoga is, gulp, much harder than Psychology.

About 10 years ago, I was accepted into a Psy.D. program. After careful evaluation, I opted out of the program as I had my Masters in Psychology and could focus more on my ultimate goal of using yoga as an adjunct therapy for anxiety and depression instead of spending another 5 years in school. Ten years later, I have conducted many groups with clients using yoga as a means to decrease anxiety. In one Psycho-Social-Rehabilitation (PSR) group with clients who had severe mental illness to the point where they were hearing voices, doing standing poses greatly relieved their symptoms.

In graduate school, I wrote many papers on yoga as an legitimate theoretical orientation (like psychoanalysis or behaviorism). The more I practice, the more I believe that yoga transcends many of the contemporary psychologies. The path of yoga directs the practitioner upwards toward self actualization (much like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model). Many contemporary psychologies focus on client pathology. Freud pretty much reduced humans to a spring loaded sexual impulse just ready to pounce on whatever got in the ego’s way. He has many great points, but yoga seems to easily trump them with practice and detachment. I anticipate much rebuttal from practicing psychologists who will have valid points refuting my claim. Before they pounce, I just ask them to practice yoga daily 2 hours daily for one month.